Online community engagement has caused many fundraisers to question the long-term impact on “the ways of old” such as direct mail, events, phone, and volunteers/ambassadors. Will it cause attrition? How do we continue to reach a generational range?

The reality is these channels are needed more than ever today and will only become more relevant as online giving evolves.

The real question that we should ask is how we can leverage these channels in a digital-first strategy? “Digital-first” is just the acknowledgment that individuals will continue to transition their transactions online, but that awareness and information gathering are still influenced by a holistic marketing experience.

Offline channels of fundraising that have been used for the past 30+ years need to be repurposed to work in concert with online initiatives. The goal should be to pull a golden thread through everything and leverage a collaborative toolset that consistently analyzes cross-channel data.

Essentially, organizations must stop thinking through the lens of multi-channel and begin thinking in terms of omnichannel.

Although there is no formal distinction between multichannel and omnichannel, there is a perceived difference and there seems to be a growing need to distinguish. Multi-channel, a more traditional term, centers around connecting with donors via independent channels. Omni-channel means supporting a range of channels for a single donor experience and providing a feedback loop for individuals to dictate how they want to engage.

Unlike multichannel, omnichannel interactions are not siloed but integrated to provide media-rich donor experiences.

Donors, like consumers, benefit when they are well connected to the product or service. So the challenge in the fundraising industry is to track and tailor that experience across all the channels from information gathering to stewardship – direct mail, web, mobile, text, phone.

When it comes to leveraging offline channels for a giving event of any kind, follow these 3 rules:

  1. Develop a comprehensive plan that incorporates all available (and sustainable) channels of communication. Map out a donor journey against this strategy. Use a buyer’s journey model as a place to start.
  2. Ensure that each communication is customized and consistent to each individual no matter how they transition from one channel to the next.
  3. Stay authentic. Targeted will always convert more than blanket messaging. Show donors you care by taking the extra time to ensure a more personalized experience with the resources you have.  

In addition, use the below strategies as idea starters to cohesively tie in offline channels with your online efforts:

 

Volunteers/Ambassadors

It’s important to leverage word-of-mouth when it comes to increasing donations and overall engagement for your giving event. Utilizing volunteers and ambassadors is one of the most effective strategies you can incorporate into your omnichannel strategy.

The benefit of using people to spread awareness and create outreach is that it’s human, people like giving/talking/dealing with other people! Make the experience personal for your potential donors by leveraging those that already love and care about your organization or effort.

Individuals that have previously donated will be the best advocates for getting others to participate. When rounding up volunteers and ambassadors, make sure you clearly highlight the overall goal of your giving initiative.

Put together a volunteer and ambassador toolkit to outline how they will help at each stage and with each channel of the strategy. From posting on social networks to working physical events, volunteers and ambassadors will be huge players in every aspect of the omnichannel strategy. Some ideas include:

  • An email campaign with templates that introduce volunteers/ambassadors on a personal level to potential donors.
  • A social toolkit to share updates and stories before, during, and after your initiative.
  • Progress updates that are written throughout your event and posted on individual story pages or your overall site.
  • A text-to-give campaign that leverages messages from your volunteers.
  • Management of a Facebook event that is run in conjunction with your initiative.

Outside of their outreach, you should also use a variety of channels to keep your volunteers updated and informed as the event approaches. Create a facebook group or email segmentation list to easily communicate with all volunteers in a timely manner and keep everyone organized.

Finally, make sure you let your volunteers know you are grateful for them. A simple thank you note or a celebratory team lunch after the close of your initiative is a great way to keep them engaged and active for future events!

 

Physical Events

Creating a physical event that coincides with an online initiative is a great way to engage your community and create buzz around your fundraising. If your donors are excited to attend, they’ll invite their affinity networks and, all of the sudden, your potential donor pool has doubled!

To tie your event back to your omnichannel marketing effort, try creating a Facebook event to invite potential donors and include links to your giving page in the event description. Just make sure you adjust the settings to allow them to comment and invite their peers!

You can also update your profile pictures and banners on your website with the date, time, and location of your event so your digital followers won’t miss it. While you should always send out an email invite to your community, you can also include the vent details in email signatures across your development department to spread awareness outside of mass outreach.

During your event, document the happenings on the Facebook event message board with live updates that are media rich (photos, videos, live stream, etc.) to allow those that are not physically there to feel included. This is a good opportunity to use your volunteer base to do the legwork.

Consider setting up a station for online donations with tablets and/or educating event coordinators and creating handouts for attendees informing them of your online efforts. You can even use text-to-give technology and coordinate an announcement that asks attendees to pull out their phones and rewards whoever gives first or anyone who gives at a certain level.

To inspire further engagement, try collecting emails and/or phone numbers for attendees to loop them into your ongoing messaging surrounding your initiative.

For event-inspiration, here is a full list of ideas for your next giving day event.

 

Direct Mail

Direct mail is expensive, and this means you want to be thoughtful with how you integrate online channels. There are two items you should always include: a URL to your giving page and a link to the social channel(s) you will be consistent with storytelling from beginning to end. These links will help save cost by transitioning the story to a channel you can update continuously without overburdening your audience or your budget.

The key when including these links is to track the percentage of your direct mail audience you are able to transition. You should tie in unique tracking codes (UTMs) and use these instructions to properly integrate them with your analytics tracking on your site.

Another emerging technology you can leverage is Quick Response (QR) codes. Instead of having to type in a URL, this allows direct mail recipients to simply use their smartphone to scan the code and take them right to your page.

Consider using links and QR codes during the stewardship phase, too, when you can bring mail recipients to pages with updates from those who benefitted from their donations.

 

Phonathon

Consider using your phonathon as a word-of-mouth tool to both get people online and get the correct information for digital follow-up. When asking for an on-the-spot donation, make sure your script is tied to an ongoing story that is reflected online.

Your goal should be to obtain or verify every recipient’s email address and affinity and establish a feedback loop with your CRM. There are two scenarios that explain why this is important: First, if they donate you can send them the URL and updates from the story that tracks the impact of their gift. You can tie this in with follow-up calls to express appreciation and give verbal updates that mirror those online to spur continued engagement with the ongoing story.

Second, if they don’t donate, you can enroll them in email messaging about the impact they can make and where they can see the funding progress of relevant initiatives in real-time. If you structure your call to identify affinity (i.e. establishing that someone typically gives to the arts), you can tailor your giving opportunities to them in your digital messaging and cross-channel for any offline methods.