02.01.23 4 min

3 experts answer your omnichannel questions

The why, what, when and how of an effective cross-channel fundraising strategy

Data Axle Staff

In a world of ever-fragmenting media consumption, nonprofits have long understood the importance of leveraging multiple channels within their marketing strategies. But increasingly, a mere presence in multiple channels isn’t enough. Those efforts must be aligned around an acute understanding of the individual donor to whom they’re targeted. This alignment is what we’re talking about when we refer to the Holy Grail of marketing, otherwise known as omnichannel.

Omnichannel has been discussed as a concept for more than a decade now, but the term’s lofty face-value suggestion—that marketing campaigns be present and cohesive across any media channel in which a consumer might encounter a brand—continues to daunt nonprofits, particularly in light of the continued evolution of the data and privacy landscape. But omnichannel needn’t be a frightening concept.

What is the goal of omnichannel marketing?

The goal behind omnichannel marketing isn’t to be everywhere. The goal is to be where it matters most—and to do so in a data-driven way that is aware of an individual supporter’s journey with your nonprofit. Compared to multichannel marketing, omnichannel marketing represents a concerted effort—one where all the moving parts are moving in harmony. While multichannel marketing entails having a presence in multiple channels, the executions themselves tend to be piecemeal and tactical—less strategic. Omnichannel solves for the disconnects that are often found in a multichannel approach.

We’ve compiled our most frequently asked questions around omnichannel marketing along with answers from our thought leaders on omnichannel to help illuminate the why, what, when and how of omnichannel marketing for nonprofits.


Meet our thought leaders

Richard Geiger, Senior Vice President
Richard brings to Data Axle a wealth of experience as a sales and services professional with distinguished leadership roles in selling and delivering strategy, analytics, business process and technology to large complex nonprofit organizations. Working with the nonprofit solutions group, Richard’s focus is on enabling organizations to drive more mission using the vast commercial, cooperative, and nonprofit data solutions across all of Data Axle.

Mark McLean, Vice President
Mark is an industry veteran who brings his vast experience directly to Data Axle clients, where he supports a portfolio of customers. Throughout his career, Mark had a hand in growing some of the nation’s largest fundraising programs through utilization of direct mail and integrated channels. Mark is an active volunteer within the direct marketing industry and is proud to have worked alongside multiple “DMA Nonprofit Organization of the Year” award winners.

Amy Braiterman, Vice President of Omnichannel Strategy
Amy provides our nonprofit clients with innovative marketing tactics that enable these organizations to drive awareness, acquire new donors and increase fundraising from existing donors. An industry veteran with deep experience in using fundraising digital technology and data to maximize message and audience experience, Amy takes a ‘data-first’ approach to all client projects to elevate their strategies and improve fundraising campaign outcomes, taking learnings from Data Axle’s Fortune 1000 clients and adapting it for nonprofits.

What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing?

Amy Braiterman: “When defining multichannel marketing, we’re referring to the ability to connect with supporters through a variety of channels, including social media, email, mobile, direct mail, print ads, landing pages and websites. However, each channel operates independently from each other and abides by their own strategy and goals.”

“Think of multichannel as omnichannel marketing’s cousin. Both strategies involve interacting with supporters via various channels; however, an omnichannel marketing strategy involves integrating the different channels together to provide a seamless, connected experience for the supporter.”

What is holding nonprofits back from optimizing their omnichannel programs?

Mark McLean: “A successful omnichannel environment is not something that can be developed overnight. The combination of audience, offer, ask, timing, channel, etc. needs to be in sync, but to be able to do that, testing is needed – and sometimes, lots of it.”

