Category Archives: Digital tips

Ideas for growing your email list

By Russ Reid Digital. This post is part of Russ Reid’s summer resource series. Thanks to one of our Missions partners for recommending this digital tip topic.

Non-profit email lists churn (or experience list attrition) at a rate of about 13-14% a year (source: 2014 eNonprofits Benchmark Study, M+R). Churn includes unsubscribes, bounces, and people who’ve overall stopped seeing your emails because they no longer check the email account you have on file, or your emails are being delivered to their bulk/span folder. Ensuring list growth outpaces list churn is key to ensuring your email list continues to grow.

Ideas for email list growth

Robust Digital Acquisition program – $$,$$$ (but generates a direct donation, not just an email address). We’ve found that one of the single most important factors in email file growth is the health and scale of the digital acquisition program. Acquisition of new donors via digital and integrated channels (where an email is required as part of the donation process) generates the best possible email file, in that these donors are already predisposed to give online, and provide high-quality email addresses in the course of their first transaction. Nothing can equal this approach in terms of building a valuable donor file that is reachable by email in the context of an integrated strategy.

Incentivized email capture: $$$ – $,$$$. Instead of simply asking for an email address, provide the responder an incentive to provide one. This could be an electronic document about hunger or homelessness in your area, a link to engaging video content, or other such content. The idea is to package content and present it in the form of a gift to a responder when they provide your organization with their email address. Promote this offer using light boxes that appear when it seems a visitor is preparing to leave the site, or in static site-wide sign-up fields that appear as part of the site’s footer. Where you might see incentivized email capture regularly used? When email is a required field before downloading a free white paper.

Lead-generation campaign – $,$$$-$$,$$$. Lead generation focuses on acquiring high quality prospects through the targeting of media and messaging. In a current lead generation campaign Russ Reid has developed from strategy to execution for a national partnership of alumni, we will deploy an expansive media effort (including search, display, social, and radio) driving engagement with key messages to fulfill response on a highly engaging campaign microsite. The single aim is conversion of leads (acquiring new email addresses for donor cultivation).

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 12.26.44 PMFacebook “sign up” call to action button – no cost. All non-profit Facebook Pages have the ability to customize your “call-to action” button (placed in your Cover Image on desktop, and as a bar below the Cover Image on mobile). Several options for the call to action button are available but only a few helpful to nonprofits. One such option is “Sign up” (another option is Donate Now if you’ve already joined Facebook’s Donate tools for non-profits agreement). To edit your call to action button, an administrator of your Page must be logged in to Facebook: 1) Go to your Page, 2) where your CTA button currently is placed in the Cover Image, click the carrot/down arrow to “Edit button”, 3) Select “Sign Up” and include the click destination where users should land on your site to sign up for email, 4) Test and save.

generic_website_card_no_callouts-screenshotUse free Twitter website cards – no cost. Although only available through a Twitter ads account, Twitter website cards are free to create and use. Twitter website cards use utilize an ad-like format to promote a page on your website with the aim to grow site traffic and/or drive specific on-site actions (such as donations or email list subscription). Login or register via to create free website cards for your tweets.

Social advertising – $$-$$,$$$. Email list building campaigns can be created with social advertising on all your top used social channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. As social advertising has grown in recent years, hyper-targeting abilities have improved including custom audiences and retargeting making social a highly effective and lost cost channel for lead generation of any kind.

Collect email addresses at offline events and activities – no cost. From your annual Gala to Marathon events to welcoming volunteers on a daily basis, collecting the email address of those interested or engaging with you is a free and quality way of growing your email list. Next step: Email strategy to engage these segmented audiences well.

Ensure email capture is a predominate component of the response device. Whether your direct mail response device or your online donation page, ensuring email is a required field for donor response is key to ensuring your email list experiences quality growth of those already giving to you.

