<ALL THINGS> Social Media

friday september 7 2018

Erin Shy, EVP &amp; General Manager at Community Brands

Erin Shy, EVP & General Manager at Community Brands


In today's edition of <ALL THINGS> Social:

INTERVIEW: The Future of Fundraising

Erin Shy literally built her career from the ground up in the nonprofit technology sector, and she's seen many parts of the business. She's served in business development, training, account management, professional services, products, and general management. Along the way, Erin worked for Accenture, Sage, Abila, and today for Community Brands where she is Executive Vice President, Nonprofit Solutions, and General Manager, Abila. 

Erin was interviewed by Jeff Patrick, CEO at COHORT3.

Jeff: During 2018, what's the single most important fundraising best practice or program to surface in the nonprofit industry?

In the consumer market, we’ve seen companies use sophisticated marketing tools to score individuals into segments of the highest engagement with a brand or affinity for a product. Then, they can target those individuals with tailored messaging or product suggestions based on clues the consumer has left behind from online interactions. You might, for example, have experienced the strange phenomenon of booking a flight on your laptop only to go on Facebook or Instagram using your mobile device the next day and see an ad for a hotel in that city. While the feeling that Big Brother is watching can be a bit jarring, target marketing works. And, the tools available today allow us to target individuals with remarkable precision.

These marketing strategies and tactics once required a large investment of time and resources, which were often out of reach for most nonprofits. Those barriers now have been removed. More nonprofits are using these tools to find new donors who are more likely to engage with their organization based on their online interactions.

This goes far beyond just targeting donors using Facebook ads. An integrated target marketing strategy allows a nonprofit to score an individual based on their engagement, asking:

How often do they interact with your website?
Do they attend your events?
Have they ever donated, or, better yet, fundraised on your behalf?
And, how has their engagement changed over time?

Some interactions have a shelf-life. So, the frequency and freshness of those interactions is an important component of an individual’s engagement score. Using tools that allow you to maintain a dynamic engagement score for an individual provides insight into who is rising and falling. Outreach on both online and offline channels should then be tailored to that individual’s specific trend. Just as the hotel knew you’d be in Cleveland next month, a nonprofit can segment appeals to meet the specific interests of their donors at a specific point in time and maximize their response rate.

Jeff: For next year, which new and innovative fundraising technology has the greatest potential to radically improve fundraising results for nonprofits, and why?

 Big data is a decade-old trend. But, most nonprofits don’t have a large enough dataset to see the type of meaningful insights big data projects create. Most nonprofits can examine their data to see trends, such as the effectiveness of different campaigns, demographics or basic A/B testing results of email campaigns through what subject lines get the highest click-through rates. While all these examples are extremely important for a nonprofit to measure, they are all lagging metrics and can only tell a nonprofit how things performed in the past versus giving a nonprofit leading measures to predict the most effective approach for the future. A nonprofit needs more than a rearview mirror, especially considering the extreme pressures to be the most efficient with limited resources.

To get the traction of a forward-looking view, nonprofits will need to work with technology platforms that allow them to contribute to and interact with aggregate data across the entire industry. If you, for example, are a small nonprofit running a silent auction at your annual fundraising gala, it’s unlikely you have enough variety in your historical data to make a data-based, predictive decision on what night to hold your event to yield the best ticket sales. Or, even to know if a safari trip or orchestra seats for Hamilton will likely yield the most money raised. By working with technology partners who can aggregate this data and predict future outcomes based on this larger dataset, nonprofits can start making data-informed decisions for the future versus only being able to report on results after an event or a campaign.

Jeff: How do you think nonprofit fundraising will be different in five years?

Erin: Without question, we will see more automation in the future. While personalization will continue to be the most important element in making the ask, there are steps to get a donor ready for the ask that can be automated without sacrificing personalization.

We will see more nonprofits using chatbots and other automated communication tools. While not yet widely used, some nonprofits are using artificial intelligence (AI) to draft emails to donors based on their interests, last gift, and history with the organization. The Major Gift Officer can customize emails at an individual level, and let the machine learn the language patterns and vocabulary so fundraisers can incorporate it into future communications. As those tools become more accessible to nonprofits of all sizes, this type of machine learning and automation will become standard practice for fundraising professionals.

While the machine will never replace the professional fundraiser, it can help find the right donors and then streamline the monotonous and repetitive work. Less time behind the desk running reports and crafting emails to donors means more time out in the field meeting donors to make the ask in person. Paradoxically, more automation leads us to more personalization.

Jeff: Thanks, Erin. Great stuff.


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