Applying Traditional Direct Response Approaches for Success in Alternative Media

This blog post is based on a highlight from a recent presentation given by MINDset’s Erica O’Brien.

Fundraising is all about disruption now – disruptive channels like Indiegogo and Facebook fundraising, disruptive approaches like Gofundme and Causecast and even disruptive organizations like


Organizations are moving quickly toward this new frontier and are integrating these alternative media opportunities into their portfolio of fundraising tools and techniques. 


Alternative media are media that differ from established or dominant types of media in terms of their content, production, or distribution. It takes many forms including print, space and outdoor, audio, video, digital . . . even street art.  These new media have different timelines, costs, metrics, and measures of success but when considering what role they can and should play in your overall fundraising mix, you can use some tried and true approaches for implementation and evaluation.

First, allow data to guide the way from initial testing through to implementation and projections.  Consider using file metrics from traditional fundraising media to evaluate new media opportunities you’re considering and to help prioritize them.  That space ad may drive your web traffic but what percentage of visits convert to a gift?  How many monthly donors are acquired because of that concert promotion?

Using these metrics, define measures of success. Start with the end in mind and define what success looks like for your organization before a new initiative is launched.  This includes setting timelines for when to measure these areas and how to distribute the findings to stakeholders and decision makers.

Use in market testing and “Learning Laboratories” to pilot new media when possible.  Limited exposure in optimal conditions allows you to gather data and control for variables during a pilot.

The Stage Gate Process builds in periods of evaluation and adjustment with “go/no go” decisions.  This can be critical when a variety of different departments are engaged in testing and evaluating alternative media, especially since each stakeholder may have a different set of measures of success.


When moving forward with a new media opportunity, it’s important to understand how it fits into the full scope of channels for fundraising and to be able to prioritize  investments across all areas.  At MINDset we use “Value Based Budgeting” for complex multi-channel programs like monthly giving.  This approach allows us to not only evaluate the initial investment to acquire or convert to sustainers, but to project out the future value of those donors and understand how the mix of channels – including alternative media – impacts the whole program and its financial support of the cause.


Using these tried and true approaches in the expanding world of alternative media means that even if everything about a new approach is disruptive, you’ll still feel confident that you’re on a familiar path.

Erica O'Brien

Erica O’Brien, Managing Partner and Co-Owner, has worked within the marketing and non-profit industry for nearly twenty years. Before joining the MINDset team, she worked at Cubine Chapman Adams & Hussey (formerly Adams Hussey & Associates) for nearly a decade, where she served as Principal & Senior Vice President.