Dear Sir/Madam: Your Marketing Needs to Be More Personal

“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”

The person who coined this phrase must not have been referring to nonprofit work.

As I see it, if we are to continue “doing business” successfully for our nonprofits then we have to make it more personal, especially in how we connect with donors and supporters.

Today, it’s not enough to simply reach out with generic touch points that skim the surface of donors’ interests. We’ve got to seek conversations with donors and reach out in ways that prove true value, build trust and strengthen affinity for our organizations.

A more balanced relationship between you and your donors starts with personalized marketing strategies.

What Is Personalized Marketing?

Think of personalized marketing as one-to-one communication that allows you (the nonprofit) to engage in conversation with one person (a donor, prospect, concerned citizen, board member) and promote a call to action. Variable data is at the core of personalized marketing and made possible by data collection, audience segmentation, analysis and automation technology.

Why Use It? 

Personalized marketing subliminally lets donors know that they matter and they have a special place in your organization. Whether it’s digital, printed or face-to-face, an invitation or a quarterly newsletter, personalized marketing sends a message that’s deeper than words on a page. It’s saying, “You’re important. We remember you and you’re part of our story.”

Need numbers to back it up?

About 86 percent of consumers report that personalization has at least some impact in their purchasing decision, according to Infosys. Similarly, Experian reports that personalized promotional marketing emails experience 11 percent higher open rates than those that do not personalize.

What Stelter Says About It

Today, we’ve asked some Stelter experts, Editorial Director Katie Parker, Creative Director Zach Christensen and Digital Solutions Director Colleen Webster, to lend their keen insight on why personalized marketing is worth it and how it’s added value to clients’ efforts.

Help us understand personalized marketing through the lens of Stelter clients’ success.

KatieFeeding America is a client of ours that has had good success with personalization. In newsletters we’ve added in the number of “food insecure people” in the state that donors live in to make it more personalized to their location, for example. We also talk about the state that the donor lives in throughout the donor letter to make it more specific to them. Each year we have increased the ROI on their planned giving program.

Zach: For BrightFocus, personalizing the outer envelope with logos related to the area of support that the donor was connected to made a huge impact on response. Responses increased from around 10-15 per direct mail package to over 100 per package. 

Where do you start if you don’t have the data to support it?

Katie: Start small with storytelling. Show the impact of dollars at work and the long-term goals of the organization in an emotional way; tugging on heartstrings is always more impactful than tugging on pocketbooks. The heart trumps the brain every time.

Colleen: Seek out partners to help append information to your list and build out a better donor/prospect profile. We work with different organizations to help nonprofits append data to their overall marketing list. It could be building out age profiles, whether they are married or single, or wealth screenings, for example.

Zach: We can also take a graduated approach to personalization. We can start with simple name personalization in letters or other outreach, transitioning to specific gift examples—and then combine those with geolocation information to discuss the specific regional impact and give a more local feel to the letter. We’ve also shown variable graphics that highlight city or county gift amounts, and how that support has made an impact.

How can nonprofits build donor data? 

Zach: Survey donors to gain a better understanding of what concepts, initiatives or programs they wish to support and have strong feelings about. Don’t guess what initiatives you think will resonate most with your donors base.

Katie: Although it can feel awkward sometimes, it can be a huge door opener to simply ask a donor on a call or in a face-to-face visit, “Why are you so passionate about our organization?” or “How would you like to partner with us to make a difference?” Know what your donors want to hear about—a big initiative, a long-term goal, the sports program—and talk to them about these things. It’s a two-way relationship; delivering what they’re hungry for is the key to communicating.

How do you personalize messaging for different generations?

Katie: Recognize what their biggest generational hurdles and concerns are. Are your donors caring for aging parents plus supporting children in the household? If so, they’re more likely to be more protective of long-term dollars and may use estate planning as a way to support their families. Or are they living comfortably in retirement with grown children? The language here can shift to leaving a philanthropic legacy.

What’s the future of personalized marketing? 

Colleen: For Stelter, it’s all about getting more in-depth with our personalization and building out stronger donor profiles to better segment donor lists. As technologies become more flexible I see everything we do becoming more tailored to the person we are sending it to. With that being said, there is always going to be the issue of the list. We can only personalize to the data that we have.

Let us know what you’ve done to make your marketing more personal. And how have people responded? We’d love to hear, and see, your group’s personalized marketing success stories

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