4 Fashion Faux Pas of Digital Fundraising

There are things you’d never do when it comes to what you wear – but you might be doing the equivalent of these things in your digital fundraising program, making it less efficient, less relevant and less donor-centric than it could be. Read on to find out if your digital program is a candidate for What Not to Wear!


1. Accessorizing When Minimally Dressed
You’ve accessorized with jewelry, a belt, killer heels and an amazing handbag – but your outfit is just a tank top and pajama shorts. When “bread and butter” digital channels and tactics are underfunded, not optimized or conspicuously missing, but investments are being made in “bright, shiny object” digital initiatives, this is exactly how a digital program can look.


Accessories can certainly make or break an outfit, but it’s important to “fully dress” your digital program before you invest in accessorizing it. But just how can this be accomplished? Start by considering the following few questions:

  • Are you conducting regular file hygiene and monitoring your inbox placement?
  • Does your email program have segmented messaging streams for different audiences, including a welcome stream for new donors?
  • Do your emails and landing pages provide mobile users the best experience possible?
  • Are there capabilities within your CMS that you’re not tapping into like email automation or SMS?
  • Are your landing page forms streamlined and frictionless?
  • Are there UX or SEO gaps you need to close on your website?
  • Is your Google Grant account optimized?
  • Are your paid Google and Bing accounts fully optimized and taking advantage of all ad copy real estate and targeting options?
  • Are you spending at the maximum level in highly efficient tactics like brand search?
  • Are you running Facebook ads and do they take advantage of all of Facebook’s current recommendations for optimal performance?
  • Are you taking advantage of all opportunities to retarget current supporters/engagers?
  • Are you tracking activity and conversions in such a way that you can see and optimize based on how channels are working together to drive conversions?


Okay, that was a couple more than a few…but avoiding a fashion calamity takes work! Spending focused time addressing these questions will help ensure your digital program is well-outfitted and if you can shift your focus to accessories! “Accessorizing” with channels and tactics that require more investment and/or offer more niche targeting/ad experience can only be addressed when the correct foundation is laid.


2. Wearing an Uncoordinated Ensemble
You’re sporting a striped shirt, a plaid blazer, gym shorts, argyle socks and wedge sandals. It’s not just a little off; you’ve dressed like it’s tacky day. When your channels are not working in support of one another and creative and messaging are not cohesive – or are even conflicting – your digital program may be even less coordinated than this outfit.


In order to avoid this type of embarrassment, start by understanding how channels work together – not just digital channels, but offline channels as well – and understand the role each channel plays in conversions. For example, if you cut budget in display or social because they’re less efficient than search at face value, that could impact the volume you’re seeing in search, making that channel less productive.


Or perhaps you have DRTV or direct mail in market? If so, prepare for that to generate online searches and have a plan for how you will manage those searches. If you’re not employing tracking or attribution methodology that allows you to see channel relationships and touchpoints leading up to conversion, make this a priority for your organization.


Another critical focus area should be message cohesiveness across channels. Specifically, it’s important to ensure messaging is aligned in all channels as much as possible – to include creative, offers and ask strategies. Not only do supporters expect that you know who they are no matter how they engage with you – as a donor or as a volunteer, in mail or on a landing page – they expect that you know who YOU are regardless of channel.


While this may seem like a basic principal, as new channels and tactics get layered on and different teams are responsible for different initiatives or different facets of your program, this is something easily missed. For a well-coordinated digital program, make sure various teams are checking in regularly to share what’s in progress and upcoming, as well as what has been learned (leveraging insights from one channel to another can lead to program innovations).


3. Packing the Wrong Wardrobe for Your Trip
You arrive at the beach for vacation (a girl can dream…) and open your suitcase to find fleece-lined pants, a parka, mittens, ski boots and several business suits. This destination to wardrobe mismatch is also what happens when your digital initiatives are not aligned with your objectives.


Just as everything you put into your suitcase for a beach vacation should fit with and support that theme, all your digital resources and budget should be invested in initiatives that support overarching program and organizational growth objectives. Supporting initiatives not aligned with specific objectives are a trap that organizations can fall into offline as well, but it’s so much easier in the digital space.


Within the ever-emerging digital space, there are always new marketing bells and whistles and it can be easy to get distracted with the “new, shiny thing.” Innovation is GREAT, but use caution as you plan for where and how to integrate new approaches into your overall testing plan. Evaluate each new opportunity with questions like:

  • How does this support my objectives?
  • Will this get me in front of an audience that will care about and – most importantly – support my mission?
  • Is the channel/tactic/creative going to be relevant to that audience and support a clear path to conversion?

Everything you place in your “digital suitcase” should relate to and support where your organization is headed.


4. Getting Dressed from the Dirty Clothes
You reach into the dirty clothes hamper and pull out that outfit from three days ago – those pants with a coffee stain on them and that shirt that just does not smell right – and you throw it back on. If you’re not “laundering” your digital program with regular optimizations, new testing plans and regular analyses, it’s a lot like wearing that same old dirty outfit.


A laundry routine of sorting, washing, drying and putting away your clothes helps you keep essentials fresh for wear, spot new outfit combinations and see when it’s time to update pieces in your wardrobe. Consider a parallel routine for your digital program with regular analyses where you are searching for the “coffee stains” within your program. Use the outcome of your analyses to guide future testing strategies and budget planning.


Red Carpet Ready?
Fashion trends change quickly…almost as fast as the digital landscape we live within. Remaining updated on changes in the digital marketplace – in particular, tectonic shifts that affect multiple channels, as well as ad content, targeting and algorithm updates from major players like Google and Facebook, will help ensure your program not only stays in compliance, but also isn’t missing out on new opportunities. Making sure your digital program is “dressed for success” with a solid foundation of well-optimized core channels and tactics, will help ensure your program is always looking its best!


Written by: Madeline Ruffin-Thomas





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Candice Briddell

Candice Briddell, Managing Partner and Co-Owner, has worked within the fundraising and marketing industry for nearly twenty years and has been a part of the MINDset team for over a decade. Prior to that, she was integral in the retention marketing program at AOL.