Episode 9 – What to do and not do in moving donors from one type to another

The Blog

Episode 9 – What to do and not do in moving donors from one type to another


My guest on the show today is Ben Martin. Ben is the Digital Marketing Manager at CURE International, Inc. He is quick learner with strong communication skills, a “Computer geek” and all-around web savant. He is a media professional with extensive experience in all aspects of radio operations.


Highlights from this Conversation

  • What has worked well for you?
    1. Email is alive and well
    2. Amplify email by tying in social media – the same message in multiple places
    3. Partnering with other people, artists, celebrities, use them in a paid post and connect to their social media presence
  • What hasn’t worked well that we can learn from?
    1. Getting recurring donors
    2. Turning single donors into monthly donors didn’t work
      1. They are motivated by completely different things
    3. Understanding recurring vs. single
  • What are you excited about?
    1. Leveraging partnerships in the future

Interview Transcript

Adam: [00:00:10] Hi and welcome to the Good People Good Marketing podcast, a podcast about nonprofit digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people at good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight, a digital marketing agency that specializes in nonprofit work and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.


My guest for you today is Ben Martin. Ben is the digital marketing manager at CURE International. Ben, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?


Ben: [00:00:41] Hi Adam. Yeah, I spent my first ten years of my career in radio and then when that went south with the coming of the Great Recession decided to diversify and went into website design and customer relationships there with a local firm here in Rochester, New York. After a few years there, I was able to make a segway to CURE International, began working with their social media, and then added blog management, and eventually took over all of digital for CURE International. That’s kind of the short story about how I got to where I am now.


Adam: [00:01:26] That sounds fantastic. Worked your way in and kept working your way up. I love that. Well, let’s get started on our questions. Related to marketing or marketing for nonprofits in particular, can you share something or a few somethings that has worked well for you?


Ben: [00:01:42] Yeah, we have found that, especially in terms of talking to our existing audience and the folks who already have expressed an interest in CURE, that email is still alive and well. We’re still able to get results by talking to folks that way. A lot of people say email us dead but that hasn’t been our experience, at least in terms of talking to folks that we already know.


[00:02:08] We’ve recently also learned that we can actually amplify the impact of an appeal over e-mail by tying social media in with it, if we’re able to present the same message to folks in multiple places, so they get an email talking about an ask and then they’ll also see that ask on social media. That amplifies the results. We’re able to get a higher rate of return when we do that. That’s one thing that’s worked well for us.


[00:02:37] We have found after a lot of years of spinning our wheels with trying to figure out how do we engage new folks over social media, we were finally able to kind of crack a little bit of the code and that’s by partnering with other folks. We have some artists, some celebrities, if you will, who have supported CURE and have been supportive of our work and by partnering with them, where we’re able to do a paid post that features them and connects to their social media presence and which is also targeted to folks who at least are friends of someone who likes our page, we actually can get positive results out of that where we can attract new donors to the organization.


[00:03:27] It’s tying in a couple of things. You’ve got the endorsement through a mutual friend of CURE and you’ve got the endorsement of a known celebrity when you’re talking to fans of that celebrity. Those things all come together do produce results for us and we’re able to bring new folks into the CURE family.


Adam: [00:03:50] Wow, love that. I think one of the underlying threads that I’m hearing you say when you talk about amplify email by tying in social, and then you talk about partnering with individuals, targeting friends of friends and then fans of celebrities. Basically you’re talking about having a thread of where you’re going at people or you’re marketing to people from multiple fronts in a way that’s meaningful to them and so it’s not just a one channel sort of thing but it’s a multi-channel, multi-touch approach that’s having more impact. Is that what I’m hearing?


Ben: [00:04:24] Yes, that is. If you think about it, that’s really not that different from any traditional marketing. If you can hit people at multiple touch points, if you can take advantage of different ways that are going to lend credence to your cause, it’s word-of-mouth marketing. It’s just doing it in a new way and a new form for the tools that we have available to us now.


Adam: [00:04:49] Wow, love that. I love that. That’s really, really clever, really smart. I guess the question I would have related to that is do you find that it takes significantly more time to have those multiple touch points across the same ask or is it just incrementally more, like a little bit more time, but significantly more payoffs. I guess what I’m asking is is the return on investment just significantly greater for your timing?


Ben: [00:05:15] I’ve found it actually works better the less amount of time there is between those touch points because it’s still fresh for people. It’s still in their memory. It can work in a relatively short amount of time. Obviously, it’s not quite as – if you send one email and you’re just expecting that you’re going to get your results from that email, well that’s going to happen in your first forty-eight hours, but you can extend that a few days with the social media, but I wouldn’t go probably more than a week past getting that email out with your social media that’s the same message. It’s still a relatively short amount of time.


