Non-Profit Campaigns Must Integrate Phone, Web, Mail

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All for one -- or not. As we head into the last two years of the millennium, both the hype and hope of the Internet as the communication medium for the non-profit/NGO world have begun to converge. Perhaps a form of direct response unified field theory, for all you physicists.


We have all heard that organizations such as the American Red Cross and Trout Unlimited, raise significant sums of money from their Web sites. Other groups are being entrepreneurial in creating sister sites, such as the Environmental Defense Fund's www.scorecard.org, to expand their message/market share -- hence their reach and grasp.


Yet I hearken back to my first years in out-bound telefundraising when smart people believed that this medium was either: a) talking direct mail; b) going to bring direct mail to its knees; c) the ruination of direct response fundraising; or d) all of the above. Rather, we quickly learned that the best out-bound telemarketing contact was a well-crafted, interactive conversation between two people, and not a linear rote script (i.e., talking direct mail), and that the best solution was the integration of direct response mediums -- mail and phone.


I'll be the first to admit that today most calls are boring, are not conversations, and pay little attention to true integration of any direct response media. Shame on all of us for allowing this to happen.


Yet, I think a new day has dawned and hardly anyone is paying attention.


Recently, Steve Del Vechio at Craver Matthews Smith and Denise Hantman from the American Civil Liberties Union initiated a test. The test comprised a group of citizens who signed a petition at the ACLU Web site. They are now taking a panel of these people and mailing them a letter. I hope Steve and Denise tell us how it went.


Now, expand your mind and imagine combining mail, phone and the Web in an integrated campaign. Imagine your Web sites as the lead generation medium. People who visit your site opt in to receive more information from your organization, or opt in and answer a survey/questionnaire. The mail and telephone elements then must build upon the prior donor/customer relationships of what occurred at your Web site.


Your site will tell you about where, when and maybe why this donor/customer visited and responded to your site. You will be able to then use the data from the Web server to craft that person's conversation. Every conversation will be personal and unique. No two conversations will be the same ever again.


Then, after the call is completed, imagine being able to push, in that next instant - not the next day -- the information received from the person back to the Web server. The next time that person visits the site, you will have further personalized his or her experience. When you mail a house appeal, you will build the letter off that person's individualized experience with the Web site.


How will you do this in the next two years? First you will invest aggressively in Web design and strategy and database management or you'll be left behind. Go to www.panda.org and www.commoncause.org to see sites where design, strategy and implementation converge.


Next, you must push your direct response agencies to work together to integrate mediums, or fire them and get someone else to do the job. No longer can non-profits or their agencies continue to view the three mediums as unrelated. No more excuses for three separate strategies. Everything I've written is available today to solve our client's problems.


No smoke and mirrors here, but to move through the next two years non-profits need both the foresight and the discipline to convince boards and funding sources that this is now a global market for ideas and services with 150,000,000 e-mail addresses out there in cyberspace.


What will this new approach generate for non-profits and their members? Simple - relationships with members will be unique to each member. Non-profits may see an end to 50 percent attrition rated from new members, single digit response rates to house appeals and declining performance to telefunding campaigns.


Of course some non-profits, or agencies serving non-profits, after reading this piece will e-mail me to respond that Garrison Keillor was correct--there are no ugly children in Lake Wobegon. You are actively pursuing integration among phone, mail and the Internet, and you have fully optimized direct marketing strategy, including adding inbound and DRTV to the mix.


But if you are candid, you are thinking about how to catch up to individually communicate with members/donors in a manner that is respectful of how they want to be contacted and addresses the issues they care about for your organization.


Dennis McCarthy is president of Share Group Inc., Somerville, MA. He can be reached by e-mail at dmccarthy@sharegroup.com.
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