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Five Ways to Optimize Your Email Fundraising Strategy

Email is responsible for about one third of nonprofits’ online fundraising revenue. With email files often five times larger than social network followers, it has become the workhorse of many organizations’ digital fundraising.

Optimizing your email fundraising strategy can pay big dividends. Read on to learn ways you can make the most of your email program!

1

Focus on quality, not quantity.

Everyone is sending more emails—but users aren’t opening them. That’s why you should focus on quality, not quantity. For example, individualizing emails can increase open rates by 244 percent—and improve clickthrough rate by 161 percent.

2

Remove inactive addresses.

When you repeatedly email non-responders, the resulting lower engagement rates reduce the likelihood of your messages being delivered—which further depresses engagement rates. Purge those inactives to avoid being trapped in a vicious cycle.

3

Always test.

Test send day, send time, and cadence. Test subject line length, tone, and content. Test sender name and email address. And test copy and design to ensure that calls to action are clear and compelling. Test everything, and test often!

4

Create stronger and more specific segments so you always send the most relevant content.

Consider creating a “recently engaged” segment that includes recipients who have opened at least five or clicked at least one email in the past six months. You can also target specific interests based on response to a similar action alert or donation subject appeal in the current or previous year. And be sure to segment for chronic non-responders—those who have not opened, clicked, taken action or donated in a specific period.

5

Target content based upon what you know about your donors.

Your donors expect you to know who they are—so use the data you have! Personalize by name, location, and cohort status. And when you don’t know, ask questions to learn more!

We would love to work with you to optimize your email fundraising strategy and make the most of this important revenue source. Please reach out to Brenna Holmes, Principal and Senior Vice President, at bholmes@ccah.com to learn more about how we can help!

“We’re Changing Everything”: Navigating Social Ads in the 20s

Last year the social advertising industry was turned upside down.

With the release of iOS 14.5 for iPhone, Apple gave users the ability to opt-out of tracking for targeted advertising. The New York Times has reported that more than 80 percent of users have done so—a huge shift that has meant more than a few sleepless nights for CCAH’s Digital Advertising Team.

“The ad landscape has changed dramatically over the past year,” says Senior Digital Advertising Manager Mike Crump. “It’s been a time of rapid learning for everyone in the industry.”

Earlier this week, Mike and Senior Advertising Specialist Linsey Park led a session at the Nonprofit Technology Conference exploring both the challenges and unexpected opportunities presented by last year’s dramatic shift.

The numbers tell the story: impression costs on Facebook are double or even triple what they were last year. Donation rates are dropping, there’s less individual engagement on Facebook, and changes to interest-based targeting—particularly important for nonprofits—have thrown many marketers for a loop.

Not CCAH’s Digital Advertising team, however.

“It’s been a challenge, but an exciting one,” says Mike. “It has given us the opportunity to reassess some longstanding assumptions within the fundraising and advertising space—and try new things.”

One example is the team’s push for more creative advertising approaches, incorporating video and animation—as well as static ads—to grab and hold users’ attention. Mike, Linsey and the rest of the Digital Advertising department have also been exploring a variety of lead generation strategies like quizzes, surveys, petitions and more. Investing in these strategies will drive traffic and create a “well” of users for later retargeting.

But no matter how creative you get, there’s no getting around it: Facebook and other social media platforms simply can’t provide the audience or the data that they used to. That’s why CCAH’s Digital Advertising team remains committed to following the data.

In this new era of digital advertising, it’s more important than ever to monitor costs, track conversions, and adjust accordingly.

In addition, bringing digital advertising out of its traditional silo has become absolutely essential. Ads should compliment what is happening across other channels, contributing to overall brand awareness and increasing the number of touchpoints.

Linsey sees CCAH’s Digital Advertising team as uniquely ready to meet this challenge. “In our department, we have seasoned nonprofit fundraising professionals as well as for-profit experts.” She believes that industry-wide changes will lead to more of an overlap between for-profit and non-profit advertising—and knows that CCAH is more prepared than most for this shift.

If you’d like to know more about how CCAH and our Digital Advertising team can help your organization during this period of transition, feel free to reach out to Mike at mcrump@ccah.com or Linsey at lpark@ccah.com. We’d love to work with you!

The Future of Digital Advertising

Preparing for a Cookieless Future

The only constant is change.

