Digi.Raise + EventRaise recently wrapped up for 2021. Andrea Riddell and Andrew Sadauskas share eight digital fundraising lessons from the conference.

Digital Transformation Digi.Raise EventRaise

From virtual events to making the virtual ask, artificial intelligence to ageing donors, Digi.Raise + EventRaise 2021 did not disappoint.

Delivered virtually, this year the conference incorporated Digi.Raise and EventRaise, typically two standalone conferences, in a nod to the evolving event landscape and the rise of virtual events. When much of the promotion, recruitment, fundraising and even the event itself is now happening in the digital realm, events fundraisers need digital know-how now more than ever before.  

So, in case you missed it, we’ve put together a round-up of eight lessons we learnt during Digi.Raise + EventRaise 2021. 

Think about your ‘why’ as you build your social media community 

Digi.Raise + EventRaise kicked off with a masterclass on how to raise awareness and drive donations using social media.  

It was hosted by leading US digital fundraising expert Julia Campbell, who was recently named by Forbes as one of the seven best nonprofit thought leaders to follow on Twitter. 

Along with the masterclass, Julia also presented a session on how to build a community on Facebook and Instagram, and then get them to convert. 

On the topic of building communities on social media, one of Julia’s many pearls of wisdom was that social media is relational, and not transactional. Because of that, fundraisers “really need to pay attention to the things that [donors] want to hear from us on social media”. 

“We often spend way too much time on the things that we want to tell them. Our process, our programs, our uniqueness. That’s not why most donors give,” Julia said. 

“The vast majority of donors give because they are interested in a simple way for them to make a difference. They’re interested in stories and statistics. They are interested in the outcome, not the process or program.  

“Especially on social media, I want to encourage you to focus on your ‘why’ – the vision, the bigger picture. If people are not on board with your vision, they’re never going to be on board with how you do your vision and how you accomplish your vision.” 

Building an online movement doesn’t require big bucks 

Kailee Scales, Founder and Principal of ThinkFree Global Strategies, soon-to-be CEO of Pencils of Promise and ex-Managing Director of Black Lives Matter Global Network, had many insights and learnings to share from her extensive experience as a fundraiser across a range of organisations and causes.  

As Kailee talked about the process behind creating some of the videos for social media during her time at Black Lives Matter, it was a great reminder that a limited budget doesn’t have to hinder the impact your assets and content can have.

In reaction to the murder of George Floyd, Kailee and her team produced a video that sought to harness the anger and pain the world was experiencing. The video portrayed tweets in response to George Floyd’s death flashing across the screen, overlaying a montage of black people who had been killed by police brutality. Kailee asked friends, family members and supporters who contacted her asking how they could help to record their voices reading out each tweet.

It’s a great example of how simple it is to pool resources and access existing assets and harness user generated content. Even more so, the ability to involve supporters and allow them to be part of the movement and the journey can only strengthen the bond they have with your organisation.  

Altogether, it’s a powerful video you can watch here. 

Digital transformation is about more than just technology 

When it comes to digital change, technology is just one piece of the puzzle.  

For a transformation to succeed, you also need to consider the human side of the process. Among many other things, this includes internal processes, training, and how it supports your organisation’s vision. 

To manage this process effectively, and to get stakeholders to buy in, creating an effective transition roadmap is critical. 

UK digital communications strategist Brani Milosevic is the Founder of Digital Leadership. Over the past 20 years, she has helped countless charities to develop effective strategies for change.  

At Digi.Raise + EventRaise, Brani shared her wisdom in a masterclass on how to develop an effective digital strategy. She also presented a session during the main conference with practical tips for digital transformation. 

In terms of what a successful transition looks like, Brani used the metaphor of building a house. The foundations of this house are planning and processes, recruitment and training, and systems and data. Resting on this foundation are the blocks in the middle: internal and external insights, digital purpose, and brand. 

Finally, all the lower blocks support the organisational vision, which sits at the top of this structure. 

