What purchasing behavior can teach nonprofits

Many nonprofits struggle with which communication channels to use…in order to activate which audience… to take what action.  Some will have an abnormally positive experience with one channel (i.e. finding a major donor via Facebook) and, as a result, determine that single channel as the new strategic priority.  For others, a single board member will complain that they get too much mail and before long, the entire direct mail calendar and budget has been rewritten.

The reality is that if we stop and think, most will come to the conclusion that a multi-channel approach is best. However, you still have to prioritize your time and budget. Wouldn’t it be nice to know which channels result in donations with which ages?

The folks on ExactTarget’s research team looked into purchase behavior and found the following.

I know, I know, this is consumer purchasing data, not donations, but what might we learn?

1. Direct mail might be born again

Most are not surprised that direct mail dominates purchasing decisions for those over 55 and email marketing then takes over, growing with influence as the audience gets younger. BUT – look what happens at ages 15-17!?! It’s essentially equal with email!?  Could that mean a direct mail resurrection some day?  And here I was sure (or at least hopeful) that direct mail, catalogs and especially premiums (and direct mail evangelists) would be extinct before long. Dang it.

2. We MUST get better at social media fundraising

It’s clear that social channels don’t lead directly to purchases as strongly as other channels.  And if you’re doing a Facebook fundraiser, don’t expect much from those over 45.  Here are 10 social media fundraising do’s and don’ts from the Fundchat blog.

3. Direct mail is king for boomers

Yes, we know that. But look again. It’s significantly more powerful. 75% and 85% of the top two age groups made a purchase after receiving direct mail. Don’t just send them estate gift brochures, share compelling stories of impact with a direct response device.

4. Build your marketing mix with ninja-like accuracy

As Kyle explains, multi-channel marketing is the main lesson here. If you have age data, it’d be worth your time to segment your lists.  Send those over age 55 more direct mail. Do a Facebook fundraiser specifically with a high school group to target those 15-17 year olds. Target millennials differently. But don’t forgo one of the top 3 or 4 channels as the messages from each channel reinforce each other. Try using those mediums that are less influential for stewardship and make donation requests using the most influential channel.

What other lessons do you take from this data?  Should we infer lessons from consumer research or is the ‘giving’ equation too different?

Agree? Disagree? Something to add?

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