This mantra could never ring truer than for those of us who spend our days focused on digital advertising. With technology advances, shifts in policy priorities, and an ever-evolving user base adjusting its online activity, we know change is always around the corner.

But when you’re tasked with bringing in mission-critical revenue for some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits, you can’t be afraid of that.

The latest wave of change in the online ecosystem? The looming sunset of the third-party cookie. Or rather, the decision to retire support for it in Google Chrome (several other browsers have already retired third-party cookie support in recent years, citing privacy and other concerns). But with Chrome’s 65% market share (and 70% on mobile!) this decision effectively puts the nail in the coffin.

Last year, Google announced its decision to sunset support in Chrome in 2022, and since then a flood of bad puns have filled the advertising space and industry papers about cookies crumbling, half-baked tech responses, and other groaners. Google has since adjusted its timeline to delay this change to 2023, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start preparing now.

Why does this matter? First- and third-party cookies are a big part of what makes the internet function. They help websites deliver a customized web experience to you (think leaving an item in your online shopping cart), and they can ensure that the ads you receive (and that keep your favorite websites online) make sense for you as the individual.

We (Van Do, Senior Strategist, and Mike Crump, Digital Advertising Manager, along with Pete Ellard of Nexis Direct) were fortunate enough to present on what’s next in the digital advertising space without a third-party cookie as a part of DMAW’s Digital Week. (For a deeper dive than we’re able to fit in a blog post, take a look at our presentation here).

Here’s the thing though: despite a lot of chatter on the end of the third-party cookie, for 90% of your nonprofit advertising and fundraising efforts, you’re not going to see a real change.

You want to raise the most revenue for your programs, and the strongest direct results in the nonprofit world right now are generally coming from the “walled gardens” of Google, Facebook, etc, with robust first-party user data. Could this change? Sure. Soon? We’re not betting on that.

But there will be an impact on programmatic advertising like banner ads on websites, which use web signals (anonymous) and credentials to build out and fine tune user profiles for optimal ad delivery and to remarket. Historically, programmatic delivery has relied on third-party cookies that help connect a user’s web activity across different websites.

As we already noted, the third-party cookie has been on the decline for several years.

And the industry has been preparing for that. New tech like Google Turtledove and Privacy Sandbox have been under development to specifically address the sunset of the third-party cookie. And while those tools will take some time for full development and rollout, rest assured that they are on the horizon.

So let’s look back at first-party data, which is where we’ll need to focus in the short term.

What can you do right now?

  • Take a look at your access to first-party data. Are your Google Tag Manager and Analytics accounts fully set up to maximize data collection?
  • Look at your users. What additional information can you gain about your customers to tease out new targeting models? What are some overlying interests and demographics? What content sources do they follow? How can you use this information strategically?
  • Start testing. Start your testing now — if you’re quick you may even find some learnings that can be applied at year end.

What can you test? Some areas of opportunity to consider (and for more information on these, take a look at our presentation):

  • Native and Contextual Targeting to supplement programmatic display budgets
  • Direct buys with content creators utilizing their internal user data
  • Other data sources like IP targeting
  • Robust targeting lists from data vendors
  • Inventory from niche sites relevant to your mission

The TL;DR: If your organization is small or new, or otherwise has a small ad investment program, focus on high-impact, high-result channels first (Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Facebook & Instagram). Prioritizing these platforms while results are strong will limit the impact of the cookieless future on your program.

And for your programmatic and display budgets? Dig into the data and start testing! But don’t scale until you see results coming in to warrant a spend.

We’re always up for a discussion with other nonprofit professionals and marketers about digital advertising. You can reach me at mcrump@ccah.com or Van at vdo@ccah.com. For more information on how this may impact your organization, reach out to work with us!

Pivot Quick in Snail Mail

Right now, the world is changing at a rapid rate. With pandemics, changing work environments, and civil unrest amplifying systemic issues to catalyze important change, it can be difficult to figure out how tried-and-true direct mail best practices and anchor campaigns fit into this new reality. What do you do in the face of the unknown? What tools, tips, and techniques should you use when world events mean your program needs to pivot—and pivot fast—when you work in direct mail (DM)?

Step one: Talk to your digital counterparts

Discuss options to go live with the new messaging on your homepage, over email and social, and SMS and phone. These channels have an unmatched ability to get your message out quickly, as well as giving your organization the option to test language and more fully develop your plan of action for your donors as new details on the topic reveal themselves.