E-appends – relatively inexpensive, typically produces a positive ROI. In many cases, a non-profit’s largest list is their direct mail file with a donor’s first name, last name and postal address as the most common known donor information. An e-append involves taking this known donor information and matching it against a third-party vendor’s database to obtain the email address matching the other known donor data. E-appending is then used to reach your current print list through their matched email addresses. What else to know?

  • E-appending grows your email list with a secondary aim to reach donors, who ordinarily receive print communication, through digital means. This may be the right move for your organization if email average gift is higher than that of DM, email conversion rates beat DM, digital long-term donor value is greater, etc.
  • Success is dependent on the quality of both the starting list by the nonprofit and the vendor’s database
  • Guaranteeing data security of your donor’s personal information and their donation information is vital to the e-append process.
  • Russ Reid has conducted a multitude of e-appends with our partners. Average match rate is roughly 30-35% growing email lists by thousands to hundreds of thousands. Key to our strategy is then reaching newly appended recipients with acknowledgement communication, re-engaging lapsed donors, influencing response through trust building and conversion to sustainers.
  • Pricing is based on a match per record.

Network co-registration – $$,$$$ starting; can be costly, but grows lists fast. Co-registration is an upsell to visitors of a site within a publisher’s network who are interested in opting-in to receive additional offers or promotions from advertisers. With one simple step (a checkbox) an advertiser is granted ability to communicate with that user. Because the user is already in a mindset of granting initial permission to the advertiser, they are generally more willing to grant additional permission especially if they feel they will benefit from it. What else to know?

  • Co-registration is an effective tactic to provide steady list growth but requires excellent digital strategy to cultivate and convert these prospects into donors. Prospects acquired through co-registration are likely unfamiliar with your organization and can quickly forget they’ve opted in to hearing from you.
  • Risk: Prospects might provide fictitious email addresses.
  • Russ Reid has leveraged network co-registration to help our partners obtain more than 20,000 email addresses in the span of two months.
  • Cost can range from $0.50 to $1.00 per email with a minimum $10,000 order.

Ideas for diminishing attrition…

Highly engaging and phenomenal email content. It should come as no surprise that creating engaging, thoughtful and useful email content is the #1 way to keep your email recipients interested in receiving your e-communications. Frequency, messaging, and email type are all factors of importance weighing your recipient’s decision to unsubscribe.

Donor impact reporting. Reporting back to your donors with stories and real-life examples of how their donation and actions are making a difference for those you serve is a requirement of good marketing. Building in emails throughout the year that focus specifically on the stewardship and donor impact message must be built in to your email plan. Not sure where to start or want to explore some new, creative ideas for how to execute this message? Talk to us!

Writing for the audience. It’s important to consider segmenting your email list into groups (such as previous donors, new donors, monthly givers, high spenders, etc.) so that each individual’s email content can be personalized to be more effective. The key to good email communication is keeping the messaging short, compelling and relevant to the audience. To be relevant, each email should speak as personally as possible to the recipient so that they feel really known and connected to the organization.

Next, see more Tips in Digital >>

To connect with Russ Reid Digital and learn more about our Digital expertise and services, contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President at Russ Reid) or Steve Harrison (Senior Vice President at Russ Reid).

Submit an idea for our next Digital tip or Other tips in fundraising. Tweet us your idea at @RussReidAgency.

3 useful digital tactics to boost Summer fundraising

By: Scott VanderLey, Russ Reid V.P. Digital

Digital growth through the Summer lull

The summer months are a relatively lean fundraising season, and this fact has caused charities to try out a variety of campaigns and strategies over the years to boost Summer giving.

With digital’s growing centrality to nonprofit fundraising efforts, the question also arises: what web-based strategies and tactics should be in the mix to boost support during the Summer? To wit, a few ideas:

Real needs, real footage

Arguably the best approach to Summer fundraising is to focus on real, urgent challenges that the summer months bring.  Is the July heat a growing danger for your clients experiencing homelessness?  This should be your focus.  Are children more vulnerable to chronic hunger in the months they don’t receive school lunches?  That’s a powerful reason to ask donors to get involved. 

