We had a great time last week at the Bridge Conference. For some of us attending, it was like a reunion: connecting with long-time colleagues and friends, sharing experiences, talk of what’s working and where the nonprofit direct response fundraising world is headed.
For others on our team, this was their Bridge conference. They brought fresh eyes and ears to the sessions they attended, soaking up ideas, case studies, data and sharing in the excitement around the possibilities sparked by the conversations.
We each got something out of the conference. We compared notes and found common threads emerging. Here are our big take-aways:
New Audiences = Bold Tests. When your donor base is over 65 and the one you want is under 50, you have to be bolder in testing new concepts and new programs. We heard it in lots of places -- from Alan Clayton’s keynote to Chas Offut talking about the PBS Nerds initiative and Mike Johnston’s Journey experience session, to name a few. Traditional, incremental A/B testing won’t get you there. Go bold, take risks you may not be used to. Fail fast and succeed faster in finding the new model that works for your organization.
Data’s Boring, Tell Stories. There were lots and lots of case studies shared nailing the point home that our supporters are moved most by compelling stories and pictures. Throwing impact numbers at them does not work as well. ‘The Threat’, ‘The Hope’ and ‘The Impact’ are the best combination of memes, and best told through personal stories. This is playing out in all channels and especially online. There were some really interesting examples of using email to invite people to watch a video, join a social conversation, and sharing content from other online sources that tell the story for you. This is going to be a hot area of testing and continuing evolution for causes like we’ve been doing in our own client work.
Real Hunger for “Next Level Digital Solutions.” There were lots of great sessions showing that core digital tactics have “turned the corner” and are producing reliable results for all sizes of organizations. Email campaigns and targeting on Facebook were the most prevalent tactics showing impact. What we heard was that folks are ‘stuck’ getting to the next level. They know they could be doing more … but time and people to manage the program is holding them back. Knowing where to invest next was a big need. It was encouraging to hear good feedback from Bridge Conference attendees on how what we’re doing with digital journeys at Causemo fits with the opportunity to take their programs to the next level.
One Channel Is Not Enough. It takes repetition to get to conversion and that requires you to stay in front of your supporters. Sanky Communications shared their analysis that it can take as many as 70+ omni-channel impressions to get to a gift. So sending a series of emails is not the best strategy. Building a program that adds in targeted remarketing, multiple social channels with coordinated email, mail and phoning are what’s going to be required to get to “yes, I’ll donate.”
Big Data – The Time Is Now to Get Out of the 90s. From the vendor hall to the sessions, our data science team saw how much opportunity there is for using modern Big Data sets to make a huge impact on targeting and ROI. Co-op databases and demographic data overlays that have dominated strategy for 20 years are still the ‘go to.’ They do work AND there’s cutting-edge innovations in data strategies from the commercial sector that are ripe to be cost-effectively brought to the nonprofit section. Data leaders are tapping into the rich data sources that are out there for enhanced targeting by digital interests, cause participation, social channel presence, geo-location, and more to optimize segmentation and improve ROI. Even more powerful is the interest-based and behavioral machine learning that power hyper-targeting and dynamic content messaging. There were lots of innovations with practical applications that our data science folks were excited to take back to the office to continue building out in Causemo.
The Bridge Conference has always been on the leading front of high quality knowledge sharing for direct response fundraisers. This year’s conference was no exception. Looking forward to #Bridge18!