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Understanding the Value of Multichannel Fundraising

By Andrew Olsen, CFRE

(June 30, 2009) Multichannel fundraising. Many nonprofits are doing this, and doing it well. But thousands still aren’t. Some have a long history of successful direct mail programs, but little to speak of in the way of Internet fundraising. Or maybe there’s an Internet fundraising program—but it’s entirely separate from and unique to the direct mail program.

The results however, are crystal clear. Integrating your direct mail and online fundraising programs can yield significant increases in overall revenue. 

It did for us. Here’s a sample of our 2008 year-end campaign at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn.

In December of 2008 we conducted our typical year-end direct mail campaign. However, we added an email component as well. Our direct mail dropped the last week of November, and our emails began dropping the first week of December. 

The email campaign proved to be a very valuable supplement to our traditionally single-channel marketing efforts. 

Adding the online channel helped us raise 40 percent more revenue at year-end than we would have if we had only used direct mail. 

In addition to increasing our overall revenue, the multi-channel approach allowed us to reach donors that we otherwise might not have been able to get to. We received a batch of gifts in the mail (checks that came in the year-end direct mail envelopes), but instead of receiving direct mail reply devices with these gifts, the envelopes included printed copies of our email solicitation. These gifts totaled almost $10,000.

One of the things we’ve put significant energy and focus into (and I recommend you do the same) is to ensure that your online and offline efforts are fully integrated. Consistent messaging, creative and offers will help create a synergy between your marketing channels and likely create an overall lift in your program performance.

Here’s another interesting fact that might help you better understand the value of multi-channel communication to your constituents. We just tabulated results from an eight month period of time for two sets of donors:  one group that was not receiving our e-communications (control), and another group that was receiving our e-communications on a regular basis (test).

Over that eight month period, donors receiving our email communications performed significantly higher (across all channels—this was not limited to online giving).  The test group made contributions 9 percent more frequently than did the control group, and their average gift size was 118 percent larger than the control group.

These are interesting findings that most certainly lead to more questions than they do answers. We’re currently running additional analysis and I will post updates to my blog as the results come in.

Andrew Olsen, CFRE, leads the direct response fundraising efforts at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can follow his blog, Nonprofit Strategies: Thoughts from an insider, at article originally appeared as a post to Olsen’s blog on March 18, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

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