Secrets of Soliciting the Wired Wealthy

The International Association of Fundraising Professionals Conference in New Orleans last week was rich in practical information, memorable speakers—and luscious culinary delights, of course! One of the most “meaty” presentations I saw was given by Vinay Bhagat, founder and chief strategy officer of Convio; Colleen Mc Culloch-Learch, senior research analyst at Edge Research, and Beth Wallace, vice president of digital marketing at Conservation International, on using the Internet to connect with donors.

One of the most useful pieces of intelligence emerging from the Wired Wealthy Study they discussed involved segmentation. Until now, we have tended to segment or donors demographically – “Younger females respond this way, and older males behave that way.” This new study actually uses psychographic “cluster” analysis to categorize donors by behaviors. Here is the breakdown for the nearly 3,500 respondents who contributed $1,000+ over an 18-month period:

Relationship Seeker (29%): Most likely to respond to opportunities to connect emotionally with your organization online. However, they delivered the
lowest average gift.

All Business (30%): Do not appear to be looking for a relationship or emotional connection. They are purely transaction-oriented. They seek ease, clarity, and functionality.

Casual Connector (41%): The largest of the three clusters, this group appears to “split the difference” in terms of attitudes and preferences. As group, they need more hand-holding. They are more difficult to predict and satisfy—often seeking an “intellectual connection.”

Across the board, donors are expecting a “high quality of engagement “and a pleasant user experience. Interestingly, these respondents are left “generally uninspired” by website appeals. They feel many nonprofit websites are not well-designed, do not make it easy to give, and are not user-friendly. They do not want to wade through screens of dense copy. Attention spans are limited. And among these donors, there is a strong appetite for chats, photo-sharing, video, blogging, and IMing—particularly among “Relationship Seekers.”

Another significant finding was that donors want more control over the specifics of the communication—with lots of opportunities for opting in or out, selecting content, and specifying schedules. Most of all, they really like tax receipts, progress reports—and lots of success stories. So, know your donors and understand how they behave and prefer to communicate—online and off!

In addition, the study suggested that it is useful to look at all of your major donor touch-points. Are they relevant and effective. Hone your value proposition and core message. Key here is to “sell on steak, not on sizzle.” Use your online communication to build confidence and cultivate relationships. And shy away from including major donors in your online giving strategy. Here are a few other important points to remember:

1. Treat online donors as partners.
2. Create and sustain a disciplined narrative with complete story lines.
3. Build a high ratio of cultivation messages to appeals.
4. Nurture 2-way communication.
5. Provide easy ways to pass the word online.
6. Use video.

In general, get smart, deliberate, creative, and strategic about your online communication plan.

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