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In part 1 of our special 3-part series with Rebecca Gregory Segovia of Pursuant, we discuss innovative ways to engage prospects and turn them into donors through digital fundraising.

Full Transcript:

Steven: And here we go. Hey, there. Welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV special three-part edition. This is something that we haven’t done at all before but I’m really excited to have Rebecca Gregory Segovia. She is the executive vice president of client strategy over at Pursuant, which are good friends of ours, awesome organization. Rebecca, how’s it going?

Rebecca: Pretty good. How are you doing today?

Steven: Good, thanks for being here, thanks for agreeing to a three parter. We’re going to be talking about a lot of different things. We’re going to do three episodes with you. If you’re watching this one, this is the first. Lots of different topics we’re going to cover but Rebecca, I want you to tell people about Pursuant, for those who may not be familiar with your organization, before we begin.

Rebecca: Sure, thanks. Pursuant is a full service fundraising agency. Our goal is to help nonprofits raise funds so that they can really achieve their mission impact. What’s unique about Pursuant is that we think about fundraising holistically, so we pay attention to what’s happening at the annual fund level, and all the different ways that you can engage the annual or general fund, and then how what happens there can actually impact what’s happening at the mid-level and at the major level — capital campaigns, planned giving.

So we really look to move people from a transactional relationship with an organization to a transformational relationship with an organization and all the different ways that we can do that through social media, digital fundraising, direct mail, phone, face to face, so all of those different ways that you can look at fundraising and how it can work together.

Steven: I love it. You guys do great work. You put out really great content too and I’m glad you mentioned the social media aspect because you guys are really tuned in to the digital landscape as it pertains to nonprofits. Could you describe what that looks like, maybe how that’s changed or evolved over the last five to 10 years?

Rebecca: Sure, I like to think back to my own personal experience. I started out in fundraising about 15 years ago and at the time, we maybe sent out a newsletter and direct mail letters and we were just trying to figure out what the digital space was going to look like to the organization that I worked for. We acquired a software called Convio, which is now owned by Blackbaud and we started into that foray of what does it look like to send emails that are timely and relevant to our constituent base.

We really thought through, “Okay, if this tool can do all of these great things, how are we starting to capture those interests and what people are interested in, and then communicate to them based on that?” Here we are 15 years later and now we’re looking at ways social media, like Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter and the list goes on and on, how those are actually impacting the relationship that you can, as a nonprofit, have with your constituent base and it’s very real-time now.

Steven: Yeah.

Rebecca: And it depends on what you’re doing and so we want to actually figure out how do you bridge the gap between what you’re communicating in the social space, how that sits in the digital space, and then how does that fit into your overall communication plan?

Steven: Yeah, it’s a great time to be a fundraiser. It seems like all these tools are available.

Rebecca: It is, so it’s a completely different world than it was 10 years ago.

Steven: And it seems like, and correct me if I’m wrong, but one thing I’ve noticed is nonprofits in general have been pretty good about adopting all those things — dipping their toes into all the water or jumping in in many cases — but it seems like there’s still a struggle to kind of measure the effectiveness. You know, those ROI questions.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Steven: How can nonprofits really make results happen beyond just creating all these accounts and sending emails? How do you generate those results beyond just using the tactics and strategies that are out there?

Rebecca: That’s a really great question and there’s two things that I would ask. One is what is your overarching strategical, what is the plan, and have you actually sat down and figured out how each of those channels are going to work together in order to drive your results? Then really what’s key is what are you measuring? Are you wanting to know how acquisitions are working, or are you wanting to know how long it’s taking for a new name to come onto a file and convert? Are you wanting to know how long it takes to make the first gift? Are you trying to actively drive them into maybe an ongoing relationship with the organization where they become a sustaining donor? When do you decide what the right time for that upgrade conversation is?

All of those things kind of need to play a role in your strategic plans, and then you need to actually measure the outcomes of that, and then say, “Okay, how can I do better at the acquisition piece and then what are those things that are driving acquisitions?” Is it phone? Is it online? Is it social? Is it mail? You’ve got to ask and answer all of those questions.

Steven: So you work with a lot of nonprofits. You go to events and you talk to people. You have clients, obviously. Have you seen anyone that’s just killing it with all these things you’re talking about? I know people mention, like, Charity: Water and those guys all the time. Any other nonprofits that you could point to someone and say, “You should be doing what they’re doing because they really get it”?

Rebecca: Yeah, we’ve had some success working with a couple of different organizations, thinking a little bit outside the box from an acquisition standpoint, especially from a digital perspective. One of the things that I like about digital is that it can be quick. You can lower the cost of fundraising. It’s not as expensive to run a digital campaign as it would be to potentially to integrate a large mail acquisition campaign. Not that you shouldn’t do that, I think that what we know about fundraising is that most multi-channel donors, those that are giving, receiving information from the event channels are actually the most valuable and also as the sign of engagement is a way to go but when you’re testing what is going to work, I think digital is a great way to do that.