What digital adds to this equation is crucial: a timely communication stream with rich content that proves the need beyond any shadow of a doubt.  A video or slideshow, placed prominently on your website and promoted with quick-hitting email, text alerts and social posts, can trigger donor response in a way that words on a page cannot hope to match. 

The three-month commitment… digitized

This short-term pledge approach is a time-honored tactic for “Summer slump” fundraising.  Alerting donors to the fact that giving slows during the Summer, the charity asks them to make an advance three-month commitment near the beginning of the summer to help cover unmet and critical needs.

Making this same appeal via digital is actually more donor-friendly; rather than sending a lump payment up front or remembering to send follow-up checks, donors can fill out a single form and have their credit card charged for the three payments.  This also ensures a greater return for the charity, since fulfillment is assured. Moreover, it allows the use of proven web-based sustainer tactics to cross-promote the special commitment, including mid-conversion lightbox treatments and takeover pages.

No better time for optimization

The Summer months are an important time to emphasize the testing of different page versions to increase website conversion rate, commonly known as conversion optimization.  Gaining learnings from such tests – which can provide site conversion boosts of 25% or more – in the Summer months won’t increase Summer giving substantially.  But what it does is far more valuable: These test results, applied to your Fall and holiday efforts, will exponentially increase revenue gain during the peak giving season. 

Next, read “Why Summer is the season for building trust in social media” >>

We’d love to talk more about conversion optimization, Summer digital fundraising and how to take leaps in social media this Summer. To connect with Russ Reid Digital, contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President at Russ Reid) or Steve Harrison (Senior Vice President at Russ Reid).

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Why Summer is the season for building trust in social media

By: Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, Russ Reid Digital Strategist – Content & Social

Summer social media focus: Build trust

A long, long time ago social media existed for the non-profit marketing purpose equivalent to an add-on, or an extra touch to a marketing plan or campaign… a way to reach a “younger” audience and only a younger audience.

Today, social media exists for so much more. In fact, social media (with the right strategy and consistent execution) can play an influential role in your marketing… so influential that it’s key role is to inspire action from your supporters, donors and volunteers. Action that results in donations, upgraded giving preferences, or word of mouth/sharing.

This Summer, your focus in social media is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

First comes trust, then comes action

In the calendar of fundraising seasons, Fall is the peak giving opportunity. In social media, the best way to plan and prepare for Fall (and leverage the giving season) is to focus on the Summer by building trust with your social media audiences. Donor trust has a high and direct impact on donor loyalty, engagement, conversion, and cultivation.

When we implemented a month-long social media campaign with one of our U.S. Food Bank partners in Summer, we tracked a lift in their Fall online fundraising never experienced before. And that lift continues to improve for seasons after!

This Summer, lay the path for your Fall social marketing with a seasonal plan that captures the heart of of your organization and builds trust with your supporters online.

Trust-building social media tactics

  • Content that is educational – Positioning your organization as a key voice (or voice of reason) for the cause you represent builds the trust of your donors by showing you are an “expert” in your field/industry. Do you represent the hunger cause? Plan and publish content that works to educate your audience about the hunger issue nationally and locally. Do you represent wildlife conservation? Plan content that works to reveal endangered species lists and other issues impacting wildlife. Do you represent homelessness and shelter? Work to explain the complexities of the homeless issue in America or Canada. A better educated donor is a more informed donor. Donors who are more informed have greater trust with the organizations they support; and it shows in their donation history.
  • Content that is inspiring – Your organization is making an incredible difference. Talk about this. Promote it. Create blog posts and videos, tweets and Vines that show the extraordinary impact you are making in your community and in the world. When donors are inspired, they are more engaged and the more a donor is engaged the more they pay attention to what you have to say.
  • Content that is evergreen – Statistics, facts and even your Mission statement are some of the most well-“liked” kinds of content by non-profits in social media. Even though you might think your audience understands exactly what you do and what your mission statement or values are, they will surely benefit from hearing it again (or for the first time).
  • Content that emphasizes donor trust already – Do you have donors who love you? Social media followers who tag you in their posts? Volunteers who help share photos of their time at your warehouse or shelter? This kind of donor-generated content can create added impact in your marketing by showing other donors the trust and loyalty others have in you. Regram, retweet, and share those posts. Add your own comment of thanks.