Referring to this metaphor, Brani said it’s important to “be very clear about how digital is bringing value to the organisational strategy, where it is [currently], where it can have the biggest impact on the organisational strategy, and then keep explaining it.” 

“Be clear where you’re at. Get performance-based data, compared to sector data. This evidence provides the answer to why we’re changing. [You need] data that shows why fundraising is not going to work effectively if we just keep it going the way we always did.  

“Ensure the digital change vision is rooted in the vision and ambition of your organisation, and keep explaining and repeating that vision to people.” 

If at first you don’t succeed, try again 

Plan International Australia’s journey to integrating AI chatbots into their regular giving acquisition funnel hasn’t been smooth sailing, but that only means more lessons to learn along the way. There hasn’t been much in the way of innovation in the regular giving space, as much of its success relies on old-fashion face-to-face – human-to-human – interaction. It’s tricky to replicate this in the digital world. But after hearing about UN Women’s success with using an AI chatbot to chat with people through Facebook Messenger to bring them into the RG funnel, Plan International decided to give it a try.  

The premise of the test involved showing Facebook users ads related to Plan’s key focus areas. After clicking on the ad, the user is taken through to a survey, giving them a propensity score, before asking them if they would like to become part of the solution. An affirmative answer would redirect the conversation to a (human) fundraiser to convert the user into a regular giver. 

Jodie-Marie Preddy took us through the ins and outs and the many hurdles her team faced along the way, from Facebook updates to testing different creatives. But even with slow results for regular givers, the AI chatbot functionality has shown potential to be utilised for one-off cash gifts or on websites during key appeals. This demonstrated that if your results are different to your hypothesis, there’s no reason why you can’t change the whole experiment. 

One of the main takeaways was that even though technology can get us in front of more people than ever before, fundraisers need to be present when people are using those channels – and this can often fall outside of typical office hours. 

Are you measuring the true ROI of your P2P event? 

It’s easy to go from campaign to campaign, or event to event, without sitting down and properly looking into the data. BC SPCA shared with us their journey to realising the true ROI of their mass-participation event, Paws for a Cause. The 20-year event was a mainstay in their calendar, raising around CAD$1 million a year. But it was weather-dependent and labour intensive – costs that typically aren’t factored into an event’s ROI.  

Could they replace the large event with smaller digital activations and still keep supporters and sponsors? Did the event mean more than just donations to internal stakeholders? What could the team do with extra ‘off-duty’ time in the calendar? These were some of the questions they needed answers to.  

So where did they start? In the numbers, of course. After looking at the ROI and building a case for contracting or stopping the event, they discussed internally what this change could mean and how it was viewed. 

Then they went to the people that matter most – their supporters – and asked them what they felt about the event and potential changes. With everyone on board, and a little push from COVID-19, they got the ball rolling.  

Regardless of whether you’re considering changing up your event, or even cancelling, this session had some important reminders. Don’t just rely on assumptions that your events are working. Staff time and energy needs to be factored into your event costs. You need to listen to your stakeholders: your board, your supporters and your sponsors. Find out what is important to them, would they be excited about new ways to support your organisation?

And finally, fewer activations or campaign times in your calendar doesn’t mean your team is wasting time. It means they have time to truly analyse the ROI of events and campaigns, make, test and report on changes and look after themselves as well.  

Don’t underestimate your older donors 

The received wisdom is that older donors, aged 70-plus, ‘don’t do’ digital. And they would never, ever donate online. 

But in recent times, there’s been a huge shift in attitudes among older donors. Especially in the wake of the global pandemic, many are embracing digital devices like never before.  

Parachute Digital Founder Shanelle Newton Clapham recently conducted a survey to look into this trend. She unveiled her findings at Digi.Raise + EventRaise. 

The eye-opening figures show that many fundraisers are underestimating the digital capacity of our older donors. 

For example, 48% of fundraisers believe that older donors would prefer to talk to someone over the phone. Yet only 11% of older donors say they want to be contacted over the phone by charities asking for a donation. 

