A Holistic Approach To Digital Donor Relations

About This Episode

What is your year-round brand message for your nonprofit? Most nonprofit marketing is about the offer—what we are asking a person to give. Yet the commercial space spends consistent time and resources on brand marketing. What does your organization believe in or stand for, what do you do, and what are the stories that showcase the world you are working to build? 

Responsive nonprofits are adopting marketing automation best practices and tools to maintain relevance and deepen relationships and engagement with donors. Mark Neigh, VP of Digital at Masterworks, suggests an “always on” approach to build awareness and affinity for nonprofits.

Tune into this week’s episode to learn about the marketing automation strategies and the “always on” framework to stay top of mind for donors and supporters all year long. 

Bonus: this episode was recorded the week of Giving Tuesday. Mark and Bryan spend the first 15 minutes discussing the top lessons learned from Giving Tuesday, and how those lessons inform fundraising next year.

Conversation Transcript

Welcome back to another episode of the Responsive Nonprofit Podcast, a conversation show about nonprofit marketing automation and the digital approach to donor relations. Really excited to be joined today with Mark Neigh from Masterworks, VP of Digital. Mark, welcome to the show.

Before we kick off, tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do at Masterworks.

Yeah, good to be here, Bryan. Thanks for having me. Yeah, Masterworks, we’ve been around 30 some odd years and our mission is to help Christian organizations fully achieve their mission. And we’ve got all kinds of ways that we help do that, whether that’s direct mail, print, and then the space, as you say, as I get to kind of lead digital there, all of the different ways that organizations are more and more finding the ability to reach people who can help them achieve their goals. However, they might do that a lot of that has to do with fundraising. And that’s a lot of probably why we’re here to talk right now, but yeah, whether it’s email, automation, digital media, how do you find other Christians online who wanna support what you do? And that’s where Masterworks can partner with you to do that.


Love it. This conversation is timely because we’re recording this on the Thursday after Giving Tuesday. So- Yeah, there’s a lot of bean counters right now. Right, so when we think about online giving and digital marketing for nonprofits, not only during the giving season but all of the great work that’ll be done now that plant seeds for what will come in 2024 from a donor relations, donor retention perspective. I think this is a fun sandbox to play in and it feels very timely because while everyone in our sector has their heads down now during the busiest season of the year, I hope that this is something that people can listen to and refer back to in terms of as they begin to map out their donor relations strategy for next year.

Mark, I’m curious, just before we jump in, what are you, just because it’s top of mind and we’re here, reflections on Giving Tuesday, things that Masterworks is seeing in the market, what are you hearing from your customers and clients?

Yeah, I mean, I think for me, taking a long view, I can remember early enough in my career when I came from the for-profit space over here to nonprofits where people were sort of still asking questions about, you know, well, the internet scale, will this work? Is this gonna ever be able to replace direct mail? And, you know, I even remember very early giving Tuesday when it sort of sputtered and chugged. And I just think for us to look back for a moment and go, you know, it used to be that this was the slowest time of year for fundraisers, cause all the mail was out and, you know, now all you had left was sort of a prayer that all that stuff was gonna come in and suddenly it’s the busiest time of the year.


Because you got Thanksgiving, you got Giving Tuesday, you got Christmas, you got calendar year-end, you’ve got ads and emails and so much happening. And I think that it’s been a big sea change that was maybe slowly happening, but I hope that long-term fundraisers can kind of look back and be excited and proud about this big shift that’s happened. Like this Giving Tuesday, what we’re seeing at least on our side has been a little bit maybe donors have been keeping the powder dry throughout the year a little longer than usual and suddenly along with a bit of an uptick in overall kind of spend in the in the marketplace during that buying season.

We’re seeing that reflected actually in a strong giving Tuesday for a lot of the organizations that we’re seeing right now as well. Nice. Yeah, we saw the same in terms of giving year over year on Giving Tuesday over the last couple of years, we saw the highest amount of giving since the pandemic year.

Yeah, that’s great. And we saw a 6.5% increase over 2022. So that feels like a bright spot. And it’s interesting, I also was in other conversations at the end of the day on Tuesday and throughout the day on Wednesday.

And I think the other is just a gentle reminder, because again, as you said, Giving Tuesday has become a, I suppose, just a pillar within the holiday season, right? I too remember the early 2010s when it was just like, it kind of chugged along. But now it’s kind of table stakes for our strategies. But it’s also the loudest, noisiest day, hard to get attention. And I just, you know, the other reminder is Giving Tuesday is just one day out of the year. And I think as it relates to our conversation today, it’s just one touch point in a broader conversation that we’re trying to have with our donors.

So whether you saw success on Giving Tuesday, for those of you who are listening, or, you know, maybe you didn’t hit your Giving Tuesday goal, I think the reminder is that that’s okay because it was an opportunity to continue the conversation with your current donors, with potentially new donors.

And I think the real big question is, where does the conversation and the relationship you’re trying to build go from here? So I think that’s a nice tie into, as we think about digital marketing, marketing automation in the months and years ahead.