[00:05:57] We’re not talking about like revolutionary change. It’s not like it’s a 200% increase by adding the social media to the email, but it was significant. I don’t remember what the percentage was for our last goal. I think it was like 25 to 30% increase in the return and it was well worth the investment. It was a minimal investment for them.


Adam: [00:06:23] Wow, that’s amazing. It’s a minimal investment, high payoff, and it’s more engaging to your audience, which is great.


Ben: [00:06:29] Yeah, the multiple touch points, even for the folks who aren’t donating, it’s keeping us in their memory, it’s keeping us front of mind, and I think that that’s only going to do good things for us down the road.


Adam: [00:06:41] Absolutely, because they could tell somebody about you or just choose to donate down the road, maybe a month from now, maybe a year from now, maybe ten years from now, but just being at the forefront of people’s minds is going to be critical as we move forward in this marketing economy. That’s great. That’s worked well for you. Can you share something that has not worked well for you that we can learn from?


Ben: [00:07:02] Yeah. One thing that we’ve learned, one of the drivers that we look for is we looked for signing up folks as recurring donors, people who sign up on a monthly donation basis. Now, we also, of course, accept single donations.


[00:07:19] For the longest time, we looked at the folks who had made a single donation and we thought, “Gee, it would be great to turn them into monthly donors,” and so we focused a lot of energy on trying to do that. What we eventually realized, and I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but the people who are making that one time donation, for the most part they’re motivated by completely different factors than the people who are looking to make that long-term monthly investment in your organization.


[00:07:48] If I want to get another repeat donation out of a one-time donor I need to try to connect back with what it was that motivated them to donate and I need to talk to them in terms that fit their engagement with us. They’ve chosen to engage with us by making a single donation, not by signing up for a monthly thing, so if I go back to them with, “Hey, become a monthly donor,” I’m not really talking the same language. I need to come back to them with, “Hey, here’s another opportunity for you to make a difference today with another one-time donation.” That does resonate better.


[00:08:25] Likewise, with talking to our monthly folks. I’ve often thought, well, how can we get another donation out of them. We will go to them with the one-time ask. Well, one-time ask is not the way that they engage with us. They engage with us on a monthly basis. We need to talk to them with what can we do to increase that monthly, like, “Hey, did you know for $5 more per month you can have this type of additional impact,” that type of thing.


[00:08:50] Yeah, really understanding who it is you’re talking to and what’s motivated them and not presenting them with the wrong messaging. You want to find messaging that’s going to match their motivations.


Adam: [00:09:04] It’s really fascinating that you mention all that because I had another conversation on this podcast. Again, it was what hasn’t worked well and they said turning single donors into recurring donors. What they said that was really telling was that they actually began to drive those single donors away because they were unhappy being pursued to become recurring donors.


Ben: [00:09:27] Yeah, I’ve seen the same thing happen. Yeah.


Adam: [00:09:29] When we don’t understand our audience, we don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and we’re just really trying to get them to one up, just do more, just do more, just do more, that doesn’t work. Just because they’ve supported us one time, doesn’t mean they want to support us every time and just because they support us monthly, doesn’t mean they want to change the way they’re supporting us.


[00:09:48] I think the way that you put it was really great, where the single donors have a specific reason for donating and you’ve got to speak back to that reason. The recurring donors also have a specific reason and they don’t want to become single donors. They don’t want to add to that. But the increase, that’s the clever part, right? The $5 a month increase, the $2 a month – that’s where you can get the biggest, strongest impact that I think is really going to move a nonprofit organization forward. I think that’s really great.


Ben: [00:10:16] I agree.


Adam: [00:10:20] Wow, I love that. I frequently have done that myself. I’ll go through and I’m giving for something and say, “Hey, look, if everybody giving gave a $1.33 more, we could do this,” and do you know what I do? I give $1.33 more than I was going to because it’s $1.33. Why not!


Ben: [00:10:37] Exactly. That’s such a great illustration because people will generally do what you ask them to do. We often get ourselves confused trying to put too much thought into well, what’s the right number to ask or what’s this or that – they’re going to respond to what you put in front of them for the most part. If you ask for a $1.33 and you give them a reason what that $1.33 does, well, then they’re going to give you a $1.33, but you’ve then got to deliver. You’ve got to be able to report back that yup, we’re making that additional difference.


Adam: [00:11:14] Right. Yeah, that’s fantastic. I love that. I just love that incremental thinking. I wish more nonprofits would get onboard with that. If we can get this donor to increase their monthly donation by $5, – it compounds so quickly, but we get so focused on that immediate win, that immediate gift, that immediate thing, that we don’t realize the possibility that are right in front of us.


Ben: [00:11:37] That’s so true. The long-term investment is really the key there. The recurring donors can be so valuable to an organization, but that first gift of twenty or twenty-five or thirty, whatever the amount is, it may feel small, but you’ve got to realize, especially if you can keep that person past six months, a year, they’re going to be there for a long time. You’re going to get five, six, seven, maybe ten years out of that person. That money adds up a lot faster than the single gift of 100 bucks that you might be able to get otherwise.