Once you’ve laid this foundation of donor trust in your Summer social media marketing, you’ve opened the door wider to be able to solicit your donors for action-based responses (donations and otherwise) in the Fall. And they are more likely to respond! Because why? Donor trust.

Talk to us about growing your social media efforts and re-imagining your marketing. Contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President at Russ Reid) or Steve Harrison (Senior Vice President at Russ Reid).

Next, read “3 useful digital tactics to boost Summer fundraising” >>

The Art of the “Implicit Ask”

By: Nathan Looney, Russ Reid Director of Digital Strategy

Creating valuable donor experiences on your website through the implicit ask

Non-profit organizations’ websites are tasked with achieving a variety of objectives.  From relaying information about your organization to offering assistance to those in need, and providing resources to your community, your website is an informational hub.  One of the most important roles the website can play for non-profits is as a donation solicitation engine.  Most all of us rely on our websites to assist us in raising funds.  And, as important of a task as it is, it simply isn’t practical to have every page on the site cluttered with donation buttons and donation “calls to action.”

So how do we make the most of our site’s content without “turning off” potential donors by flooding them with solicitation messaging?  One key way is to master the art of the “implicit ask.”

What is an “implicit ask”?

We are all well aware of explicit asks—these are direct calls to action that request a donation from a site visitor.  And these asks are critical to a website’s success as a fundraising tool.  Russ Reid recommends having these in the form of donation buttons on your navigation, as well as solicitation messaging and donation buttons on static homepage features for the very specific reasons that these areas on your website are key revenue generators.

But there is another way to ask for solicitations that are subtler—a way that implicitly asks for the donor’s support by talking about the good the organization achieves and how the donor (or potential donor) has been and will continue to be critical to that success. As our Digital Strategy team likes to say, “creating moments of valuable experience with your donors is a key requirement in the donor journey today. Organizations who continually and consistently create valuable donor experiences will engage more donors, more loyal donors, and thrive in donor participation and fundraising.”

Creating an implicit ask

It’s surprisingly simple to create an implicit ask, and they can be used in almost any type of content on your site.  The trick is simply to remember to do it when you are crafting your content.  These are the two elements that, if mixed well into your content, create an implicit ask:

  1. Acknowledgement of the impact your organization is having on the lives of those you serve;
  2. Recognition of the critical role the donor plays is providing that impact.

How an implicit ask can be used on your site

Story pages:  One of the best places to work implicit asks into your site’s content is on your various story pages.  Instead of simply relaying a third person account of a story, have the beneficiary communicate directly to the donor/potential donor through quotes that speak to how his/her life has changed, and offer an acknowledgement that it is the support of donors that made his/her transformation possible.

Staff and Board Pages:  Most non-profit sties have pages of this type and even this generic, very “functional” type of content can be enhanced by an implicit ask.  Instead of simply presenting staff bios, have the staff members communicate why they work with the organization, how the community is benefited by the organization, and how much they enjoy partnering with their supporters to bring about life-altering change. Personalization of content not only allows your staff members to express their commitment to your cause, but it also facilitates the implicit ask.

The importance of impact

Since relaying how your organization is impacting your community or your cause is such an important part of creating an implicit ask, it is critical that you make sure that your content goes well beyond simply describing your programs.  It must directly speak to the results that have been achieved, and, most importantly, the lives that have been changed.

