FYI Blog

20 Things Our Moms Taught Us About Marketing

Eat your veggies, get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water—we always knew that following mom’s rules would keep us safe and healthy. But it turns out mom is also a marketing expert, doling out sage advice for running state-of-the art multi-channel marketing campaigns. Who knew?

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May 10, 2017

Maximizing Your Year-end Harvest

Now is the best time to finalize your year-end fundraising planning. Donors pay more attention at the end of the year, and they’re looking for last-minute giving opportunities (think: tax deductibility!). To reap the most benefits from the year-end giving window, we suggest you make your approach truly integrated, with strategies for each channel that […]

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September 23, 2016

Takeaways from the Luminate Benchmark Report

Benchmark Keyboard

Blackbaud’s 2015 Luminate Online Benchmark report is out and has some interesting takeaways:

        • Email house files grew at a median rate of 11.82 percent. List growth continues to be a priority, though investment is key.
        • The number of donation and advocacy email sends increased 17 percent, but this does not mean that any one individual is getting more email (even though it may seem that way). Rather, people may be getting fewer — but more relevant — emails, thanks to more sophisticated segmentation. We have so many data points about our email list subscribers, so be sure to use this data to tailor content to your readers’ interests, behaviors, and relationships with your organization.
        • Fundraising email open and click-through rates declined, but the good news is that the rate of decline has slowed. Open rates are at 15.34 percent — a 2.25 percent decrease from last year (compare this to M+R’s 12 percent). Click-through rates are at 0.61 percent, which represents an 8.41 percent decrease. It’s getting harder and harder to get opens and clicks. Two tactics that can help? Always offer stellar content that your subscribers want, and optimize your emails for mobile.
        • Conversion rates are down 11 percent from last year and are at 0.04 percent (compared to M+R’s 0.07 percent). See above — good content and a mobile-friendly viewing experience can help here, too.
        • Median online giving grew nearly 9 percent this year, and first-time online giving is sluggish. But repeat online giving is strong. This stat consistently increases, even though online giving for most organizations still only represents 7-10 percent of overall giving.
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December 1, 2015

The Pressure Is On!

Calendar - Dec 31 image

We’ve always known that year-end fundraising is crucial. But in the course of ongoing internal statistical analysis, we were recently reminded of just how important it is to a successful direct marketing program—because it’s such a huge percentage of the whole. And its prevalence is growing; in fact, the percent of yearly revenue from year-end giving has steadily increased almost three points over the past five years.

Data from four Avalon clients illustrates this year-end increase:

green chart - year end 1

The takeaway is clear: Nearly a third of direct marketing revenue comes in at year end—sometimes as much as half, if you consider only online revenue. Consequently, you should place a great deal of focus on getting ready for this all-important fundraising opportunity. 

We recommend our colleague TJ Hillinger’s 2014 blog on best practices for prepping for year-end campaigns. It’s a matter of getting your ducks in a row early—which means planning well in advance to seamlessly integrate your multi-channel campaigns, while also dedicating plenty of time to creative development.

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October 28, 2015

Museum Exhibits Are All Eyes

Mona Lisa headcropAre we creeping into Big Brother territory, or is this just another way to ensure you fully enjoy your museum experience? An interesting article by Ellen Gamerman in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “When the Art Is Watching You,” discusses the innovative tracking technology that some museums are using to make marketing, fundraising, and curating decisions.

Gamerman writes about the Dallas Museum of Art’s program, in which frequent visitors can use their smart phones to check in throughout the building and win points toward rewards “like free parking, special-exhibition tickets or private use of the museum’s movie theater. The museum then filters the data to better understand guests’ behavior, like how often they visit, which shows they flock to and what art they ignore.”

According to Gamerman, “Across the country, museums are mining increasingly detailed layers of information about their guests, employing some of the same strategies that companies like Macy’s, Netflix and Wal-Mart have used in recent years to boost sales by tracking customer behavior. Museums are using the visitor data to inform decisions on everything from exhibit design to donor outreach to gift-shop marketing strategies.”

We’re all for knowing your donors’ and visitors’ habits and preferences, and for using this information to determine new ways to engage and excite museum-goers. And what better time to engage them than when they are having a positive on-site experience?

Of course, this cutting-edge technology is outside some venues’ budgets. So in this same vein, but without the Big Brother vibe, we’ve put together a checklist of some of the best ways to ensure that your on-site visitors are receiving your membership message—because there is no better time to convey the need for support than when someone is having a firsthand, positive experience with your organization.

• Prominently display membership materials at your information booths or kiosks.
• Integrate membership messaging into the “Plan Your Visit” section of your website and/or your online advance ticket purchase process.
• Display signage promoting member discounts and current promotions at entrances and exits, points of purchase (e.g., tickets, bookstores), and frequently visited places (e.g., restrooms, parking lots).
• Print membership messages on tickets/passes, will-call envelopes, receipts, and programs.
• Offer complimentary membership bookmarks (or another appropriate giveaway) at gift shops.
• Display membership table tents in bathrooms, lounges, and dining areas.
• Visibly recognize current members via a banner or rolling electronic sign.
• Conduct on-site membership canvassing with mobile devices.