However, if most of your donors are direct mail responsive, aren’t mobile opted in, or if there isn’t much overlap between your email and DM programs, these channels alone won’t get your message to everyone that needs to hear it. If you do not have key techniques ready to implement so you can quickly and efficiently reach your direct mail donors, you will be missing out on a key group of supporters. It’s incredibly important that these people, too, know your organizational response to a changing environment.

Direct mail is not a beauty contest

So a simple and straightforward urgent message received in a timely manner is often more important than providing donors with a highly-produced, design-heavy package. If your mail schedule and cadence allow you to print new material, you can create a simple package to get your message to your audience. Many times, you can use an “urgent-gram,” which is pre-printed material that allows you to simply add your organizational messaging.

Rework what you’ve already done

Recoding data from a recent appeal or renewal can also shorten the time frame from creative development to your drop date. If you are able to truncate your art approval timelines, recoding data (which can mean faster turn times than starting from scratch) can allow you to get your message in the mail quickly.

Look at some production-focused strategies

These can include digital printing, duplex lasering, and multiple-window no-print envelopes, and all of these strategies can shorten timelines. In digital printing, you can print and laser your material all at once, bypassing the proof, or blueline, step of the process. Duplex lasering allows an organization to print material without finalizing their messaging before printing. This gives another week or two to allow a situation to develop, thereby giving you the most information at your disposal before finalizing your stance. By mailing in simple formats with stock that is readily available, you will improve your chances of getting in the mail as quickly as possible.

Have the option to change your signer

Often overlooked, but a useful way to cut timelines for some organizations: if a finance officer, director of marketing, or membership chair can sign instead of going all the way to a president or CEO for approval, you can shorten the timeline you need to vet a package but still ensure your organization’s unique brand and voice are maintained. If a package was planned with the use of a celebrity signer in mind, consider moving that tactic to later in your calendar and swapping in a mailing that needs fewer approvals so that you can move quickly.

But what if you’ve already printed, the signer is final, and your cadence won’t allow you to miss a mailing?

A buckslip can be a quick and easy way to add information to an existing mailing before it goes in the mail. While this does not allow you to tailor your entire message/approach to a mailing, in a pinch, it allows you to connect with these donors without missing a mailing or having to trash your printed material. For programs like acquisition where list clearances only last for so long, a buckslip can ensure your organization isn’t ignoring the current state of the world, but also isn’t missing out on needed funds to further their mission.

Direct mail means planning and working far in advance, but when your plans get turned on their head, it doesn’t mean you have no options. It’s important to make sure your donors know where your organization stands and to reinforce that you are being good stewards of your donors’ gifts—especially in unknown times.

Being able to act quickly gives you the best chance of reaching your donors, and having the ability to be the first in inboxes and mailboxes can make a substantial difference in your capacity to raise funds around a specific issue and keep donors informed. Allow yourself to pivot quickly, or at least, as quickly as we can in snail mail!

Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

Remote Collaboration

At CCAH, many of our employees worked remotely even before the current COVID-19 crisis sent all of us to our home offices. Over the years we’ve learned some best practices for teleworking that can be applied now, but also whenever you have a teammate who isn’t physically in the office with you for any reason!

Turn On Your Video

When working from home, it can be tempting to dress as though it’s extra casual Friday every day of the week, and though this post won’t dive into the value of getting “dressed for work” even when you’re only going as far as your home office, it is a great idea to be presentable for the camera. Being face to face with your team, even when you aren’t physically in the same space, is nothing short of a necessity. Seeing each other allows for nuance, body language, and important conversational cues that just aren’t possible if you’re using voice-only communication methods.

Keep (Or Set Up) Standing Meetings

Without the opportunity to run into each other in an office, it’s important to keep in touch with coworkers! If you have a mentor or friend who you have lunch with, or a coworker on another team who you share ideas with, set up a weekly or biweekly chat so that you can keep talking! Similarly, if you have check-ins with your teammates when you’re in the office – individually or in groups – keep them on the calendar. Setting time aside to keep up with each other is a great way to keep remote work from feeling like a lonely endeavor.

