Step outside your office and go for a walk on your campus. Observe the multifaceted makeup of your institution: Tenured professors, timid freshmen, stubborn fifth-year seniors. At one point you spoke to each of them in a targeted way to recruit them to join your institution.
Do you employ the same tactic to the multifaceted makeup of your donors?
The relationship management that’s required for donor solicitation is relentless. It takes constant work to court your high-dollar donors. But what about the rest of them? The donors whose dollars may be considerably smaller, but are nonetheless incredibly important.
Admit it, they get the short end of the stick.
There will always be the few donors whose names will end up on your buildings. But there will be far more whose only recognition will be reflected in the successful research trial or breakthrough discovery made possible by (but not named for) their support.
True, it makes sense to spend time courting those high-dollar donors with customized decks and bespoke solicitation materials. But your lower-volume donors deserve a personalized approach, too. And the best part is, it doesn’t take your team that much more time or effort.
Your donors contain multitudes, and it’s time to strategize like it.
Pay Attention to All of Your Donors, and Your Institution Thrives.
Together, your donors are a mosaic. There are donors who contribute larger pieces, and donors whose smaller contributions fill in the cracks. It takes all of them to create a beautiful work of art.
And it takes all of them to keep your institution thriving.
But you can’t spend all your time and effort on the larger pieces and expect the smaller pieces to just fall into place.
You can adapt what you’re already doing for your big benefactors to reach your just-as-important small benefactors with a smart strategy. Through a coordinated effort between market research, targeting and segmentation, and content marketing you can speak to all of your donors with acutely resonant messages.
Phase One: Market Research.
Luckily, there’s more data than ever before to learn about your donor prospects large and small: Their likes, dislikes, interests, and hobbies. Much of it can be unearthed from the CRM your institution already uses. It’s safe to say if you’re not already using this tool to learn more about your donors and optimize your fundraising campaigns, you’re using a bazooka as a flyswatter.
So fire up your Raiser’s Edge or Salesforce and get ready for some insights. Find out your donor’s individual communication preferences, past engagements with your institution, their major, or past club history.
What themes emerge? What are their communication preferences? There’s more behind the numbers. You just need to find out what they mean.
You can also use this data to supplement research about your audience from a media research firm. Cross reference, and dive into psychographics, what type of media is most likely to be effective, their demographic profile, and their typical consumer behaviour.
This complex relationship management machine is just begging to be leveraged. Put it to the test and see what you can find out.
If you can’t go that deep, reach out to a marketing agency like ED. We’ve got the chops to translate market research trends into engagement ideas for your institution. We can do the heavy lifting to make sense of your market research.
Phase Two: Targeting and Segmentation.
Once you’ve dug into your CRM and gathered the gems about your potential donors, it’s time to organize. Get ready for targeting and segmentation fun.
Who falls into your “Email only” communication preference category? What about those passionate about climate change? Where are all your 30-somethings building their careers? Create your audience segments by interest and demographic, then recognize where they can cross-pollinate and target them accordingly.
One person might be interested in your institution’s work on cancer research. They may also care about creating scholarships, and that new arts centre you’re building.
That is three specific interests, meaning they show up on three distinct lists for marketing updates. Another person might show up on only one, or two of these lists. Maybe some people won’t show up on any, opting only to receive communications about your career centre instead.
Use marketing automation software to curate and schedule targeted content to reach these people. They’re much more likely to connect with content they’re interested in. Aren’t we all?
Of course, make sure the segments are manageable for your team and resources. You could go down a rabbit hole with segmentation but it’s not necessary to achieve your goals.
Next up? Creating the right content for the right donor.
Phase Three: Content Marketing.
People like to talk about themselves. Institutions are no exception. But when it comes to smaller-dollar donor solicitation, white-knuckling the microphone isn’t the softball sell tactic you think it is. In fact, it can be alienating.
When your donor officers meet with a high net worth donor, their conversations spend more time learning about that person than you, right? They’re tapping into their interests, seeing what makes them tick. And then seeing where your institution might fit in. And rightly so.
Why abandon a similar approach in your content outreach? Your higher ed. news outlet is not a substitute for donor engagement. Because donor engagement isn’t about you. It’s about them — their interests, their worries, their hopes.
Donor engagement isn’t about you. It’s about them.
What are they eager to contribute to? Where do they want to see change? What stories would connect with them on an emotional level?
Donors want to know how their gift — no matter how small — is going to move the needle. Engaging them in content you know they care about (instead of spouting off stats you assume they’re interested in) sparks a personal connection. One that you can lean on when it comes to targeted fundraising campaigns.
In the end, your donors just want to contribute to something they care about. And they don’t want to be asked to give, give, give every six months. They all care about different things, no matter how much money they’re able to invest. And they all deserve to be treated as individuals with value.
Find the right-fit message that speaks to them and inspires them. And if you need help along the way, let’s take a walk-through campus together.