How to Personalize Marketing for Nonprofits

This is the blog transcript of our video “How to Personalize Marketing for Nonprofits”. If you’d like to see more of our videos, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Are you frustrated thinking about how you can more effectively reach out to your donors? We’ve talked a bit about nonprofits and donors this month and we’re not done yet. Today, we will focus on two things: why it is important to personalize and how to make personalization impactful. This is an important topic and we have a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

Hey everyone, I’m Ian Campbell, CEO of Mission Suite. Before we jump into today’s video, do me a favor and hit the subscribe button and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos.

We talked last week about segmentation and why that is important. And we will talk a little more about that here because it is a significant first step to effective personalization. So, if you missed that episode, make sure to check that out. Essentially, if you can identify specific characteristics of your donors, you can then segment them and begin to tailor your communications – and more – for them.

What is Personalization?

First, I want to touch on what personalization means. It is not just dropping in someone’s name after “Dear” at the start of your ask. Personalization is getting to know your audience and offering them options that will suit their needs related to your organization. Ideally, personalization can change the nonprofit conversation from a one-way “please and thank you” to a two-way “how can we best work together” and “we are in this together.”

I want to get into why personalization is so impactful as you speak to your donors and your bottom line. Before we get into that, I want to first talk about some of the second-hand benefits and things you might not realize personalization can do for you and your nonprofit organization as a whole.

First, using data, segmentation and personalization tells the world – not just your audience – that you are committed to efficiency, technology, and advancement. This can be a positive sign to potential donors that the money they pledge to your organization is being used wisely. In recent years, these marketing techniques have repeatedly shown that they will increase ROI. Your organization using these tools sends a definite message that you’re not just sending an ask, hoping for the best and collecting a check.

Also, your organization’s willingness to use tools to reach your audience best is a way to foster more open communication with your board, your donors, your volunteers and more. Think about it: in the past, many nonprofit ‘asks’ were just one-way communication – a note that reads “please give,” rather uninspired, right? Seeing personalization as not just dropping a name into an email but allowing your audience to choose how and why they connect with you is a positive way to say, “we hear you.” This can be a big step in changing the traditional donor relationship and building more trust, appreciation, and engagement.

Being able to collect this type of data can also impact how your organization uses outside resources. If you can drill down on your donor segments, you will likely be able to ask for help with volunteer committee roles, capitalizing on your donors’ skills or interests. For example, suppose you knew that your donors included an event planner. In that case, you might be able to take advantage of their industry connections or use their services instead of hiring an outsider who doesn’t know your organization as well. Not only can this save you money, but now you have engaged your donors on another level, fostering engagement and building a relationship.

Speaking of resources, if you can harness the power of data and segmentation, you can identify lapsed donors or unprofitable revenue streams. Then you can make better decisions about what to do.

Imagine if you could send a personalized note to any lapsed donor and ask “why.” Not only could you potentially gain insight about why they disconnected, but then you could also fix a problem you might not have even known about. And, if this donor has moved on, you can remove them from your universe and potentially save resources.

Some Statistics about Personalization for Nonprofits

Thanks to the power of the internet , I could quote dozens of sources and studies that show personalization is the answer to many nonprofit marketing needs – and I do have some stats to share. But the truth is the days of sending out generic messages to everyone and just hoping for a single-digit return are over, and the statistics bear this out many times over. Segmenting and personalizing have so many benefits for your nonprofit and will also save you time and effort overall; that is a fact.

First, for context, let’s talk about consumers – people who exchange money for goods and services. In 2020, an article in Forbes noted an exceedingly high percentage of consumers and shoppers – 71% – who were “frustrated when a shopping experience is impersonal.” And many shoppers say, “encountering content that isn’t personalized would stop them from making a purchase.”

Imagine how those people would feel if they were donating money and not getting a personalized experience. I understand for-profit and nonprofit industries are different, but the point is – if you’re not personalizing, you are at real risk of losing donors.

A few studies in the nonprofit sector are echoing this sentiment, too. The vast majority of donors polled all stated time and again that they would be willing to give more – some as much as 25 percent more for a more personalized experience.

On November 2, the Blackbaud Institute, a leader in research and insight in the social good community, released a report “The Tipping Point,” expanding on some donor statistics around personalization and guess what – personalization wins nearly every single time.

So, yes, personalization is essential to your nonprofit

If you think your nonprofit can’t afford this type of segmentation and personalization, I would argue that you can’t afford NOT to do this. Digging a little deeper with your audience will unlock information that will yield better results for you and them. It’s a fact that people who feel appreciated and included are far more likely to stay engaged and offer more than just dollars. This will lead to a better return and a stronger organization overall.