Keeping the donor in the front of your mind as you work to create content for your site can help you present messaging that encourages donors to give without the necessity of a call to action button on every page and free area of your site, or in every paragraph of your site’s copy.

For more information on Russ Reid Digital services, to connect with our Digital experts, and to learn how Digital can drive your next decade of growth, contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President at Russ Reid) or Steve Harrison (Senior Vice President at Russ Reid).

Paid Search and Google Grants: 5 questions with a Director of Digital Media Buying

This post brought to you by Russ Reid Digital with answers by Elliot Wilkerson, Director, Digital Media Buying at Russ Reid.

1: Why is search engine marketing important to my digital strategy?

About 3.5 billion Google searches are performed every day. We rely on search engines to find what we need, and those search engines exist to serve up the most relevant content in the most efficient way possible.

Search functions as a primary harvester of demand generated by your brand, category, and offerings. It means the organization (in your industry) with the most robust and effective search strategy has a substantial competitive advantage because they gain conversions from all sources of demand generated for that category. Implementing a solid search strategy will increase your website’s visibility across search engines, help drive traffic to your website, and increase the potential for a variety of positive outcomes – those are all important components of any digital strategy.

2: Are there “free” opportunities for nonprofits?

One opportunity offered to nonprofit organizations is the Google Ad Grant. This online advertising tool assists nonprofits through $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords™ advertising that can be used in promoting their missions and initiatives on Google search result pages. It’s not difficult to apply or qualify to receive this grant, and actually most Google Grant members under-spend their budget—the average recipient spends only $330 a month out of $10,000 they’ve been awarded!

But the “free” opportunity of Google Grants isn’t enough. Some recommend that once you have your Google Grant there’s no need to continue paying for SEM. But this approach ultimately hinders a nonprofit’s growth, as the limited benefits of the free media are so far offset by the opportunity cost of a sub-standard search strategy.

3: Am I missing out on anything if I have a Grants-only SEM strategy?

There’s a reason the average nonprofit uses only 3% of their allotted Grant budget. It’s extremely difficult to be competitive with a Grants account especially at the most important time of the year (Fall fundraising season, November – December). The Grants account limits a nonprofit’s ability to be competitive by only allowing bids up to $2 cost-per-click. In most cases this would not even place the organization on the first page of the results pages for the most important and competitive keywords.

There is immense value in paying $3 or $4 to acquire a $200 donor! So, a Grants-only SEM strategy that fails to invest in paid SEM, will mean the nonprofit misses out on the most important website traffic at the very time prospective donors are converting at the highest rate and at the highest average gift. By running a Grants-only strategy, you are leaving net revenue on the table.

Also, you’ll only be showing ads on roughly 50-60% of searches, which is why it is essential to run additional paid accounts to reach these valuable prospects on Bing, Yahoo and other Google partners not included in the Grants program.

4: So what’s the answer?

Effective management of Google Grants alongside other paid SEM investments. This careful balance will help achieve optimal outcomes – in a way that fully utilizes the benefits of the Grant without being held back by its inherent limitations, such as bidding caps.

5: What’s Russ Reid’s SEM & Google Grants expertise?

Co-managing Google Grant and paid search campaigns is a specialty of Russ Reid. We’ve proven that: rigorous management of Grants investment for maximum impact + strategic management of paid search = the best possible return from its paid search investment.

The Russ Reid overarching strategy is to maximize the use of a Google Grant during the time of the year when it is less competitive (January – July) and for the keywords that are less competitive (i.e., brand terms, program-specific terms, and obscure words). We’ve shown year- over-year net revenue growth for all our clients by combining strategic management of both a Grants account and additional paid accounts. Historically, in paid search, most of our clients achieve a 2:1 ROI or better (some as high as 8:1 – 12:1)—results, which are never the case with Grants alone.