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February 12, 2015

Assessing 2014’s Digital Year-End

donate button - BP blog post 1.29.15Sifting through the aftermath of Digital Year-end 2014, the clearest pattern to emerge is that it wasn’t a year of dramatic changes. Nonprofits came around to implementing best practices—forgoing the shiny and new to capitalize on year-end giving with the strategies they knew would work: cleaning and building their lists before year end, either through appends or list buys; implementing lightboxes that seemed to work quite well for most organizations; segmenting based on donor behavior (not just giving, but also filtering out non-responsive people, or non-openers).

There were a handful of Avalon clients that were unable to implement matching gifts this year, when they had reliably used them in the past. As we predicted, the lack of a matching gift had a negative impact on results compared to prior years, which pointed to some potential issues with Development departments and their planning or constricting of gifts. (See Allison Porter’s thoughts on the win-win nature of matching gifts here.)

So far, we’ve seen our clients exceed last year’s year-end totals—some because of new strategy, some because of increased email sends. In addition to December activity, we ensured that our clients got in on the Giving Tuesday phenomenon, but we employed it as a kick-off to their year-end campaigns, vocalizing a substantial case for support, rather than simply asking donors to give because it was Giving Tuesday.

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January 29, 2015

Giving Tuesday – A Global Movement for Giving

Giving Tuesday Logo

In its third year, Giving Tuesday has grown into a true movement for giving around the world and serves as a counter to the spending-frenzy-induced days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Social media was abuzz with posts (check out this collection of the best posts from Giving Tuesday).

Many of our clients used Giving Tuesday as a springboard for their whole year-end giving campaign, not just Giving Tuesday; making sure their case for support was strong, relevant, and helped donors understand what their gifts could do. And this messaging will be supported by subsequent messages throughout December to motivate donors to give. Early returns show that a number of our clients saw increases over last year’s Giving Tuesday results, though some saw similar totals, and for still others it was their first time out. Many of our clients also saw increased traction on social media and collateral bumps in online revenue that may not be directly attributable to a Giving Tuesday link.

Unfortunately, many organizations’ emails I received were big on Giving Tuesday flash, but short on case for support. But with the uptick in awareness around the Giving Tuesday movement, maybe that’s something to test? My favorite tweet:

Brian Reich@BrianReich · Dec 2

I fully support #GivingTuesday – but I do wish the hundreds of charitable orgs wanting my money were a bit more creative with their asks.


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December 5, 2014

Online Fundraising that Get Results Every Time

Barb-PerellIn direct mail marketing, we create donor acquisition control packages that produce solid results, and workhorse appeal campaigns that deliver year after year. Because they work.

But what about online marketing?

anchor.stencil - Online Marketing - Sept VER 2We are all enthusiastic about the potential of this channel, and, as with other communications channels, we need to create a foundation for digital on which our marketing can grow. To position our digital programs for the long term, we need to establish the security of an anchor campaign, and then test, tweak, and improve from there.

If you haven’t created an online anchor campaign, now is the time to write, design, test, and launch what can become the underpinning for your entire online program.

Avalon has developed five perennial digital campaigns that deliver for our clients every time. Tailor one to your message and mission, test its effectiveness, and create your own online anchor campaign.

  • Motivate your supporters to give with a Membership Month campaign that presents a compelling theme with a built-in time limit. Throughout the month, you can add promotions, goals, and urgency to compel donors to sign up.
  • Online Voting is a terrific way to engage members by soliciting their preferences and encouraging donations. We have run numerous online voting campaigns, including one to select the cover photo for a printed calendar and another to choose the best humorous photo caption. Emailing results is another reason to contact supporters, and one they’ll look forward to.
  • Mirror your renewals online by synching your mailed and e-Renewals to give each a response boost. Simple and effective.
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September 29, 2014

Forward Thinking With Giving USA’s Charitable Giving Report

Screenshot of all 3 pages - 2014 reportLots of chatter online this month about the recently released, always fascinating Giving USA report and the Q4 2013 donorCentrics™ Index of Direct Marketing Fundraising. The primary good news take-away from Giving USA is that overall charitable giving is up for the fourth consecutive year. And donorCentrics spotlights the fact that individuals are giving more per person, which masks the downward trend in acquisition investment.


So what does this mean as we move forward?


First of all, pay attention to your donors. Joe Boland writes about the uptick in individual giving in Fundraising Success, “It’s just more proof that every donor matters… Fundraisers must always focus on their donors, cultivating them and building trusting, intimate relationships to land those future major gifts — and maybe even those future grants and corporate dollars.”


We couldn’t agree more. We know that the best ways to encourage donations are to focus on meeting individual donors where they are, to offer multi-channel ways for them to engage with your organization, and to cultivate their broad-based support for your mission.

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June 25, 2014

More Email, More Segmentation, More Revenue

Here is what I’ve seen and heard online recently:

• Check out Alchemy Worx’s 3 Reasons to Consider Sending More Emails and remember that an increase in volume must also be relevant and meaningful to your supporters.


New Google Grid View• Want more choices than simply Subject Line A or Subject Line B when segmenting your email file? Google Grid View allows marketers to send Image A, B, C, D, and E, all at once, and let an algorithm determine which of these images to serve to the person seeing it, based on the device, time of day, location, behavior, gender, age, and even purchase history. Read all about it!


• And last, a blog about click-to-call technology – in The Mobile Call to Action That Drives More Revenue Than the Rest, Eric Holmen cites Google’s report, The Role of the Click to Call in the Path to Purchase, 70 percent of mobile searchers have used the call button to connect directly with a business from the search results page. Definitely something to consider when potential supporters are seeking information about your organization and you’re seeking to convert them to donors.

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May 29, 2014