Five Steps to Optimize Your Online Program All Year Long | npENGAGE

Five Steps to Optimize Your Online Program All Year Long

By on May 6, 2013


At NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, Miriam Kagan and I presented Getting End of Year Results 365 Days a Year.

The session was based on an initial three-part fundraising series (see posts: #1, #2, #3) late last year in preparation for year-end giving. Our analytics team looked at Convio Luminate Online email performance data from 2009-2011 to identify trends for organizations to enhance their existing year-end fundraising efforts. In January, we concluded the series with a post that summarized the 2012 year-end findings.

The key messages gleaned from the review of four years of client data during the last week of the year included:

  • Additional emails have helped increase the total number of transactions without compromising open rates.
  • The data encourages a well planned year-end campaign with messages supporting a common goal and theme.
  • The weekend may impact giving during the last week of the year: Don’t take chances!
  • Treat the last few days as a separate “tax benefit” campaign that includes all donors – even those who gave in December.
  • The 31st is your money day. A reminder is all that’s needed.

To say fundraising efforts at year-end are important would be selling the season short. Year-end typically represents 25 to 40 percent of total non-event annual revenue; it’s not only important, it’s critical to fundraising growth.

Given the emphasis placed on the time of year, it’s no surprise organizations will start planning many, many months before (it’s never too early to start planning!). But given the magnitude of year-end, and necessary planning, how can organizations replicate this success throughout the year?

At NTC, we presented the year-end data as an inflection point to identify the necessary building blocks to enhance ALL campaigns, regardless of the time of the year. To achieve this task, we broke down the process into five digestible steps to optimize your organization’s online program all year long.

Step 1: Drive Segment Objectives

Go beyond targeted group email communication and focus on audience pathways. Ask yourself, does my multi-channel strategy support my pathways? Am I successfully building variants by source and driving constituents toward a single action? Consider email conversion series, e.g. prospect to donor, donor to sustainer, etc. See more about nonprofit triggered emails.

Step 2: Adapt to Audience

It’s no surprise that almost half (49.7 percent) of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones. And according to Nielsen, this is an increase of 38 percent over the previous year. How are you planning for the mobile invasion? Are your emails scalable or responsive? Is your website optimized to your mobile users? A first step may be to review your content strategy to determine if it’s device agnostic.

Step 3: Develop a Testing Framework

Learning how your audience ticks is the best way to build an online program alongside the needs of your constituents. And though one-off tests are good, a true testing framework builds over a period of time. Learning doesn’t happen from one day at school, right? What are you learning about your audience throughout the year to drive engagement? Want some ideas? Visit Which Test Won.

Step 4: Bolster the Ask

Don’t be shy! Extend the ask to meet your audience on their terms. Have you tried a lightbox with an embedded donation form? Or maybe a dynamic ask component to drive conversion? Or maybe, a follow up message to those who opened a previous email? Be a proactive behavorial based marketer!

Step 5: Campaign Fundamentals

The best campaigns tell a story. What’s your story? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Is there a sense of urgency? Are your efforts coordinated across all channels? And lastly, how will you thank your donors? Never forget to thank your donors (never!). See Nine Clever Ways to Thank Your Donors.


Chas  Offutt is a senior fundraising and marketing professional with more than 10 years experience in the nonprofit sector. He joined Convio, now Blackbaud, in 2008 and has worked with more than 75 clients across all verticals to develop and implement acquisition campaigns, fundraising strategies, and integrated marketing programs. Prior to his current position, Chas was the Director of Internet Strategy at American Rivers where he was responsible for the management and execution of all online programs.

Chas has spoken at the Association for Fundraising Professionals (Greater Atlanta Chapter), Convio Customer Summit, NTEN, Blackbaud Conference, Forum One Communication’s Web Executive Seminar, and other public speaking engagements on a variety of topics including mobile fundraising, generational giving, and online marketing strategies.

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