Parting thoughts…

Successful digital marketing is all about growing drivers and optimizing converters: fine-tuning your website and search strategy to have the highest possible effective conversion rate for donations, and then growing driving channels like display advertising and social media to fuel rapid growth of traffic into those improved conversion funnels. The sure-fire result is a sharp and sustained growth in net revenue.

Ultimately, our goal is to strategically identify a media mix that will yield the highest long-term value, employing multiple keyword search tools and working diligently to help maximize the ROI from your Grants. By maintaining Grants, organic, and paid search simultaneously, your organization will increase your brand’s visibility while improving your conversion goals and driving only qualified and cost-effective traffic to your website.

To learn how Russ Reid’s Search Engine Marketing strategy can help grow your Food Bank’s online revenue, contact Andrew Olsen, CFRE, Vice President. 

Social Media Code of Conduct

By:  Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, Russ Reid’s Social and Content Strategist

How to handle negative feedback in social media

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if 100% of the social media attention your organization attracted was positive –providing resounding recommendations for your brand? Wouldn’t it be great if your online user experience was so friendly that your supporters never had a bad thing to tweet? And how relaxing would it be if the issues and causes your organization represents never caused a stir or debate that ended up on your Facebook page?

The reality is that we as organizations aren’t perfect, and neither are our supporters. That means we deal with and manage risk, which is something we know all too well in social media. A less-than-satisfactory experience with your brand doesn’t just get phoned in to your supporter services team anymore. It can be posted to your Facebook page, tweeted to hundreds of other people, or blogged about for the world to read.

So, how should we conduct ourselves if and when negative feedback arises? We suggest you follow a social media code of conduct.

1. Respect

One of the foundational characteristics of social media is that it levels the communication field between user and brand, meaning both parties are equals. That’s why respect is at the core of all social media communication–if you respect your supporters you’ll talk to them like people and not just a cash flow. If you respect your online communities you’ll provide them with valuable content. And if you respect their opinions you’ll make it known and thank them accordingly. Any type of feedback, either positive or negative, starts with a mindset of respect. You respect them.

But it also means, where possible, users should respect you and one another. Within online communities you “own” (your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your website), create a set of community guidelines: a code of conduct for your community. People voluntarily join your communities online and, strategically, you want these communities to be welcoming hubs of meaningful engagement. Out of respect for the rest of your community, that’s not possible if a user is constantly spamming your page with third-party advertisements, or if someone is overusing profanity or harassing others. Your clearly stated and publicly posted community guidelines can explain to users the types of engagement you will unapologetically not allow.

2. Respond

An unhappy supporter of your organization has just posted their complaint to your Facebook page. What do you do? Consider this carefully, because how you reply to criticism or negative remarks in social media will say more about your brand in a single tweet or comment than a year’s worth of your Facebook page updates. Here are a few questions to think through in determining your response:

  • Does the comment/feedback demand a response? Was it posed as a question or a statement? The first step of responding is determining what kind of response the feedback calls for. It may mean you require the help of your supporter services team, PR team, or executive-level agreement before you can respond. It may also mean you shouldn’t respond at all.
  • Does the criticism address something you can fix or answer? If yes, fix it and respond. If no, consider what reasoning you’ll provide the commenter in your response. This may mean a simple acknowledgement (“thank you for your feedback”), or it may mean providing the important information about why a “fix” is not possible (“We are a child-focused organization, as such, rescuing abused animals is not within our programmatic work”).
  • Is there an opportunity to create value out of this negative feedback? The code here is: Create value, don’t feed the fire.

3. Create value

The saying goes, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” At Russ Reid, we say, “If social media gives you negativity, create value by making it into an opportunity.” People post negative comments in social media for a number of reasons: They want acknowledgement, or a response, or maybe they’ve been misinformed or upset by your organization in some way.

This is an opportunity for you in social media to create value. Someone disagrees with your latest newsletter headline? Acknowledge their feedback; every bit is valuable. An upset supporter wants to know why your organization chooses one programmatic approach over another? Someone wants to know why your services are limited to a certain service area? There is an opportunity in these critiques to educate the user, turning them into an advocate through a meaningful experience with your brand. It also means educating users in the periphery who are watching your engagement take place.


