# Overview

Each of your donors is unique, but do you have the time to craft custom emails and send them resources tailored to their interests?

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to present to the Land Trust Alliance Rally 2020, showing how personalization can be leveraged by non-profits of all sizes to increase their fundraising efficacy. During the presentation I focused on...

  1. Data Collection + Quality: As any fundraiser who has taken over an old donor management platform knows, quality counts for far more than quality. Understanding how to use progressive profiling to collect donor data and learning the warning signs that you might need to update your current donor database will prepare you to run campaigns.
  2. Campaign Strategy: How to use personas and user journey mapping to gain insights on how to collect data and where to inject personalized messaging into a donor's "journey" through your organization.
  3. Personalization Tools: Email automation is SO 2015. We'll discuss various personalization tools that will allow you to not only run intelligent fundraising drip campaigns, but create more meaningful donor interactions both online and offline.

Needless to say, it was a lot of ground to cover! Over the next few weeks, I'll be going into more depth on all of these topics. Today, I'm going to focus on an easy-to-use framework for adoption personalization into your non-profit's digital fundraising efforts, no matter your size, budget, or past experience with personalized fundraising campaigns.

# What is Personalization?

Personalization can seem scary. Often times when we think of personalization, we think of websites that respond to our every move, offering us content predicted by an arcane algorithm crafted by code wizards who know the dark depths of our psyches. These systems are complex, intimidating, and expensive.

However, to be effective personalization doesn't have to be that complex. I encourage a "crawl, walk, run" model of adopting personalization:

Image of Regular Fish Crawl: Drip Campaign

  • Sequence of personal emails.
  • Requires very little data (email/name).

Image of Walking Fish Walk: Segmented Campaign

  • Campaign variations sent to prospects.
  • Requires data on interests, location, etc.

Image of Running Fish Run: Deep Personalization

  • Content personalized on email, web, social, etc.
  • Requires deeper behavioral data and more extensive tools.

# Crawl: Drip Campaigns

The most basic version of personalization is a drip email campaign. Just by knowing someone's name, email, and the fact that they're interested in your organization means you can reach out to them. We recommend a campaign that...

  1. Looks like a personal email: Don't use a fancy HTML template. Create something that looks like it could have come from your Gmail.
  2. Is action oriented: Know what you want and ask for it. It doesn't have to be a donation (yet), but ideally you're moving this contact one step closer to a donation.
  3. Has multiple touches: If the person doesn't respond to your first email or take the desired action, the campaign should automatically send a "second touch" email following up on your first.

Hopefully you're already doing this! If not, the good news is that your current email campaign tool probably allows you to do this. Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and others have conditional logic and allow you to create "bare" emails that achieve these campaigns. There are also great inexpensive drip campaign solutions available.

An example "first touch" email might look like this:

Drip Campaign Example

Dear [fname],

We're currently working on acquiring new land in the Jefferson River wetlands. We're $10,000 short of our goal; can I count on you to make a $50 one-time donation?

# Walk: Segmented Campaigns

The next step is collecting donor interests, giving activity, volunteer activity, physical address, and any other information that allows you to send them material that addresses their personal needs, wants, and interests. This means you'll have multiple drip campaigns running at the same time, all of which try to leverage this information to better communicate with the donor. For example, if you have a campaign that effects a certain region, you can try to emphasize the direct community impact to locals. For non-local donors, you might try to relate the campaign to known interests they have.

Here's an extended version of our last email that incorporates interest-related information. In this case, we know that the donor attended a recent event and is specifically interested in outdoor recreation, so we emphasize that impact of our campaign:

Segmented Campaign Example

Dear [fname],

Thanks for attending our Fremont Reserve trailhead opening! We're currently working on acquiring new land in the Jefferson River wetlands. We're $10,000 short of our goal; can I count on you to make a $50 one-time donation to open up new trails and boating opportunities?

# Run: Deep Personalization

"Deep Personalization" is when we start requiring more complicated systems to track donor behavior and incorporate those insights across multiple channels. Beyond email, we may be displaying personalized information on our website, direct social media communications, customized videos...the sky is the limit! Some aspects of Deep Personalization are accessible to smaller organizations, but ultimately this is the domain of larger non-profits who can afford software like Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, Eloqua, and other tools.

# Why Personalization?

Although personalization has been a popular topic in marketing and fundraising for years, many fundraisers seem to think that undertaking personalized campaigns requires a large investment of time and money. Most organizations are stuck with institutional inertia that tells them current fundraising campaigns are "good enough." Why take on a new obligation?

44% of donors would give at least 10% more for a personalized experience.

  • Accenture 2017 Personalized Giving Study

Personalization allows you to craft more effective fundraising campaigns that target your donors' unique interests. Generic newsletters can be great for updating donors, but they can be the first thing to get deleted in your donor's morning email purge. A personal email that touches upon a donor's interests, past giving, volunteer contributions, and peer group is much more likely to get read and acted upon. In 2017 nearly 42% of donors told Accenture they'd be willing to donate 10% more to non-profits for a more personalized experience.

66% of millennial donors would give more for a personalized experience.

If your non-profit is having a hard time cracking the millennial donor audience, listen up: millennials were even more to respond favorably to personalization. This tracks with the results of the Case Foundation's Millennial Impact Report, which recommends "keeping up with [millennial's] interests and concerns" as well as leveraging "peer influence" to connect with millennials. Personalization is the ideal tactic to implement both of these recommendations at scale.

# Blockers to Implementing Personalized Campaigns

So if personalization is so great for digital fundraising, why isn't everyone doing it? In our experience it comes down to three main problems: lack of funds, lack of experience, and institutional inertia.

The key to overcoming all three blockers is an iterative, data-driven plan.

Fortunately, as you can see from our "crawl, walk, run" model, it's easy to find entry points to running personalized fundraising campaigns that don't require expensive tooling or wiz-kid consultants. The key to overcoming all three blocks is an iterative, data-driven plan. Treat each campaign as an experiment. Make a hypothesis of how your personalized content is going to encourage a specific action, and make sure you can track the success of that campaign with hard numbers, whether those are donations, volunteer hours, conversations with specific donors, traffic to a given web page, or another meaningful goal. If you show personalized fundraising campaigns can drive better results, suddenly you'll find more money and time to invest in deeper personalization. "Good enough" legacy fundraising campaigns will start to look lackluster.

# Next Steps

Now that you have some ideas on what personalization can look like for your organization, the next steps are to...

  1. Improve your data collection and clean your donor database.
  2. Develop a personalized campaign strategy.
  3. Understand available personalization tools.

We'll be covering all three of these topics in coming blog posts, but if you're impatient to get started, give us a shout-out via the contact form below and we can send over some resources.

Happy fundraising!