Geek looking at data

How to Use Data to Inform Your Fundraising Messaging

Published Sep 23, 2020, 01:55 PM by Environics Analytics
Drive results from your direct mail and integrated marketing campaigns with a data-driven approach to writing.

Whether you are a local non-profit on a shoe-string budget or a large national organization, there are many ways to leverage data and analytics to improve your fundraising messaging. How much of a role do data and analytics play in crafting your fundraising message? From our perspective, a lot. Avoid the trap of speaking only from the perspective of your organization’s mission and values, and assuming people you connect with feel the same way. Find out how to use data to inform your fundraising messaging that resonates with your donors and volunteers in a way that drives action.

Find the right persona for your campaign

Most of us understand the benefits of creating and using personas to understand a specific audience better. Highlighting similarities and differences can help identify what is important to a particular group of people and how they prefer to consume information. When it comes to direct mail campaigns and crafting effective messaging, a significant differentiator is the ability to map personas to a specific campaign. Not all your constituents connect with your organization in the same way or for the same reasons. For example, by mapping personas to an organization's values, we can quickly identify which personas share the same values as the organization and which do not. We can then use that information to focus appeals to that specific persona. It has been our experience that the most successful campaigns are the ones that focus on the right values in their targeting. 

Understand what motivates action

 “If a constituent on my list doesn’t align with my organizational values, should I exclude them from my marketing efforts?”

Not necessarily.  For example, if you are a big acute care hospital and have a mental health program, that doesn't mean you don't reach out to a specific group for money because they better align with poverty housing. It means that you should not cater organizational messaging to this group because they could be less motivated to contribute. Look to potentially broader values that may still include your organization and align with this group of constituents or personas. Additional research like Social Values, provided to us by sister company Environics Research, helps us understand the attitudes and values of people and what might encourage them to take an action that you want them to. It helps to answer questions like:

  • What would cause this person to donate or volunteer?
  • Would this person feel good about taking this action?

This deeper knowledge of your audience helps to inform the content of your message, how to position your message and the best channel to communicate your message through.

Share your message in a way that is appealing to your reader 

If you know that your audience really resonates with obedience to authority, incorporate an authority figure within your messaging. If you know your audience values personal control, you can speak to them in a way that allows them to feel like they are making the decision. A big part of effective messaging involves prioritizing value in the right way for the right person.

Data helps us to do this.

Like the way we can map personas to a campaign, we can also look at values and indices to build the message. We look at the data to determine what values index higher, what values index lower and how they relate to your campaign message. We can identify the values that make sense to speak to and what you should stay away from through this process.

Emphasize what is important to your reader and increase the likelihood of your message resonating

We recognize that it can be costly to create a new message for each target audience. In cases where this is a concern, it is worth noting that the messaging does not necessarily need to change. An alternative approach focuses on heading placement, page layout and typeface to turn the volume up or down on any given message. For example, if your target audience does not believe in brand and you are a big company, one way to overcome that would be to turn down the volume on brand messaging and turn up the volume on your organization's work.

Tech is a big deal for not-for-profits, especially in health care. While half of your constituents may be tech-savvy, the other half may not be and even experience tech anxiety. You may want to talk about tech because of its appeal (that helpful overlap we discussed above) without alienating the other half. One approach would be to speak about tech but emphasize the outcomes or community impact.

In closing 

These are a few ways data can help ensure that your fundraising messaging drives interest and action. This post was inspired by a conversation between Maeve Strathy and Mo Waja of 15-Minute Fundraising on the 15-Minute Fundraising Podcast and Allen Davidov of EA about data-driven fundraising. Listen to the full episode titled "Data-Driven Drafting" to learn more about where to begin when incorporating data-driven insights into your fundraising writing and additional tips for those on a shoe-string budget.

Listen to Podcast



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