For more on social media risk mitigation, creating community guidelines, creating value from criticism, or other Russ Reid social media services, contact us.

Leveraging Social Media in Bad Weather Situations

Over the last year many of our communities have faced an unprecedented onslaught of bad weather. Bad weather affects you as charities because it impacts the people you serve. The most vulnerable members of our community suffer most when the weather turns bad.

As you help people face a major weather event, you need your supporters working alongside you, with money, talent or other resources. To mobilize that support, social media can be a major asset . . . if you use it the right way.

Here are Russ Reid’s tips for deploying social media during a bad weather situation that affects your work:

  • Update as soon as possible–when bad weather hits, get your video, tweets and Facebook status posted early
  • Keep posting and stay on the story until it’s over
  • Bad weather updates are in your donors’ news feeds. Be a voice of differentiation offering a unique perspective of the impact of bad weather on those most in need
  • Your audience will know how much you care by how much you talk about caring

As you engage your donors, make sure you’re answering these questions:

1. What does bad weather mean for the people you serve?  What’s the need it creates?

2. How does bad weather affect your work? What extra needs for support does it create for your organization?

3. What facts demonstrate the impact or severity of the situation?

4. What tangible steps can your supporters take to make a difference?

5. What can they be telling their friends about the situation to help make a difference?

And if you need a helping hand when responding to the next major weather situation that arises, let your team at Russ Reid know–we’d be happy to help.

“Hyper-Targeted” Banners

I used to be a skeptic when it came to banner advertising.

After all, direct response marketing is built on the concept of relevance – targeting the right message to the right audience at the right time. Doing this with banners – buying a particular spot on a particular website, say – tended to be prohibitively expensive. The kind of banner advertising that was affordable for nonprofits seemed to be little better than blasting an unfocused message across thousands of sites, to millions of users, and hoping to score enough hits to justify the investment. As a result, ROI was uniformly low.

Recently though, the game has changed. Advances in technology and strategy have completely transformed banner advertising (aka “display” advertising), creating vast new opportunities for nonprofits.

It started some time ago, with the advent of demand side platforms (DSP) for display advertising. These offered the promise of better targeting at affordable costs, among other benefits. The digital team at Russ Reid was intrigued by the potential that DSPs offered, and started testing into them with some of our clients.

The results have been staggering. Costs per donor have dropped across the board, and return on investment has skyrocketed. Banner ads, once considered primarily an awareness medium, are generating positive ROI in many cases, with ample room to grow and scale.

What’s driving this performance? Largely, it is relevance – dramatically better targeting. A DSP works in part by modeling response behavior on your website. People visit your giving page; some give and some don’t. Now, we can monitor that behavior and relate it back to other things we know about those users . . . sites they visit, searches, use patterns and so on. This is information that DSPs have for millions of other users out there in the marketplace. The DSP can then create a profile of people who give to you – versus people who don’t – and serve your banner ads exclusively to those people. They can do this on regular websites, on social networks, and just about anywhere in the digital world where prospects can be found. As more people respond, the model gets better, and so do results.

In essence, this fixes what I always disliked about banner advertising. Now, it can be both inexpensive AND hyper-targeted – a combination that leads to incredible results and vast growth opportunity for digital acquisition.

If you’re not doing banner advertising with a DSP today, you need to be. We’d be happy to help. Let us know if you’d like to discuss it.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday—or #GivingTuesday, if you prefer—started last year as a grassroots effort. While results from the first foray weren’t huge, they were promising. The idea itself is very promising: since retailers have the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping season, why not claim the following Tuesday to kick off the holiday giving season?

Started by 92nd Street Y, a New York-based nonprofit, the first year of Giving Tuesday generated donations to about 2,600 participating nonprofits, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. A bigger push is expected in 2013, with more nonprofits signing on to the site or including the campaign in their marketing efforts.