Don’t Forsake Small Talk

When a meeting begins in person, there’s often a few minutes when folks are gathering that is taken up by that dreaded social phenomenon – small talk. But think about how many times a little non-work-related conversation in the middle of the day left you feeling renewed and a little more connected to whoever you talked with. That kind of social connection is vital when trying to maintain morale and collaboration from solo work environments! Use a few minutes as everyone joins a conference call to ask about everyone’s day or commiserate about the latest telework woe. Those conversations build relationships, and teams that know and trust each other do better work.

Use Group Chats

Many online platforms like Slack, Skype for Business, or Google, offer the ability to put your team in a good old fashioned chat room. This allows discussion to flow with buy-in from everyone, and helps to foster connection among teammates near and far.

Share Ideas and Brainstorm

Working from home can feel isolating, but one way to keep that at bay is to keep lines of communication open for new ideas and brainstorms. When teammates trust each other, it isn’t so scary to share new ideas – even when they might need a little work or be less than great. Any suggestion that doesn’t make it into the mainstream can still be a starting point for fruitful conversation!

Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

After Candy and Caffeine: How to Get Creative When You’re Out of Ideas

A deadline is looming. A blank page glares at you from your laptop screen. You’ve had three vats of coffee in as many hours, along with several pieces (it was boxes, but we won’t tell) of candy from a post-Valentine’s Day sale at CVS.

And still the answer eludes you.

Your project just needs that one big, brilliant idea. But you’re out of ideas!

You contemplate spilling your coffee on your laptop so you can tell IT that it broke and buy time while you wait for a replacement (or a stroke of genius) to arrive. You brew a fourth vat of coffee…

We’ve all been there. Many, many times. Channeling creativity can prove a challenge for anyone, no matter what field you work in or how seasoned you may be in your career. And if there’s a deadline (and there’s always a deadline), creativity can feel even more elusive.

But we have tips we’ve put to the test to get those creative engines running when your typical sources of fuel, like candy or coffee, are failing to ignite.

We asked CCAH staff in a variety of positions, from data and analytics to graphic design and production,  “How do you brainstorm when you’re out of ideas?”

While many ideas bubbled up*—some from under heaps of foil candy wrappers—one response emerged again and again:

Collaborate!

When you’re in a rut, bringing in reinforcements always seems to help. Recruiting a team with wide-ranging expertise and experiences can be just what you need to get unstuck.

“When I’m out of ideas, I turn to my coworkers for inspiration!” said Rebecca Barton, Account Representative. “We have so many creative people who are doing innovative package techniques, so whenever I hit a roadblock, I will ask the people around me what they think and, through that collaboration, usually find exactly what a package was missing.”

How you collaborate is also important: Creating a space where everyone can contribute freely and openly will likely yield the best results.

“I’m a fan of collaborating with others. I think the key is creating an open conversation where everyone can share whatever goes through their mind — the good and terrible ideas, stuff that is inside and outside the box,” said Will Kraiger, Vice President. “Sometimes even the terrible ideas shed light on something that can move the conversation to the right place.  You can always reject, edit, and refine things after the brainstorm is over.”

But what if there’s no one else around? We hear you, remote employees! If you can’t get a group brainstorm together, here are a few other ideas to turn to when ideas are what you need.

Do something totally unrelated to the task at hand.

Take your dog for a walk, do yoga, draw, or just work on a different type of assignment. Engage in anything that lets your brain take a break from the challenge but keeps you engaged.

Do nothing.

Well, almost nothing. Meditate! The benefits of mindfulness are well documented, so we won’t recap them here. But, om my, meditation came up enough times in our informal survey that we’d be remiss not to add it to our list.

Go outside.

A change of scenery can bring a change of perspective and help you get out of your headspace. And if there are downsides to sunlight and fresh air, we’ve yet to hear of them.

Keep an idea bank.

Always be prepared. Chances are, most of us will hit a creative block at some point in our work. So it’s helpful to keep a running list of creative concepts and ideas you can go to for inspiration whenever you’re stumped on a particular challenge.

Whether it’s deep breathing or sipping tea, doing Crossfit or watching “Brain Games” on National Geographic, we uncovered countless ways our staff tap into their creative energy. But above all, collaboration is—for all of us at CCAH—at the very heart of the process. It’s how we spark ideas, spur innovation, and find creative solutions to the tough challenges. Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

*Disclaimer: Our tips for channeling creativity have not been scientifically tested, but they have been personally attempted by at least one or more CCAH team members who seem to like them. However, we believe you should always talk to your doctor before taking up new activities or quitting caffeine.

