Integrating Online and Offline Fundraising

“Integration” is the latest buzzword for marketing and fund-raising professionals. And according to Sheeraz Haji, CEO of GetActive Software, it’s a buzzword that non-profit organizations increasingly need to incorporate into their vocabularies.

“Integration” is the latest buzzword for marketing and fund-raising professionals. And according to Sheeraz Haji, CEO of GetActive Software, it’s a buzzword that non-profit organizations increasingly need to incorporate into their vocabularies.

Haji made this claim in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the “Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising” conference, co-hosted in July by the Washington, D.C. Metro Area Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFPDC) and the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW).

An expert in using online tools to build support for nonprofits, Haji followed a session on “Integrated Marketing: Bringing Online Outreach into the Mix” by describing range of opportunities that integration offers to non-profit fund-raising and marketing professionals.

Online Tools Maximize Impact

“While there is a growing awareness at the executive level about the power of the Internet to enhance an organization’s fund-raising and marketing goals,” Haji stated, “most non-profit organizations are still in the early stages of identifying their specific strategies, technology and staffing needs to embrace this new approach.”

According to Haji, integration can mean data integration; integration across an organization’s departments, affiliates or chapters; or integration across communication channels. Haji explained, “Any one of these approaches can lead to an overall lift in an organization’s success metrics.” These include:

  • An increase in the funds your nonprofit raises

  • Better coordinated messages that clarify your nonprofit’s unique mission and program strengths

  • An increase in response rates to your fund-raising appeals

Integration for Increased Support

For example, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) conducted a test to see if integrating email and traditional direct (snail) mail would make a difference in total donations for its advocacy work. Some of the nonprofit’s members received an email that preceded the direct mail appeal, some received either an email or a direct mail piece, and others received a direct mail piece and a post email.

The test segment that received both an email and a direct mail piece performed better than expected. In fact, the initial results were so intriguing that HSUS is planning more testing. The organization did, however, find that there are database, data management and content challenges in integrating online and offline activities.

GetActive’s Haji explains why integration can be challenging for your organization, and what you can do to overcome them and benefit from the increased fund-raising capacity:

  1. Organizational design and structure issues
    Your organization may have a well-established direct mail or public relations program whose directors are not expert in using the Internet. Or your organization’s advocacy, fundraising, marketing and membership departments work in silos. Educating these directors and the executive director about the benefits of integration is a key way to move the process forward. “It takes a real leader to address these structural and management issues,” explains Haji.

  2. Offline/online databases
    While advancements in Web services have made it much easier to interchange and synchronize data, non-profit organizations still have to decide which data should move back and forth between their offline and online databases and how the data is structured. “No matter what you hear,” Haji reveals, “data integration is a complex job.” Therefore, construct a comprehensive plan with direct support from your technology staff – and be sure to have all departments on board and involved in developing the process. Also, just like HSUS test your assumptions early and often, and tweak your plan as needed before you jump into it full scale.

  3. Resource constraints
    Integrating email communications with direct mail, web and print campaigns requires an investment of staff and consultant time to write content, run and analyze reports, conduct tests and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. If your non-profit organization lacks the staff and other resources to invest in full integration, build this into your plan and take one step at a time. Look for other organizations with whom you can partner and learn about best practices and trends among peers. Also, budget for limited-term consultant support.

So while integrating online tools with traditional fundraising and marketing tactics has its challenges, so far the results indicate that integration of your fund-raising and marketing strategies can lead to success. And according to Haji, that success is sure to grow.

9/06

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