Adam: [00:12:11] Exactly. You can count on it too.


Ben: [00:12:15] Absolutely. It’s money in the bank.


Adam: [00:12:15] That’s the other thing too. It’s money in the bank. It’s money that you know you’re going to get next month, and the next month, and the next month, so you can begin to even budget some of these things too, which is fantastic.


Ben: [00:12:27] It’s great for your marketing because you have someone who is a fan and you have an opportunity. You’ve got an excuse every month because you’ve got a receipt you can send every month, you’ve got an excuse to talk to them, and talk up your organization, and help them fall more in love with who you are and what you do. The more they may see themselves connected to your story, the more they’re going to want to talk about it. That’s just the beauty of a recurring donor.


Adam: [00:12:56] I love that. What you just said, you have an excuse, you have a reason to contact them every single month. You’re right. They’ve given you permission and they probably want to hear from you now. That is perfect. That’s unbelievable. I love that. Okay. Last question, love this question. Related to nonprofit marketing, tell me something you’re excited about.


Ben: [00:13:21] Oh, that’s a great question. I continue to be excited about the ways that we can leverage partnerships in the future. The platforms are always changing, algorithms are always changing, you’re always looking at a new piece of technology, but the thing that always works, the thing that you can always come back to is the word-of-mouth marketing. With all the new tools that we have, there are new ways to be able to do that. Being able to continue to lever partnerships with folks who are going to speak on your behalf and use that to be able to get your name out there either to create more awareness or to create new opportunities to bring supporters of the organization, I really think that that’s exciting. I really think there’s endless potential there. It’s just waiting for us to engage with it.


Adam: [00:14:09] I totally agree with you. The more we can partner with like-minded individuals and organizations that then leverage their networks with a united message, the more we can get out a broader message where the whole ship raises. I think that’s the key is finding those strategic partnerships, making sure you’re aligned in what you’re trying to do, and then using both of your audiences for the mutual benefit of one another where you can all grow together as opposed to just trying to do silo.


Ben: [00:14:37] There’s no reason to silo it. There’s no reason to just be always taking, taking, taking. It can be a positive thing for everybody involved.


Adam: [00:14:46] I totally agree with that. Well, Ben, this has been a great conversation. I’m really excited about some of the things that you shared. I want to recap that in just a minute, but before I do is there anything else that you’d like to share with our audience?


Ben: [00:14:58] I would be remiss if I didn’t say check out CURE.org and take a look at the kids who are in the hospitals and programs that we’re working with around the world. We’re helping heal kids and give them opportunities to walk and to live a full life. You can see it all happening at CURE.org.


Adam: [00:15:19] Ben, I love that you just did that. You’d be shocked by how few people I interview give a pitch for their organization on this podcast. Almost no one gives the domain name or the URL, so you did both. You gave a pitch. You gave the domain name and URL. That’s fantastic. Props to you because you always have to be on your toes, ready to promote your nonprofit organization so people know the good that you’re doing. I love that.


Ben: [00:15:45] Always be marketing, Adam. Always be marketing.


Adam: [00:15:47] Yes, always be marketing. I’m all about that. Well, let me recap your lessons here and then you can fill in any gaps that I’ve got from my notes. Under what’s worked well for you, you said email is alive and well. I completely agree with you on that. Amplify e-mail by tying in social media where people are getting the same message in multiple places to increase the interaction and the effectiveness of those things. Then partnering with people, artists, celebrities, and using their networks and using them in paid posts to connect on social media to engage their presence there.


[00:16:20] What has not worked well for you that we can learn from is trying to shift donors from single to recurring, from recurring to single, from recurring to extra donation. Just understand who donors are, why they’re donating, and then speak to them in that way in a way that is going to be meaningful to them instead of trying to push them into a different category that they don’t want to be in. That was the big thing there, the big takeaway which I thought was incredibly helpful and insightful.


[00:16:45] Then lastly, you mentioned you’re excited about digital marketing. You’re excited about leveraging partnerships for the future. See if you can leverage a partnership and expand your overall network by drawing in and using and leveraging someone else’s network and letting them leverage yours so that the whole ship rises together. Did I miss anything in those lessons and takeaways?


Ben: [00:17:05] You made me sound like a pretty smart guy, Adam. I appreciate that


Adam: [00:17:10] That is the role of the interviewer right there, is to make other people sound smart and take good notes. That’s what I do. I try to take good notes and make other people sound smart.


[00:17:19] Well, Ben this has been really, really great. I can’t thank you enough for coming on the podcast. I would love to have you again. We’ll talk about that. Thank you, our listeners, for listening to Good People Good Marketing podcast. To get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com, adamjwalker.com, where I blog about leadership, productivity, the insanity of having five children and other fun stuff. Thanks for listening and tune in next time.

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