Building Online Relationships with Supporters

27 Jul 2020 | Fundraising, Marketing, Memberships

In the current climate, it’s time to adapt digital fundraising strategies and look at how your data can help boost online donations.

Generally in the arts, we rely on the same tactics to retain our donors, increase our members and build brand loyalty. Yet in the current climate, where audience members are fine-tuned to the tricks of the trade, this is no longer sufficient. But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon our current strategies. Some simple tweaks or changes to the ways we attract the attention of donors and engage with them will go a long way.

 

Why Automation Isn’t Enough

When asked during a webinar* with ticketing professionals, 54% confirmed their organisations are not implementing a digital fundraising strategy but are relying on automations in its place. A common example of automation around fundraising is an initial thank you email once a donor supports a cause online, this is then followed up with a final thank you and more information after a longer period of time for example, after two weeks.
 
Automation is a powerful digital tool that will strengthen communication efforts and many other aspects of your online fundraising. But it should be used to refine your donor’s experience - not to create it.
 
That means using it to its best advantage and not as a stand-alone tactic for encouraging frequent donations. Fundraising efforts need to be spread across multiple channels to create an adaptive and agile strategy that will target all demographics of your potential supporters
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Towards a Multi-Channel Engagement Strategy

It’s no longer business as usual at the box office. All over the UK, arts and cultural organisations are closed and facing serious new challenges. They are reading proposed reopening guidelines suggesting social distancing procedures and wondering how limited capacities could be viable for the sector.
 
Digital fundraising needs to react accordingly. Making the ask to supporters depends on storytelling and emotions. Right now its objective is to drive a crucial steam of revenue for your organisation during this period of closure and further down the line as we look at reopening. Consider the most prevalent ways people access and receive information; through social media, text messaging apps like WhatsApp, websites, direct and automated emails. Your communications towards online fundraising need to hit all of these important channels.
A good starting point is to look at donations across all purchasing streams such as a direct search on your website, over the phone, from a Facebook Fundraiser, or through email campaigns. More than likely, your team will have used a similar method to analyse your ticket revenue. Liverpool’s Royal Court use data from sales and fundraising campaigns to identify customer purchasing patterns and donation behaviours. Through sales channel analysis, their team can identify from where and how their supporters donate and use this information to identify the strongest channels of communications for these segments to encourage retention.
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You Don’t Have Time to Make Assumptions

Data is your key driver for making tough decisions. Use data to gain a deep understanding of how your supporters are engaging with your content. Study donor engagement levels and measure them against your fundraising activity. Look at all forms of engagement metrics and not solely on open rates and click-through rates of email automation.
 
Start by looking closely at what campaigns are currently working for you and which aspects of your fundraising efforts online are not. By studying your digital relationships with supporters, you will be able to identify where the majority of your ‘casual’ donors are coming from, the most successful channel creating the biggest return, and where you should be spending your budget (if you have a budget to spend at the moment). Gathering these insights through examining your data will inform your campaigns in the future.

There are plenty of clever tools readily available which can help organisations to collect and read vast amounts of data easily on one dashboard. Power BI is a powerful reporting tool which has the ability to dig deep into box office data to pull important insights for arts organisations. Working closely with the Ticketsolve Customer Success Team, New Theatre Royal Lincoln have been able to identify which of their campaigns are more successful than others and either make changes to campaigns which are not, or focus solely on campaigns which are creating results. 

“We have been able to better understand peak consumer trends and identify which of our efforts are working, and which are not. I have found that it’s user-friendly functions have saved me a great deal of time and provided me with important answers to questions I once found difficult to answer”.

 - Lee Newton, Sales Manager, New Theatre Royal Lincoln

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Encourage Retention and Frequency 

While you are encouraging the frequency of online donations and retaining your online donors, you are also developing a community of supporters for your organisation. Voluntary giving is a form of audience engagement but it’s not unusual for it to take a lot of communications before that engagement begins. Ideally once a supporter donates online to your organisation, you want to reduce the length of time until they choose to come back and donate again.

So it’s time now to set up your workflows, important conversion triggers, and smart automations. But remember, digital technology itself will not automatically enable great giving from supporters: sending clear, meaningful, and updated communications will. The digital tools can help you increase supporters' sense of participation in your story and campaign, and motivate them to continue their support. 

Over the past few months, there has been a steady increase in the accessibility of digital content for online audience members with online streaming, behind the scenes and camera interviews, artist Q&A sessions, blogs, and email communications. Online donation campaigns for exclusive screenings online and adhoc donation appeals with ‘Pay What You Decide’ campaigns will form an integral stream of revenue for organisations moving forward towards reopening. 

Profiling and segmenting these and other online supporters will further enhance the experience you are offering them, whether their motivations are philanthropic or benefit-led. Then by formulating a digital fundraising strategy that is adaptive and flexible, you can retain those donors and develop a current and meaningful relationship with them. 

Create a Donor-Centric Experience 

The online donation journey should be a donor-centric experience where, once your donors offer their support, your organisation is committed to ensuring that you meet their level of expectations. You need to define your relationships with online supporters who are committed to your cause, whether it’s contributing to your outreach project or supporting your organisation through this crisis.  

It’s time to take a few moments as you plan your strategy and think like a consumer and not a fundraiser. 

*The full webinar of The Current Climate for Online Donations can be viewed now on-demand.

This article first appeared in Arts Professional Magazine in June 2020

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