Now that we all agree it is important let’s focus on how you can create personalized messages. Effective personalization is always based on data, and the fact is that you need to have the data to deliver messages that will last with your donors and volunteers. And no matter the size of your organization, you should have a reliable C R M, like Mission Suite, that can help you mine this data for good segmentation, appropriate personalization and also to automate some of your outreach. And of course, if I can answer any questions for you and help you understand why having a C R M is essential or just talk it over, please don’t hesitate to reach out or leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to respond.

In our last episodes, we talked about how to segment and what some of those groups are. And because all of these groups may respond to different appeals, their messages need to be different, too. So, ideally, before you can drill down on the how, when, and why of personalized communications, you should commit to spending some time with your donor segments – make sure you understand the data you have collected and your various segments. Again, we talked about this last week, so check out that episode if you haven’t already.

Once you have your segmented lists, it’s time to start crafting messages and outreach methods that will best speak to those groups. You guessed it – homework time.

Think about what you want to know about these segments and draft some questions like:

  • Why do people give to our organization?
  • What do our donors and volunteers seek in return?
  • Are we communicating enough or too much?
  • Are we thanking our donors enough – do they feel appreciated?

Understanding the WHY behind your audience

People give and volunteer for a vast range of reasons. And when you can speak to that in a more personalized message, you are signaling your cohesion with them and their needs. This strengthens your organization beyond merely a financial gain. Just like a sales prospect, no two donor journeys are the same. Understanding your donors’ reasoning can help you connect with them on a deeper level.

Speaking of dollars, think about how your audience could have more to give than just a check every year. Knowing your audience is a valuable tool to turn a donor or volunteer into much more. If you knew a donor “why” included a personal connection to your cause, wouldn’t you want to know more about that? And much more than just a donation, that person might potentially become an advocate, an educator to people who don’t know your organization, or a speaker – sharing their personal story – at an event. But you have to get to know your donor to understand and unlock those little gems.

ASK beyond the “ASK”

Likely, many of your messages include an “ask” where you are soliciting a donation. But you should be asking for more, not more money, more information. Ask your donors what they like, why they give, what their interests are and more. It doesn’t have to be specific, but even some general information can make a difference. And you don’t have to ask for details with every communication, but maybe once or twice a year as your donation cycle allows, you should put together a survey and ask your donors and volunteers about themselves.

And before you think, ‘oh, that is too much work,’ let me assure you that it doesn’t have to be. A brief survey can help you continue to segment and personalize communication to your audience. Again, most C R Ms have some survey functionality that could also automatically segment donors for you like Mission Suite. Basically, answers to a concise survey can dictate the next stop in the donor journey. And, In the long run, this can save you time and could boost engagement, too.

Show your Donors that They Matter to You

Nonprofits walk an exceptionally fine line between raising money to fund their cause and spending money on outreach. No donor wants to think their donation was used for a lavish ‘thank you’ event, but they likely still want to be acknowledged. So, how can you do both? You guessed it – data.

Just as not every person gives for the same reason, not every person wants to be recognized in the same way. Some donors give just to give and don’t need anything else – we call these ‘dream donors.’ Others seek public acknowledgment. And still, others might feel most appreciated with a small gift like branded merchandise. If you can gather this information from your donors, you can then best personally acknowledge them in ways that are meaningful for them.

Obviously, each donation should be met with a personalized ‘thank you’ letter but going beyond that could go a very long way to making your audience feel like they are part of your organization.

Offering Choices

Not only are personalized messages meaningful, but it can be beneficial to let your audience choose what and how often they hear from you. Some might want to get a personalized ‘thank you’ after a donation, and that is all. Others might want to read your annual report, learn about status or project updates, and still, others will fall somewhere in between. Allowing donors to segment themselves in this way is a small gesture but can have a substantial impact. Over communicating can annoy a donor, and not communicating can be just as harmful. Finding the right balance for each donor can keep everyone happy and engaged.

So, what did we learn today?

Segmentation and personalization for your nonprofit audience are critical. I don’t think we can overstate that.

With any challenge, the more you understand, the better you can find the solution. Segmentation and personalization are keys to understanding your donors and engaging with them for your mutual benefit.

If you heard anything here that you’d like to know more about, I’d be thrilled to talk to you about it.

Hey I hope you got something out of this video. And if you did, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and maybe a share so that others can see it too. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos and while you’re at it, check out these videos too!

We’ll see you next time around!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.