This article was originally published on the Fission blog by Austen Levihn-Coon.
For years, commercial brands have used multichannel marketing campaigns to drive consumer demand. Why? Because the research suggests it works. Investing $1,000,000 in one medium (say television), and one medium alone, has generally proven less effective than taking some of that million and dividing it across other channels (like web or print) in an integrated fashion.
Advertisers know, for example, that web ads don’t just drive drive sales online, but also have an indirect spillover effect, driving traffic at physical retail stores. In other words, exposing potential customers to an advert in one area tends to temporarily raise brand awareness, increasing customers’ propensity to buy from wherever they may encounter their next opportunity to buy.
So, what’s the takeaway for nonprofits, for fundraisers and campaigners? The same psychology applies.
BOOSTING FUNDRAISING THROUGH SOCIAL ADVERTISING
Groundbreaking research has found that nonprofit fundraisers can dramatically increase the propensity of potential donors to give during an email fundraising appeal by exposing supporters to Facebook advertisements (via custom audience targeting) just prior to receiving that ask in their inbox. In fact, multiple studies have now reached that same conclusion.
In 2013, Blue State Digital conducted an A/B test with a client that exposed a portion of prior donors to promoted Facebook posts highlighting recent accomplishments. Priming potential donors by conjuring positive associations paid off — once those supporters were asked to give over a different channel (email). Blue State Digital found that the treatment group gave at much higher rates than those who weren’t exposed to the promoted posts just prior to receiving the fundraiser email. And most importantly, the return on the investment was positive; the differential boost in revenue from the treatment group far exceeded the amount spent on Facebook ads.
Even more recently, others have validated those findings. In the 2014 election cycle, another consultancy, Trilogy Interactive, ran experiments on behalf of Michelle Nunn and Mark Udall. As Derek Wills explains in The Upshot, “They found that sending Facebook advertisements to people who had already given the campaigns their email addresses resulted in more money when the campaigns later asked them via email to donate.”
The results were stark and the return on investment clear. The campaign spent $15,000 on the Nunn advertisements, and made an additional $32,000 over what they would have otherwise made without first priming people to give. In this case, the advertisements did contain a fundraising ask, which resulted in $6,000 donated by supporters clicking on the ads; but the real value was indirect: those in the treatment group (exposed to ads) were far more likely to donate later on via an email solicitation — to the tune of an extra $26,000.
Ultimately, the takeaway here is groundbreaking: organizations stand to dramatically increase donor giving by priming potential donors prior to an ask.
What we don’t know yet is if these priming effects can take other forms. There are certainly an array of ways organizations can engage donors — to increase salience and reinforce positive association — prior to asking for money.
Using a tool like Attentive.ly, which allows organizations to identify which of their supporters use Twitter, you could imagine systematically following (or even favoriting and retweeting) your donors in the days prior to an email fundraiser. Or you could target those donors with Twitter ads — although it remains to be seen if those are as cost effective as Facebook ads.
INCREASING SOCIAL CAPITAL WITH INFLUENCERS
It stands to reason that if you can increase the positive brand affinity of potential donors to the point of substantially increased fundraising potential, you could also use these techniques to build social capital with influencers — supporters who may be bloggers, journalists, policy professionals, or celebrities — and increase their propensity to engage in non-fundraising actions that might be all the more valuable.
Attentive.ly, uniquely, allows organizations to identify high-value influencers that they can access and engage with. You send Attentive.ly a list of supporter emails, and they send you a list of your supporters and their Klout scores. Once you have identified that there are several hundred journalists on your support list, it seems all the worth it to spend a few bucks to make sure they remember your organization exists and are aware of what it’s been up to before you send them a pitch.
This article was written with the support of David Norton.