Around 62% of fundraisers prefer to contact their senior donors by phone, 15% by email, 15% by phone, and 0% by text message. 

Yet 40% of older donors say they would prefer to be reached by email, 29% by mail, just 11% by phone, 8% by social media, and 4% by online messaging. 

“What was really interesting is that only one person that we interviewed … said that they see charity advertising on their Facebook newsfeed,” Shanelle said. 

“When it comes to devices, they use the same devices as we do … more than 50% of these people had a smart TV, and they still had a laptop computer. But a lot of them now use a tablet or a smartphone for everything. 

“This assumption that they don’t like [technology], that they don’t use it, that they’re not comfortable with it, that they prefer other methods, is no longer true. It may have been true five years ago, but it is no longer true.” 

Make sure you respond to your donations and email sign-ups 

Australian nonprofits need to get better at responding to donations and email subscriptions, according to the results of a global study presented at Digi.Raise + EventRaise. 

The Global Online Fundraising Scorecard is a multi–agency mystery shopping exercise looking at the donation and email experience of donors around the world. 

The massive global study analysed 535 email signups, 585 online donations, and 5,976 email communications from 630 nonprofits in nine countries. 

The Australian leg of the study was carried out by Donor Republic. It was sponsored by Salesforce and led by Next After in the US.  

Among the key findings were that Australia has the second lowest percentage of nonprofits that offer donors a next step after they sign up to an email mailing list. Around 70% of organisations have no next step.  

Worse, after people go through the sign-up process, one-in-10 nonprofits have no confirmation page or email at all. Additionally, 27% don’t email a donor within 90 days of signing up, and 17% don’t email donors within 90 days of making a donation.  

As a result, Australian nonprofits are potentially missing out on millions of dollars worth of donations each year. 

The results were presented by Donor Republic’s Digital Strategy Director, Lachlan Dale, and Digital Fundraising Strategist, Blake Davies. 

“Email engagement is really important to establish,” Lachlan said. “Failing to do that results in lower open rates and lower click rates, and that produces quite a severe effect on the fundraising bottom line for your organisation over the medium term. 

“This is a really easy win for a lot of organisations. Make sure you know where that data is going within your email system, CRM, and make sure you’re communicating with people after they take key actions.” 

Based on the survey results, Dale and Davies shared these eight practical tips for nonprofits looking to improve their donor engagement:  

  • Test your forms, integrations, and systems 
  • Offer value in exchange for an email and communicate it 
  • Have a dedicated confirmation page that confirms, thanks, and provides the next step 
  • Ask for a donation ask after sign-up 
  • Remove unnecessary form fields, distractions, and steps 
  • Focus more on regular giving, with easy ways to make a monthly gift and a reason why. 
  • Send more cultivation emails in the first 14 days after sign-up 
  • Make emails more personal to recipients 

The top tech trend for nonprofits is… 

Sophie ‘Puff’ Story took us through her five top tech trends and what they mean for nonprofits. But she also served us a great reminder that users have to be at the heart of the design and development process any time your organisation decides to adopt new technology or channels. We need to steer away from the immediate thought of: “How can we use this new piece of technology to ask donors for money?” Instead, we need to understand how technology can provide a powerful tool for your donors to see their impact and strengthen their connection with your organisation.  

One of Puff’s top tech trend predictions was blockchain. Despite blockchain and Bitcoin being around for a few years now, we’ve only seeing some examples of how it could work within the fundraising and donation space emerge very recently. One example is the sale or auction of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) for charity, such as Beeple and his support of Open Earth Foundation. Closer to home, we’ve seen MAFs (yes, Married at First Sight) and NFTs come together for good in Australia’s first charity auctioned NFT.

Puff sees this as something that will inspire people, could it be something that provides genuine and impactful change in the nonprofit space? Only time will tell. 

But how can charities know which tech trends to adopt and when? How can we see through the hype? Puff shared her riff on Gartner’s Hype Cycle, with her own digital fundraising hype cycle to help charities decide when to jump on the bandwagon. 

Digital Transformation Digi.Raise EventRaise

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