02.23.22 4 min

Why integration is necessary for an omnichannel donor-centric experience

Helene Vallone-Raffael

Vice President of Direct Response, UNICEF USA

Integration is the key to developing an optimized donor experience. A study by Kantar Millward Brown found that integrated campaigns are 31 percent more effective at brand building and 57 percent more effective when it comes to achieving goals.1 By taking an omnichannel approach, you can attract new supporters, retain current donors and raise awareness of your mission in a crowded public consciousness. But what exactly is integration and how can you achieve it? Our expert, Helene Vallone-Raffaele tackles one of the most important, and elusive, challenges facing today’s nonprofits.

1. Integration is a term that’s used a lot in this industry. In fact, NonProfitPro has said there’s “no single definition of integration” – what does integration mean to you in the context of your work in the nonprofit sphere?

Integration is a multifaceted concept and there are so many forms it can take. At its heart, integration is the alignment of all your mission’s messaging to create a consistent and relevant representation of your brand into the market.

I believe that to be successful, both fundraising and marketing efforts need to be integrated to meet the expectations of the organization’s mission work. There needs to be creative integration to share cohesive messages about your brand in support of all pillars of your mission. There also needs to be analytical integration to understand your supporter base and future supporter base. This comes together for our organization through our annual fundraising campaigns that have recently won several multi-channel awards in the industry. These campaigns align on creative presentation and use modeled data to target the audiences most likely to respond. Leveraging data and technology to execute an omnichannel marketing strategy will allow you to create an optimal donor experience. We are developing new KPI’s that look beyond the traditional metrics of retention and revenue and include affinity scoring in an attempt to capture the many ways that our valued donors are engaged with our mission.

2. What are the benefits of true integration and how does integration amplify an organization’s mission work?

There are so many benefits to integration. For example, it builds an organization’s brand and it’s critical to have a strong brand for fundraising. When donors feel connected to your mission, they amplify your brand which then results in increased awareness of the work. This leads to an audience of mission ambassadors who want to share their experiences with others and across social media. This infectious enthusiasm creates the buzz that results in more supporters of your organization resulting in increased impact.

3. What do you believe is the biggest barrier to nonprofits seeking to achieve full integration?

A cohesive internal technical structure is central to integration. Nonprofits tend to suffer from operational silos and disparate systems. These factors tend to result in an inability to consolidate, collaborate, and develop shared insights in a meaningful way. Connecting data from development, marketing, and advocacy are critical for relationship management. Often data is managed across multiple disparate systems, or outside of systems, with a lack of connectivity to each other. This limits the ability to understand your supporter’s full experience of your organization. It’s imperative to track every engagement across social media, digital, e-commerce, supporter services, etc., and uncover where there is intersection and affinities in order to deepen supporter relationships as well as build upon the larger audience strategy. This holistic view of a donor’s experience is one of the greatest barriers to success that most nonprofits face given the depth and breadth of our work.

4. How can organizations ensure they are putting a cohesive message about their brand and mission out into the world?

The initial online experience introduces donors to your mission. Supporters give to an organization based on mission, compelling content that evokes a personal connection. Organizations need to move past a transactional fundraising model to create transformational interactions with donors through relevant omnichannel messaging. Let your supporters know how deeply they are valued. Taking this approach will lead to donor loyalty and inevitably result in increased value to the organization.

5. Some in the industry have suggested we are moving to a post-channel world – one where nonprofits focus on meeting their audience where they are instead of putting channels ahead of audiences. How can organizations achieve this kind of omnichannel, donor-centric strategy?

Organizations need to culturally adapt to making data the foundation of their work. Data-driven decision-making is key to understanding an organization’s current support-base. Data also gives you the tools to address and target future audiences most likely to engage in your mission. There are so many available tools from models to data enhancements and third-party data that can inform an organization’s strategy.

As organizations evolve, especially in the digital sphere, it’s imperative that data science and actionable insights be integrated at the audience level. This will give clarity into who your donors are and what they care about; as well as inform future targeted audiences that will have the highest LTV.

Nonprofits need to make sure they are curating content that meets the interests of their various target audiences – and then allow the channels to be a conduit of how they give. We operate in an omnichannel world, so integration isn’t an option; it’s an essential key to success.

6. Where does donor-centricity fit into integration? And what tools/technologies should organizations make sure they have in place to support the donor experience?

Organizations need to focus more resources on the donor experience. This is one of the most important functions within an organization yet most often under-resourced. Investment in the donor experience is paramount in order to retain and upgrade donors. It’s also the most critical part of an organization’s brand experience. Your supporters have high expectations. When they interact with your brand, they want an optimized experience that makes them feel good about whom they are supporting.

It’s critical that organizations upgrade their technology stack to immediately capture opportunities for improvement and manage donor inquiries. There’s no time to waste. Digital transformation has changed the game and supporters need an easy-to-use self-service model that affords immediate impact to managing their experience. For example, a donor management portal affords supporters the ability to update their communications preferences, seek information on a topic of interest, offer their feedback on their experience, and even collect their giving history for tax purposes. Yet many organizations have yet to make this investment.

You also need to offer a personal touch to keep donors engaged. While technology can solve much, we should never discount the impact of human connection. It’s important that donors feel connected to your mission on a personal level, and you need to invest in technologies that can personalize their giving journey. Working with a partner, such as Data Axle, that can help you use the tools at hand to surround donors, on the channels they prefer, with a unified message will ensure increased awareness of your mission.

Data is the bedrock of integration. Contact us to learn how to get started down the path of true integration and donor-centricity.

Helene Vallone-Raffael

Meet the expert

Written by Helene Vallone-Raffael, Vice President of Direct Response, UNICEF USA

Helene has developed innovative strategies through diversification aimed at acquiring and stewarding high-value donors through a data-driven, donor centric approach.