Should your organization participate? The answer is probably yes. How should you approach it? Here are our suggestions:

  • Let for-profits pay for your R&D: Retailers have spent an immense amount of money to determine optimal Black Friday-related strategy and tactics. Advance marketing, special offers, short-term deadlines… these common tactics are proven winners in retail, and nonprofit-relevant versions of them—such as matching gift offers—are likely to work as part of your Giving Tuesday promotions. Pay close attention to what successful retailers are doing for Black Friday, and borrow winning methods.
  • Start simple: Your first (or second) foray into Giving Tuesday needn’t be a huge effort. This is a movement with lots of potential, but it’s still proving out. Keep it simple and experiment. As you find wins, you can expand outward.
  • Plan ahead: Simple, yes. Off-the-cuff, no. Adopt a strategy with a content calendar to guide your efforts. Be intentional in your objectives and learning goals.
  • Integrate: Use email, social media and your website as primary marketing methods, but consider limited coverage in offline vehicles as well. Integrate across channels to create a consistent experience for your supporters.

As of this date, it’s not too late to get started with your Giving Tuesday efforts… but it’s close. Time to get moving! If you’d like Russ Reid’s help in executing a successful Giving Tuesday strategy, please contact us now.

Leveraging Direct Mail and Digital Marketing Together for “Surround Sound” in Fundraising and Marketing

By Jeanne Harris, Vice President, Client Services

At our disposal are a multitude of vehicles in which to deliver our marketing and fundraising messages. The combined power of mail and digital marketing to formulate a holistic “surround sound” can deliver formidable marketing messaging and create synergy between all available and appropriate channels.

Here are six tips for creating your own fundraising and marketing surround sound:

1. Understand the “end goal” you are looking to accomplish and the metrics for measuring success, so that the optimal communication plan can be devised across the mail and digital assets you have.

  • Are we looking to raise money?
  • Are we looking for new supporters?
  • Are we looking to facilitate an action?
  • Are we looking to raise awareness around an issue or an event?
  • Do we want to build social buzz and stimulate Influencers?

2. Engage all key stakeholders — the offline team and digital teams — in regular status meetings to ensure there are no missed opportunities to create cohesive and personalized messaging platforms, leverage learnings and testing concepts in both arenas. Not everything that works in one channel will work in another — but if you have testing wins in one, it makes sense to try testing it in the other.

3. Identify the key constituent audiences relevant to a successful outcome and the channels they are most active in. This will help tailor the best contact cadence to deliver results offline, online and through telemarketing. Your segmentation strategies and tactical execution of the segmentation blueprint will allow you to drive your constituents toward the outcome you are striving for and help determine how your messaging arc will evolve with the best ROI across all channels.

4. Pillar direct mail appeals are the best starting place for integration efforts in the mail and on the digital front. Using elements from the direct mail piece to reinforce the creative treatment and messaging online will help underscore the primary and key points you are working to communicate so that your online constituents will be receptive to the companion mail piece when it is received. On the flip side — using the mail piece to drive donors to the website or campaign donation page can also generate increased participation and results. You can utilize incentives to encourage this — for example, a direct mail piece can say that if you make a gift to the 2-to-1 Match Campaign online, your gift will be matched 3-to-1, going further and having a greater impact.

5. There are a number of products and suppliers that can help facilitate a digital ad campaign to support an offline appeal — creating multiple impressions in advance of a mail piece, thereby improving offline results by encouraging stronger long term value of those donors who are exposed to the ad and building a stronger connection to your organization. This can help acquisition, reinstatement and renewal efforts.

6. If you conduct surveys offline and/or online — use the tallied responses to report back to your constituents on the results and to tailor future messaging, creating dialog and engagement. Capturing key data will also allow you to better understand a constituent’s area(s) of interest to improve your communications.

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