Both with organizations that we partner with and across the wider fundraising sector, we have spotted some trends shaping supporter engagement in 2022. These include:

  • Individual giving is on the decline: in 2021, the public gave 9% less to charities (yes there may be a notable exception this year in response to the Ukraine crisis but this is still the wider behavioral landscape)
  • The number of people who give to charity is in decline both in the US and the UK. For the first time in nearly two decades, only half of U.S. households donated to a charity in 2021.
  • For Americans, declining levels of trust in institutions and each other may have contributed to a drop in charitable giving. Meanwhile, in the UK, two thirds of people are planning to cut back as a result of the cost of living crisis. 

Alongside these audience trends, we’ve also observed charity and non-profit organisations shift how they are approaching their supporter engagement model:

  • Many charities are moving away from monthly giving at all cost relying instead on a higher LifeTime Value (LTV) for younger donors by encouraging repeat cash giving which comes without the ‘every month’ commitment
  • Digital audience sizing strategies for identification and development of mid-level and high-value donors are becoming common practice, especially for organizations with large files and advanced marketing automation systems
  • Digital strategies for planned/legacy fundraising are also starting to emerge, with a focus on digital mechanisms to engage and identify hand-raisers and nurture pledgers
  • Integrated digital and offline door journeys, for both acquisition and development are high on most organizations’ priorities for 2022 and we’re seeing digital paid activity uplift offline acquisition, response to telemarketing, and DM packs.

As a result, there’s an imperative to invest in the retention of regular donors, to ensure their relationship with your organisation has never been stronger. Many organizations are making increased investment in journeys, content and experiences for their existing donors – recognising the risk and the increased complexity of finding new ones.

Digital one-off strategies are going strong. Many organizations are seeing donors cancel their regular donations, and younger donors in particular are moving away from monthly giving. But there’s hope – well executed, some of our clients are achieving a higher lifetime value (LTV) from their digital cash donors, than their regular donors.

By cultivating mid-level (and likely future mid-value) donors differently, we’re seeing organisations significantly increase the value of their existing donor pools. So fewer people are giving, but income is up. In a post-pandemic world, face to face events are starting to return, and with it there is an opportunity for more holistic integration between online and offline experiences – across legacies, High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs), and Corporate givers.

What about marketing automation and AI. Is it helping or distracting?  

More and more clients have consolidated their ecosystems, and now look to using machine learning, AI and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) in a fundraising context. We’ve observed a number of relevant applications that are helping fundraising organizations become more effective and efficient:

  • Triggers based on cross-channel behaviors and inbound actions (i.e. visit to a page about Yemen without converting, receive a trigger follow up)
  • Thematic alignment – interest in one area of work (i.e. education) is applied to wider channels and inbound visits
  • Send-time optimisation, per individual donor in line with their previous response
  • Donor scoring and allocation to journeys – i.e. likely to leave a legacy, looks like a mid-value donor, leads most likely to respond to telemarketing campaign, likely to lapse

So what does effective digital donor engagement look like in practice?

For Plan International, a development and humanitarian organisation which works in over 75 countries across the world, in Africa, the Americas, and Asia to advance children’s rights and equality for girls.

To transform how they engage supporters they have started to engage new groups of donors, reduce pain points such as transparency and flexibility, and look at new products and ways of giving. 

A core focus has been personalisation. It has become an expectation of the everyday life of audiences be it recommended playlists or suggested retail products –  by speaking to donors in a more 1-2-1 way this should enhance their experience and relationship with the organization. 

A great first step to tailoring donor experiences could be in by understanding themes in their behavior with web and social content – perhaps one issue is resonating more than others signaled by repeat visits, clicks or dwell time allowing you to reach out to them with similar like-minded content and, when the right moment occurs, ask for their support or donation in a tailored landing environment that speaks to their previous interactions. 

As a result Plan is using the inputs they can glean audience insight from (email, web, device usage, interests, advocacy actions, giving behavior, social engagement) to then inform how they best create and shape content that then becomes an output across their channels. 

If you’re looking to make the most of what you have with personalisation why not see what you can do to bring your data sources together, look to take more data driven decisions in your content creation, consider how A/B testing tools could help with personalisation or specific landing pages that may speak to certain clusters of donors and personalise your emails to do what you can to urge a response.

Are you looking to better prioritize donor development? A few tips we’d keep in mind include:

It all starts with your data

You already have the information – it’s within your grasp. You just need to take the time to delve into the data to understand how your supporters are behaving and reacting at different moments in their relationship with you. Spend some time digging into your data to uncover insights and trends that you can lean into, test and roll out across your programme. 

Look to understand how your donors behave

You’ve worked hard and sometimes spent a lot of money acquiring these donors. They are already engaged and support your cause and organization. They want to feel valued and they want to be heard. Across our life we appreciate ease and convenience – and donors are no different.

Think beyond channel specific ideas

We no longer live our life through siloed channels –  Digital allows us to integrate and react based on behavior across channels. The things we engage with, the actions we take, the information we give to be passed from channel to channel. This can be a completely automated process or it can be manual. 

Technology shouldn’t hold you back

We understand that in a lot of organizations in this sector budget and resource can be an issue. Try to look outside of the systems you already have to see how you can use different platforms to bolster your donor development programme efficiently – it doesn’t have to be something bespoke. Nifty Images can help you bring personalized images into email campaigns, Typeform is a great templated platform for quizzes, uploading lists to Facebook can help you reach current donors and Campaign Manager can help track interaction across channels. 

Test, test and test again

Ensure that throughout your programme testing can help you learn what your audience responds to so put in place a testing plan. Use moments, where there’s high volume and interest to test and , if audiences are small, test the same thing across multiple sends to gain significant results. If the investment in donor development and retention is low, create a proof of concept to help make a business case that shows the potential for scale with real and recent data.

Want to talk about how your organization is engaging and retaining your supporters? Let’s chat.