Making It Personal – Part Four of a Four Part Series

If you could look into the fundraising crystal ball for 2019, what would you discover? I asked several experts in the nonprofit fundraising field and collected a goldmine of wisdom to share with you. Response was so overwhelming that I organized the content into four parts: The EssentialsBreaking Old HabitsLook on the Inside, and Making It Personal.

Of course, this forecast series would be incomplete without a look at the marketing and communications side of fundraising. In 2019, the emphasis will be on increasing customization in our outreach to donors.

  • Strategy, strategy, strategy. Anne Boyle, of Anne Boyle Consulting, believes having a strategy is the most important communication strategy for 2019. She says, "Before figuring out what trends may work for their organization, nonprofits need to have focused communication goals and objectives. And they need to clearly understand their audiences: What are they like? What do they care about? How can you motivate them to care about your cause? Where and how is the message likely to get through? Only then can you develop communication strategies that will work."
  • Make messaging more individualized and more compelling. Laura Pasternak, of MarketPoint LLCsays, “Forbes estimates that two-thirds of American households now have Amazon Prime. When those households log in, Amazon welcomes them by name, reminds them of their recently viewed items, suggests brands they might like and provides links to their order status, wish lists, registries, previous orders, personal account information and more.“

    “This is the new communications standard against which all organizations will be judged. And it’s just the beginning. Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality, and bots are already making communications inroads. By 2020, vendors, financial providers, utilities, associations, and even nonprofits will be expected to communicate with their customers/donors/members on a personal basis – and we’re not talking “personalization,” we’re talking about intimate, historical, fact-based, one-to-one relationships. This will require heavy investments in data and technology, leaving nonprofits at a distinct disadvantage.”
  • Website performance is a crucial communications component. LuAnne Bell of Blue Atlas Interactive, stresses the importance of solid website performance. Bell says, “Google is already awarding higher search rankings to sites that are mobile optimized, image optimized and has site security.“

    “Mobile optimized means that your site is responsive to the site visitor’s device. Your site must display optimally on all devices – desktop, tablet and smartphone. For image optimization, Google expects your site to load in just a few seconds. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider initiatives such as compressing your site images. For site security, Google is explicitly downgrading sites that are not protected with an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate. Check your site’s URL in your browser address bar. If you see “http” instead of “https”, then your site is not protected.”
  • Rebuild trust. Eva Jannotta, of Simply Strategic, believes that after a year of fake news, an important social media marketing trend in 2019 will be rebuilding trust. Nearly 60% of global respondents no longer trust what they see on social media, and 59% say that conversations (over email, instant messaging or in response to a comment) are more persuasive than advertising. As you plan social media communications, consider how you can build trust with your community. Eva recommends:
    • Live and “lo-fi” videos: High-quality production looks good, but being spontaneous and real builds trust.
    • Stories: Especially if you target a younger demographic, Facebook and Instagram stories are a terrific way to show the "real" people - volunteers on the ground, staff behind the scenes, and impact on your clients.
    • Closed communities: Private communities on Facebook, Slack or in-person are great ways to connect with people in an intimate, private environment.
    • Share research: Trust in traditional media and journalism is up, so consider sharing quotes, statistics, and other content from these sources.
    • Customization: The more personalized you can be with your community, the better. Try using first name merge tags in your email subject lines, highlighting stories (with pictures!) of your staff, volunteers and clients, and asking and answering questions by addressing people by name.

This wraps up our four-part series on trends and tips from 15 experts across the continent. I’m grateful for the insights and advice offered. I hope something in this series has sparked an idea or reminded you to revisit an idea you’ve tried before. The main thought is to look for things that are not working and need changing and then do it. In the words of Matthew Kelly, “Be certain of one thing: The measure of your life will be the measure of your courage.” Change takes courage.

Read the rest of the series: Part One: The EssentialsPart Two: Breaking Old Habits, and Part Three: Look on the Inside

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I discovered something special in writing this series of articles. There is a wonderful kindred spirit alive and well within the fundraising and marketing community. We are blessed to be a part of a world where even competitors can collaborate and do good for the sake of doing good. My heartfelt thanks to Tom AhernClaire AxelradLuAnne BellAnne BoyleLauren BrownsteinVanessa ChaseAmy EisensteinEva JannottaSimone JoyauxTim KachuriakAndrea KihlstedtLaura PasternakBrian SooySteven Shattuck and Greg Warner.