“There are many variables that go into testing, and because of that, there is a lot of fine tuning needed to find what works best for your organization. Testing takes time and money and can be a tough hurdle to overcome when that investment could be diverted into a known entity. However, more recent data and technology advancements are allowing nonprofits to see testing results and make changes to websites and campaigns within minutes. As AI technology continues to develop, nonprofits can take advantage of automated testing and improvements to boost performance. Changes from the simple and cosmetic, like a call-to-action change or switching a button color, to large changes like page interactivity, are good candidates for testing. Nonprofits need to explore what options we provide to help get prospects the information they are looking for. A/B testing can move the needle on conversion rates as it can expose any barriers to conversion. Breaking down these barriers can, in turn, pay off exponentially. The benefits reaped from this work will be an omnichannel program that is prepared for the continued trending of increased digital interaction paired with the continued success of offline giving.”

What should nonprofits have in place before giving omnichannel a try?

Amy Braiterman: “Implementing an omnichannel strategy requires a unified organizational culture, one where departments work together on a campaign, rather than programs each living solely within their own team. Are you ready to break down the silos between direct mail and digital? If so, then you’re ready to begin your omnichannel transformation.”

“You also want to make sure you have the tools, data and management systems set up that will allow for easy communication and reporting. Make sure you have a good project management system to work across departments to ensure proper communication (because let’s face it, no one wants another meeting on their calendar). And, be sure you set up your campaign efforts in a way that you can track results so you’re able to analyze and grow from your work.”

How does direct mail factor into an omnichannel approach?

Richard Geiger: “Direct mail continues to be a cornerstone for nonprofits, even as donors are increasingly active online. Direct mail is a key component to activate engagement. Our donor survey found that while 48% of donors prefer email for communication, direct mail continues to drive a healthy share of donations. Direct mail is second only to email as a preferred communication channel and 45% of donors over 60 give through direct mail. Some folks hear the words “omnichannel” and “digital” and think they need to do away with direct mail altogether, but that’s not the case.”

“Donor mailing lists should be enhanced with additional data, such as email addresses and phone numbers and then onboarded onto digital exchanges to be targeted with programmatic campaigns such as display, paid social, and retargeting. Data Axle’s donor database, Apogee, boasts information on billions of individual donations across millions of charitable individuals and households – complete with hundreds of demographic and psychographic attributes like age, location, interests, income, transactional history, and much more. This information can be easily used to give nonprofits a better idea of who their donors are and how to best reach them.”

Where do emerging channels, such as Connected TV (CTV) and SMS (short message service) fit into an omnichannel donor retention strategy?

Richard Geiger: “Emerging channels like CTV and SMS are great channels for nonprofits to provide mission-focused messaging to donors. Political organizations are using SMS (aka, texting) to disseminate information about their cause and alert voters of important dates, petitions, and volunteering opportunities. SMS has been incredibly effective, especially with younger audiences.”

“However, it’s important to look before you leap. Use data to assess your current campaigns. Get familiar with who your audience is, the channels they are most likely to use and how successful you have been when engaging donors on social channels. If you have seen success on social media, then it might be time for you to start leveraging emerging channels. Developing an omnichannel retention strategy can be intimidating, but it’s key for growing one-time donors into lifelong supporters.”

How can data help nonprofits maximize omnichannel campaign results?

Mark McLean: “Data plays an integral role in developing and optimizing an omnichannel program. By using a “donor-first” mindset instead of a “channel-first,” we change the way we look at strategy. Instead of looking at it as “direct mail vs. digital,” we can now use data to help inform us of our audience’s channel preferences for both information-gathering as well as preferred transaction channel.”

“With the data we have at our fingertips, we no longer need to rely solely on prior giving within the organization to guide us on future communication. Instead, we can use data to inform us of the next best communication steps to more effectively drive that next donation.”

To summarize, between the pandemic and a growing segment of younger donors, channel preferences continue to shift, highlighting the importance of planning effective cross-channel fundraising campaigns. The success of your omnichannel strategy depends on your in-depth knowledge of your donors, their preferences and the data and technology to support them.”

Want to get started in omnichannel marketing? We can help. Contact us today.