Connecting the Dots from Advocacy to Giving
Posted by Guest Blogger at Mar 19, 2015 07:00 AM CDT

This article was written by guest author Kerri Kerr, Senior Vice President, Avalon Consulting.

So you’ve built a large pool of online activists and digital petition-signers -- now what? Good news: It’s time to reap the rewards -- revenue and ROI.

Avalon’s research and experience prove unequivocally that donors who are also activists are much more valuable to your organization, across a variety of metrics. We define activists as people who have taken an action on behalf of your organization, e.g., signed a petition, written a letter, attended an advocacy event, etc.

For one Avalon advocacy client, our testing validated the strength of current, lapsed (25-60 months), and deeply lapsed (61-120 months) activist members, with all segments showing stronger revenue per member and a renewal/reinstatement rate as much as 50 percent higher than non-activists. In some segments, the average gift from donor-activists was up to 25 percent higher than that of non-activists. 

Once activists make a contribution, they are also more likely to stay on your donor rolls than non-activists, which is a huge incentive to turn your activists into donors. (On the flip side, encouraging your donors to become activists will also strengthen their commitment to your organization and increase their long-term value.)

To harness this potential, cultivate first, then ask. Because activists already have a relationship with your organization, they are excellent prospects for donor conversion. Your first job is to cultivate them and move them along a continuum of involvement.

Cultivation can take the form of action alerts, e-newsletters, petitions, events, and other efforts to engage and educate. Conduct this outreach through multi-channel marketing, because testing shows that you can engage people more effectively with a range of communications. Use online, phone, mail, on-site, and special event strategies to keep activists up to date and involved. 

Once you have cultivated your activists for conversion, you will find they are more invested in your mission and ready to make a difference with a financial contribution. Because many of these activists already consider themselves part of your mission and community, conversion strategies can parallel donor reinstatement. And don’t forget that they are also primed for a sustainer message. 

As with cultivation, it is also critical to use a multi-channel strategy for donor conversion, with all channels supporting and reinforcing each other. Be sure to include activists in your direct mail and email acquisition efforts. Find opportunities to tie your ask to their activist history. For example, specifically mention the action the activist took: “Thank you for signing our petition—now take the next step and join us …”

And don’t overlook the phone. While cold-calling random prospects is not typically productive, activists are warm prospects who will be more responsive to a call from your organization. 

Telemarketing is a great way to start a dialogue with your activists and encourage them to make a contribution. Plus, on the phone, you can easily adjust message and targeting strategies to achieve the most productive results. 

Finally, a word about collaboration. It is essential that all of your organization’s departments coordinate and communicate seamlessly, because anyone can have a good idea about how to keep activists and supporters engaged. Here are the basics (read more on fundraising collaboration here and here):

When you finally ask for monetary support, your activists should feel engaged and needed, and understand that making a contribution is the natural next step in helping you achieve your mission.

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