I could probably spend some time talking about two different clients that I’ve enjoyed working with over the last year, couple of years, actually. One is the Barbara Bush Foundation For Family Literacy and they came to us with a problem to solve and that problem was, “How do we actually build an annual fund or a general fund?” They’d been doing a lot of major donor fundraising and that was kind of where their area of focus had been and they needed to build a base.

We asked what it would look like to actually start the fundraising acquisition effort in a social space and we did it doing a couple of things. The first was a social quiz and the quiz was really about, “What is your favorite children’s book?” We had an incentive with that question so if you were to vote, if you will, then they had a corporate sponsor that was going to have a one-to-one match for that vote, if you will. They went, basically from having zero people on their file to just under 25,000 people vote or new name, which is incredible.

Steven: Wow.

Rebecca: Exactly, wow. Then the question becomes now you’ve just put all these people onto the file and they came on through their interest in literacy by answering, “What was your favorite children’s book?” and now you have the responsibility to actually educate them a little bit more about the organization.

Steven: Right.

Rebecca: This is an intentional conversion stream but what’s interesting about that conversion stream is we looked at how can we be reflective back to the constituent on what actually drew them in. If they voted for Clifford as their favorite book, then there was some mention in the email communication about Clifford and some lines from that and really kind of rallying around that, and then talking about impact that the organization was having.

The second thing that we did, so now we’ve brought people into the fold, if you will, and we wanted to have that intentional communication, and then we decided that we wanted to see if any of those first-time givers or first-time names, actually became a first-time giver and we wanted to incentivize that as well and so we had a match.

And we took people from that conversation I was just talking about into, “Here’s what literacy means to us. Would you stand with us? Would you join? Would you make a pledge? Would you make a gift?” not a pledge. Then we had that one-for-one match and we did it around Mother’s Day, so we kind of had a rally cry around Mother’s Day to honor your mother as well, and we had just over $46,000 given from first-time givers, which we thought was significant amount.

Steven: Wow.

Rebecca: So the next thing that we did is said, “Well, okay, so now we’ve rallied these troops here of 24,000, 25,000 new names who’ve been willing to give, I wonder if they’re willing to actually recruit their friends?” And so we put another quiz out there and this quiz was, “What children’s book character are you?” We took a book and now we’re talking about the characters, and people got to take the quizzes just like we’re used to doing with BuzzFeed on your Facebook feed, and you want to have fun answering all kind of fun things, “What Taylor Swift song are you?” or “What Sandra Bullock character are you?” all of that fun stuff. This was one of those types of quizzes where you’re asking and answering a couple of different questions. We had over 44,000 people take it.

Steven: Wow.

Rebecca: So again, the names on the file grew. They almost doubled. We also grew their Facebook followership by almost 22% and their Twitter followership by just over 55%. Now we’re in a place where we can say, “Okay, we’ve been able to rally people and get them to come onto the file, now what do we do with those names?” We are in the process right now, as we’re headed into year end, where we’ve put these names into a very intentional engagement around standing up for literacy, making their mark, and now we’re taking them into last chance to give time of the year, so that they can give towards this organization at a time when a lot of nonprofits are putting their message out and a lot of people are able to give.

Steven: Right, I love that approach of just generating email addresses and people who care about your mission but not necessarily appealing to them right off the bat. That’s great. We’ll link to that Barbara Bush Foundation. That sounds like a nice Texas organization down there where you guys are.

Rebecca: Well, there are two links that you can link to. One is Help Them Read, which is more the advocacy side of it, and so all the quizzes live on Help Them Read and Give to Read is for all of the fundraising.

Steven: Okay, that’s great and before I let you go, it occurred to me as you were talking, you’re coming up with these really impressive numbers — 20,000, 35,000 — why do a lot of nonprofits want something to go viral? You want a bazillion names and views and comments or whatever but it seems like you can be successful without going that viral route. What do you think about that as a goal, going viral?

Rebecca: It’s great to have your organization shine in that spotlight but the questions that I would then ask are, “Are you going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is that big viral thing?” And that’s not a right or wrong thing. It’s just a thing. Or do you want to see how can I actually bring people into the fold in a meaningful way? So that you’re not just bringing in a transactional donor. You actually want to bring in that resonates with your organization and really wants to be with you for the long haul. The viral things that you can do will definitely raise the brand awareness and get you some great one-time gifts, but the question you really need to ask yourself is, “Is this campaign designed to get that, the one-time gift transactional donor, or do you actually want to start building a long term relationship with a donor?”

Steven: Love it. I love it. Rebecca, this is great. We’re going to have you back for two more segments, if you’re up for it, so if you’re watching this one, definitely check out part two and part three. We’re going to talk to Rebecca about multi-channel fundraising and some stewardship-type things so Rebecca, thanks for hanging out with us. We’re going to catch you in the next episode, so stay tuned, thanks for watching, and we will see you next time. Bye now.

Rebecca: Thanks, bye, bye.

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Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.
Kristen Hay