Fundraising in Surround Sound: Integrating Online and Multi-channel Appeals


They say it takes seven times for a prospect to see or hear from you before they take action.

While abiding by the Rule of Seven may seem like it’s a lot for any one channel, strategically using a couple different channels to communicate with your supporters is an easy way to achieve a “surround sound effect” with big pay-off.

Last week, our own Client Manager Erin Viray and Senior Client Manager Amanda Luther led a session at Association of Fundraising Professionals DC on how to integrate online and multi-channel appeals - click here to check out their slides! Namely, how can organizations leverage email, phone appeals, direct mail, and social media to for an effective multi-channel approach to communicating with your supporters to get the best engagement rates?

Creating a surround sound effect

The duo shared how Indigenous Community Volunteers organized a campaign last year that integrated email, direct mail, and phone communication successfully. All channels were well-orchestrated to work in tandem to provide a personal, multi-channel experience that made achieving the Rule of 7 not so hard after all.

When ICV acquired new supporters on, they onboarded them with a warm Thank You email that offered them a chance to receive a beautiful free greeting card. To get that gift, people had to click on a link and were directed to a landing page where they filled in their mailing addresses and phone numbers. At this point, performance was high – 52% open rate on the email, 39% click-through rate, and 40% landing page conversion. They were excited and so were we.

What did they do next? They picked up the phone the next day (or their well-trained telemarketers did) and called those that provided their phone number. The (very!) basics of the conversation went like this:

Indigenous Community Volunteers: “Hey, would you be interested in becoming a monthly donor?”

13% of people said yes. And on average, they gave $18. But while this was going on, the ICV team was dropping gift packages in the mail to those that entered their mailing address. And people were pretty happy to be getting the greeting card kits just a few days after.

But it didn’t stop there. For those that declined to donate over the phone, Team ICV used their email addresses one more time. They sent them a message asking for a one time gift – and it worked. 40% of those folks opened the email, 7% clicked through, and 40% converted to one-time donors. This led to 91% ROI in the first year!

You might be thinking, “Okay, that’s all great. But I don’t have the resources to execute a campaign on all these channels. What if I’m just getting started?” Or “I’ve got a strong direct mail channel, but can I do to grow my telefundraising program?” Here are a few tips Erin and Amanda shared on how to break it down:

Land in their inbox with intention

Segment, segment, segment! Personalized emails can drive 18x more revenue and higher engagement rates, so you’re going to want to tailor different content to different groups on your list.

It all depends on what works for your organization, but chances are it makes sense to speak differently to different groups of folks. Maybe you want to segment based on demographic information (like using postal codes to send folks geographically-targeted communications about events in certain area). Or perhaps you’d like to send your new supporters a Thank You email, welcoming them to your list (and you should!). And – because we all know fundraising is on top of many organizations’ minds – consider separating emails between donors (who should be thanked, always) and non-donors (who have the potential to give their first gift).

Get them on the phone

Using the phone to communicate with your supporters isn’t just the most literal way to build that “surround sound” effect – it’s also a personal way to build rapport, a chance to share your story, and an accelerated opportunity to ask for a donation.

If you’re following best practices around telefundraising, you’ll be calling individuals as soon as you can (ideally within the first 24 hours to one week of them opting in). You’ll also keep your telemarketing agents well-versed on your campaign issues (UNHCR in Spain has an in-house telefundraising team, while other organizations partner with telemarketing agencies and invest in training). Lastly, prioritize lead quality (people who proactively provide their phone number to you will always perform better than those who were appended).

Appear in their mailboxes

There’s something about snail mail that’s so tangible and familiar. Unlike email, phone, or social media, it is also an opportunity for your organization to engage in some lengthy storytelling, which people might enjoy reading on the couch with a cup of coffee.

If you’re running an online campaign as well, make sure they are coordinated both in timing and theme. For example, know your audience overlap so that you can make reference in your emails to Direct Mail pieces that people should be getting in their mailbox (“You’ll be getting a coloring book in the mail. Don’t forget to sign it and send it back so we can give it to your Sponsored Child!”).  

Show up on their feed

You can assume that many of your email supporters are already on social media. They key is understanding where they are. If they are on Facebook, be on Facebook. If they’re on Twitter, be tweeting!

Don’t be scared of using a casual tone on these platforms either. You want to fit in with the vibe and match your voice to the conversation. And don’t discount those Likes, Shares, and Retweets. They might all have taken a second to do, but they’re forms of engagement that can be cultivated into deeper actions down the road.

If you’re looking to strengthen your communication to supporters, consistent messaging across various channels can create a memorable, actionable, and engaging personal experience. We’d love to hear your multi-channel fundraising best practices, so share them with us at @ChangeOrgs!


Want to learn more about this approach?