I love fashion trends. I live in New York City, where it can be hard to keep up with the fashionistas and hipsters, but I know I might get that look on the subway if I wear something “so last season.” So, if InStyle magazine is telling me that the one item I MUST BUY for Spring 2015 is a floral crop top, I may just consider making a purchase….right after I hire a personal trainer.

However, despite my willingness to dive in and test out the latest trends, I still find myself reaching for the same jeans and black sweater. The jeans just feel right and I know they look good.  The black sweater highlights accessories well. I don’t mean this to say that the floral crop top will be relegated to the Goodwill rack—it just means I need to find a way to incorporate the new trend with my tried and true style.

The same approach can be taken with nonprofit direct marketing fundraising trends. There’s been a lot of discussion about data-driven marketing, marketing optimization, trigger-based fundraising, and personalization. Are these flash-in-the-pan trends, like the velour tracksuit, or are they here to stay and worth investing in?

News flash: these direct marketing fundraising trends are here to stay. 

And that’s a good thing, because their goal is to ensure more effective communication with your donors and potential supporters. But adopting the latest trends doesn’t mean that you need throw out your existing fundraising strategy. Instead, think about how to incorporate the new trends with what you know is working now—your existing fundraising “wardrobe”.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

1. Are you using all of your organization’s data to segment?

Most organizations already have a direct marketing strategy that would be considered “data driven”. When you define giving levels or giving recency values for donors are you including any gift made to the organization, or just gifts made to the direct response program? Consider testing RFM calculations that span the entire organization. Just because a donor appears to be lapsed to the direct response program doesn’t mean they aren’t giving to other parts of your organization.

2. Are you using your marketing budget effectively?

Investment in predictive models like Loyalty Insights can help you pinpoint which donors are most likely to respond. Additionally, make sure you’re analyzing ROI or net revenue by donor characteristics. Dive deeper than RFM and determine what other characteristics might highlight response trends.

Some examples are:

  • cross-channel or cross-program donors
  • disaster/news event responsive donors
  • demographics (gender, education, income)

3. Are you staying on your supporters’ radar?

Trigger-based marketing can make us think of Big Brother … after all, haven’t we all been stalked by ads online based on our web browsing activity? There were a certain pair of sunglasses from Nordstrom that followed me around for years (I finally caved and bought them). But it’s a great way to stay on your supporter’s radar—I did end up purchasing the sunglasses!

Connection 360 offers a great solution for staying on your supporter’s digital radar  …. Without having to invest in cookie-tracing technology.  Angie Moore over at Eleventy Marketing Group also recently posted some great suggestions for how you can incorporate trigger-based marketing approaches today. You might already be doing some of these!

Don’t worry about taking a risk on incorporating these fundraising trends with your existing strategy. Small changes can take your organization on a path towards a more data-driven strategy and may result in some revenue and effeciency gains.  Plus, who doesn’t love having a few new items in their wardrobe?  Who knows, maybe that floral crop top will become your go-to this season!


Lauren McCarthy has a passion for utilizing technology, data, and efficient processes to enable effective fundraising. Throughout her career Lauren has been fortunate enough to experience fundraising through many lenses – as a fundraiser, as development systems director at a large federated organization, and through various roles related to direct marketing fundraising technology at Blackbaud. In her current role at Blackbaud, Lauren is thrilled to be on the team leading strategy for new solutions that allow organizations to harness the power of data to drive effective identification and communication with supporters. In her free time Lauren can be found running, recovering from running, or complaining about running.

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