CCAH Attends Engaging Networks Community Conference

Last week CCAH had the honor of presenting at the Engaging Networks Community Conference. This conference is an opportunity for industry leaders to have one-on-one conversations with colleagues and learn how they are innovating on the Engaging Networks platform.

CCAH attendees learned about critical strategies to ensure increased data security, innovative features exclusive to the platform, and got a sneak peek at what Engaging Networks has in store for 2020. These learnings will allow our Account and Web Developer teams to better achieve client goals by building upon the already robust donation tracking, A/B testing, personalization, and segmentation strategies.

With topics ranging from email automation to peer to peer fundraising, this conference was a great way to remind ourselves of tried and true SOPs and the importance of finding innovative techniques for our client’s success. Conferences like these are a great way for CCAH to show our community what’s working for our clients and what’s working for our company.

Brenna Holmes, Vice President of Digital Services, and Alyssa Ackerman, Senior Account Executive, co-led a session on building a recurring giving program for the future. These sessions featured omnichannel tips as well as case studies of our most successful tactics.

Check out some photos of our experience and the full-length presentation video below!

CCAH Annual Putt-Putt Tournament

It’s summer, which means one very important tradition is about to happen at CCAH: CCAH PGA. This annual putt-putt tournament is a staple of CCAH culture and has been around for almost as long as the firm itself.

It’s also the largest athletic competition of the year at CCAH, which means that participants of all ages, abilities, and affiliations brought their A-game to this Friday festivity.

“If I’m going to win anything at CCAH, it’s this,” said Trent Cubine, a summer intern and CCAH PGA hopeful. With putt-putt legend and two-time champion Sean Coogan out of the office on Friday, this tournament was anyone’s game.

CCAH PGA founder and facilitator (as well as CCAH Chairman and Partner) Jim Hussey made it clear that competition is not the focus of the tournament. “It’s been a good opportunity for team building, to take a break from things,” Hussey said.

The long history and continued excitement around CCAH PGA is a testament to the tournament’s success. “We started this tournament twenty years ago,” Hussey said. “It’s actually been going on longer than some of the participants have been alive.”

Maryann Chan attempts to extricate herself from the office area of HR Coordinator, Chastity Morris.

Account Representative Cindy Edward was a CCAH PGA first-timer hoping to make a strong entrance to the field. Though she began with a strong start putting through the hallway by the printer, she started to tally up the strokes in the lead-up to the front desk area. When asked about whether she had high hopes about making it to the finals, Edward responded “definitely not. It’s like poker, where when you first play, people are like ‘you did really well’ but I think this is kind of it. I’ve lost my touch.”

Many competitors dressed for the occasion, though opinion varied about which type of attire was optimal for the tournament. Account Executive Maryann Chan wore a pragmatic, professional combination of golf shirt and golf skirt, a traditional putt-putt outfit for her. Intern Trent Cubine wore a golfing glove to avoid blisters, though he was seen playing without it in the championship round.

“You’ve got to dress for the green,” said Senior Acquisition Planner Steve Paddock. “I’ve been looking for an opportunity to wear my Figment the Dragon socks for some time now. If not today, then when?”

Once the top six competitors had been determined by pool play, it was time for the course to receive some … improvements. Among the additions to the course were a barrier of pink packing peanuts, an inflatable ninja, overturned office chairs, an ornamental rug, several binders, and a plastic skeleton.

The first competitor to make it through a tricky gap by Account Rep Kyra Rogan’s desk, Kopf said that that was the moment he started to think he might have a chance to win it all. “As long as I could hit it over the leg of the plastic skeleton without it bouncing back into Shannon’s office, I thought I would probably be in the clear,” he said.

Kopf landed the shot and putted his way to the course’s end, followed by Erin Devost in 2nd and Trent Cubine in 3rd.

The only contestant under 21, Kopf appreciates the irony that he won the grand prize of a gift card to The Punchbowl Social, a popular late-night destination in Arlington. “Fortunately, they have plenty of food there too,” Kopf noted. 

After the competition was done, the course disappeared as fast as it had materialized. But don’t think that the excitement of CCAH PGA is gone.

After all, CCAH PGA 2020 is just around the corner. 

Catherine Algeri prepares to round the final corner in the championship round, while spectators, officiators, and other competitors look on.