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4 Ways Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising Can Better Leverage Audience Insights

Most nonprofit organizations (NPOs) – regardless of size – have separate and distinct marketing and development (fundraising) functions.  This recognizes the importance of donors as an audience, their specific messaging needs and the unique types of outreach and experience required in development teams.  However, the marketing and development functions are more alike than different, especially now that each function engages the same people through digital and social channels.

The 2nd part of this 3-part series focuses on the importance of alignment between marketing and development when it comes to understanding your audience. Fundraising teams can benefit from marketing insights, and vice versa. Audience insights – formal and informal – are a core part of both functions, and knowledge must be shared effectively between them. Nonprofit organizations should explore the opportunity to expand and better stratify knowledge about key audiences, particularly those with influence to important circles.

Alignment of Audience Insights

The following four areas will provide a strong starting place for creating a consistent and actionable base of knowledge for improving the effectiveness of all outreach, regardless of department or purpose. While these are activities typically associated with marketing, most development teams also use them. Collaboration will increase the value to the organization and improve the quality and impact of each approach.

  1. Audience Surveys
    Do a quick survey of your organization’s surveys.  Are you asking the same qualifying questions in order to properly segment your entire database, or are different groups collecting only fragments of what you need?  Your goals must be to understand the needs and interests of new prospects as well as complete a holistic view of your key audiences’ interests, motivations and needs. Do you use qualitative (e.g.: long form interviews) to test and refine hypotheses and inform future messaging before you do quantitative (statistically projectable) research?  The latter is expensive, and so making sure you have the right insights prior to investing is always smart. Ensuring that everyone – executives, development, marketing, program managers and HR – are working from the same understanding and foundation of knowledge about your audience profile and behavior is essential to growth and the most efficient achievement of mission.
  2. Segmentation Strategy
    Segmentation is an essential recognition that not all people are alike, act alike or feel alike. Even the most basic of CRM database solutions allows records to be segmented according to important criteria like demographics, geography, welcome date, last action, and commitment level and status. Take a look at your segmentation strategy and ensure that everyone understands why audiences behave or are motivated in different ways. Marketing and development teams may bring different perspectives and ideas to this discussion, which will improve the segmentation strategy going forward. Smarter segmentation allows personalization of messaging, which should make communications more relevant and effective.
  3. Highest Value Audience Members
    Not all donors, participants or partners have the same value to the organization. Does everyone in the organization know which are indeed most valuable, and how to find more people like them? Identifying highest value people doesn’t mean that every other member of each audience is neglected. It only means that messaging and outreach can be better tailored to engage those who will make the most difference to the cause and mission of the organization. Personas are a tool used by many marketing departments to refine and understand these most valuable audiences. By definition, a persona is a detailed description of a certain type of person who exemplifies the background, social status, gender, interests and motivations of the segment. Sometimes personas are given clever names to distinguish them, like “Urban Activists” or “Concerned Parents” or “Rising Patrons.” (Note: Even if you only use persona names internally, always assume that external audiences will see them. Choose names that are appropriately sensitive.) Each persona is used to increase understanding among all employees on the needs and interests of each segment. Collaboration between marketing and development teams to define “highest value” and ensure that all messaging and outreach is consistent with the needs of these important audiences can increase the engagement resulting in larger donations and stronger participation in programs. It will also lower the organization’s investment cost to nurture each participant’s action.
  4. Social Marketing
    To engaged audiences and prospects of all types, your organization must function as one organization. Audiences expect to be able to engage with the organization through all digital channels.Social marketing is a very visible and personal way to connect with people, and all those in your organization who are active on social networks, or wish to promote activities through owned social accounts, need to collaborate. A consistent and knowledgeable voice is required, and support from various departments to ensure rapid response and engagement is essential. If your organization can’t support that level of commitment, then reconsider your social presence. Conversations will happen with or without you, but participation comes with a level of responsibility to be present and engaged. Today, people are creating their own content about your organization and mission, and even telling your story through a personal narrative that may or may not be based on the “official” organization messaging. Both marketing and development insights are necessary to guide and celebrate these personal stories, especially because they are often perceived by others as more reliable than what comes from the organization itself.

Collaborating on these activities will provide exponential reach and impact – a benefit that every NPO would like to report to funders and other stakeholders. In addition, there is an opportunity cost of ignoring the benefits. Operating in marketing and development silos is a financial risk.  In the best case, you may be double investing in audience insights, messaging concepts, outreach campaigns and communications channels. In the worst case, you create dissonance and confusion in the market by not aligning these efforts.

Next week, I’ll discuss the third step, “Alignment of Story.” With the increased use of social media and other digital channels, we live in the world of the “6-second-story.” With only 6 seconds, development and marketing functions need to work together to get it right. 

If you enjoyed this post, check out Part 1 Striking the Right Balance Between Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Teams.  Follow us @TopRightPartner for content and ideas on how to #MoveTopRight.

Photo Credit: Sandia Labs

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