(thumbnail) Brenna Holmes
The Future of Direct Response for Nonprofits: Truly Integrated Impact Marketing
Posted by Brenna Holmes at Nov 25, 2014 07:01 AM CST

To create truly integrated impact marketing we need omnichannel marketing.

Omnichannel marketing is exactly what the name suggests, touching prospects and supporters across every relevant channel and taking advantage of the multiple touch points available: television, print, radio, telephone, email, websites, digital and more. Ironically, though, omnichannel marketing is nothing like the term suggests. It is not the limitless outbound flow of messaging attempting to influence behavior without regard for the recipient. Omnichannel marketing places customers and their channel preferences uppermost. It is donor-centric marketing.

Understanding preferences is vital

Direct marketing today cannot be vanilla; that is, no one tactic will resonate equally with everyone. Supporters/donors do not operate in a single-channel world, and what worked in the past will not necessarily work today -- or be cost-effective. What’s more, the channel that carried the convincing message likely will not be the same one employed for the response. An email campaign may convince someone to donate, but the contribution may take the form of a check in the mail or look like an “organic” gift from homepage traffic. Conversely, a direct mail package can just as easily evoke a credit card gift via a phone call or the website as a check in the return envelope.

What’s important is a cohesive and coordinated approach employing the right channels for the right donors/supporters.

A 360 degree view

The challenge for most organizations seeking to move through the progression from single channel to multichannel to omnichannel marketing is gaining a true 360° view of supporters. Unlike the corporate world, nonprofits typically have at least two -- if not more -- databases. The integration of donor datasets is difficult because information resides in different places. There are distinct data silos -- sometimes even within the same channel.

Integrating information captured via online channels is far less formidable than combining offline and online data. There is no easy way to recognize that the Mary Smith who placed a phone call to an association’s call center with a renewal question is the same Mary Smith who likes that organization on Facebook and/or is an email subscriber. But connecting those dots is crucial for truly integrated impact marketing and effective omnichannel fundraising. 

Nonprofits need to understand all the ways that people consume media and stop thinking in terms of “digital” or “traditional,” and tailor strategies across channels. We need to streamline workflows and develop comprehensive sets of standard operating procedures to ensure we’re collecting the data needed at the quality level required to truly and effectively leverage the power of all that “big data.”

Building profiles

For most nonprofits, the best way is to build profiles. Rather than knowing donors person by person, which can be overwhelming, they should seek to identify groups of people who “look” and “respond” in similar ways. That is, they develop personas and market to them. This approach allows the use of testing strategies that can yield truly significant results.

The big challenge is organizing data in a unified way that enables correlation of outbound contacts and inbound replies across channels, campaigns and devices. Without accurately mapped information, organizations cannot weight each campaign’s relative impact and forecast the combination and frequency of contacts most likely to increase the desired KPIs (whether that’s response rates, average gifts, monthly sustainers, etc.). 


  1. Never assume that there are different audiences for every channel.  Donors/customers will interact with organizations in any way they choose.
  2. Have consistent messaging, offers and calls for action regardless of the channel. People must encounter the same organization on every channel. You only have one brand.
  3. Define your goals. You must have strategic, measurable and trackable fundraising goals up front. “Increase engagement” is too vague. SMART goals offer accountability and progress assessment:
    • Specific
    • Measureable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-bound
  4. Build a source code logic that crosses databases and enables tracking. The first step can be as simple as developing a custom field in each database to capture a unique identifier. Then, invest in tracking mechanisms that allow you to connect the dots across channels and gain insights on the optimal communication channel(s).
  5. Make interactions as easy as possible on every channel.

Omnichannel marketing is not about blasting the airwaves with a message in the hopes of possibly engaging a donor. It’s a data-driven technique that prompts smart decision making about resource allocation and message positioning and timing and creates truly integrated and effective impact marketing. 

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