Yeah. Yeah. I think that I like that thought quite a lot. It’s sort of, in one sense, it kind of kicks off the Super Bowl of fundraising season that we’re in right now. On the other side, yeah, I’m waiting for that organization who’s gonna do sort of like the REI Black Friday thing and tell people to boycott Giving Tuesday and go volunteer instead of donating or something like that.


I see a lot more scrutiny right now, you know, around giving and nonprofits. And I think some of that is the success of Giving Tuesday. And so I do think organizations that can show up giving Tuesday style every single day of the year is the goal that you should have for your digital program. Yeah, I saw an interesting post that said, what’s the difference between Giving Tuesday versus the day before? And the response was, today you asked. Right? Yeah. I’m like, oh, that’s pretty good. And I think that’s core. You mentioned automation. I think it’s so core that for a lot of organizations if your primary relationship with a donor is that they give to you, that they donate to your organization as their way of doing good because they can’t go dig a well themselves or they can’t feed a person themselves, then you shouldn’t be afraid to ask because that’s the engagement that they’re looking for, the opportunity to use their hard-earned dollars to help your organization achieve its goal.

Precisely. And the last thing I’ll say is I tell this story a lot, but, you know, kind of going back to the comment you made about REI, you know, Boycott Black Friday, where you know, we want you to go outside and not buy any of our clothes today. On the, you know, in our sector, I think I’ve seen a couple of really great fundraising campaigns that kick off January 1.

And so I’ve seen organizations forego the giving season and launch like really, really great powerful recurring donor appeals and trying to grow the recurring donor base by saying, it’s January 1, and we’re going to map out everything we’re going to achieve together this year, and we need your help. And I’ve seen those be successful. So I just think it’s a powerful way to, I think, turn maybe the way that we’re sometimes handcuffed to the calendar.

And the glory of it is we get to create. It’s twofold. We get to create our timing.


But also we have to remember that timing has nothing to do with us, has everything to do with the donor. So, the calendars don’t always necessarily judge that. Yeah, the Masterworks, the product that we developed for digital media is called Always On. And the reason for that is exactly what you just said. We just sort of, you look at this moment where you know, 90% of your online revenue is coming in December and 90% of what’s coming in the last week and 90% of what’s coming in the last day. And you go, how do you just sort of try to stretch that out throughout the whole year so that you’ve got a little bit more of a consistent inflow of new donors, of revenue? And I think it’s exactly that, it’s paying attention in January, just as much as you’re paying attention in December too.


The fact that there are still people out there and they’ve still got money to donate. Yep. Some of that year-end stuff is gonna be, with tax changes and things like that, it’s just gonna probably continue to become less and less of a driver of philanthropy.

Turning gears a little bit, as we think about the always-on approach to fundraising, and how are we building relationships with donors using digital communications at scale? Let’s just tackle the biggest problem that you see.

At the end of December 31, everyone sort of takes a snooze. They turn their digital ads off. They you know, they kind of pause probably Easter in really talking with, uh, prospects and donors. I get it. I get the opportunity, my job often to meet organizations and kind of talk with them about their program, and two answers I get a lot. And so I, I’ll say, you know, how often are you sending emails that allow your donors to give the number one answer I get is once a month. So one time every month you send one little email out to these people who want to have said, I wanna use my dollars to help you achieve the vision that your nonprofit has. And if you just think about anybody’s inbox and how quickly you’re swiping through your emails, that one email doesn’t have a chance at all to capture that attention.


The other question I’ll often ask is, talk to me about your…whatever triggered automation that you’ve got going. One set of answers is like, well, we’ve got a black bot or some tool like that, and we can’t figure out how to get that to integrate with anything. We have this person who has to take all the emails and move them over here once a month. Setting that aside, for the people who have built the capability to do automation, there’s this trend that I hear all the time, which is, yeah, we built a three-email welcome series for a new donor. And I’ve gone back like on the internet, I’ve tried to figure out where this came from, that everybody has this kind of three-email welcome series approach. I don’t know where it came from. I’m sure it’s an agency’s fault because that was like, that’s getting budgeted at some point. And so it’s like, that just became the routine. But if you think about those two things together, you send one email a month asking for money.


And when a new donor comes on, you send them a total of like a three-email automated series for whatever is easier. You don’t have the money to create more emails. You sort of end up in this communication desert with these people who are entering into this experiment with you. You know, what I think most people are doing online when they’re giving, especially younger 40s and down are saying, I’ll try out this organization, like I’ll give here. And then you send them kind of three emails that maybe they saw, maybe they didn’t see. And then they go into a cycle of one email every month. And I think you’ve just kind of fallen off their radar for the most part.


Yeah. Yeah. So two, so you’re highlighting two big challenges. One is that our email communication strategies are still too, still too broad, still to spray and pray – like one newsletter a month that goes to everybody with the same message. It’s not personalized.


The other challenge is how are you handcuffed by your tools and technology to enable you to deliver personalized communications to different segments of your donor base at scale.

Yeah, I think for sure. It’s that both. It’s sort of a philosophy and a strategy that says, oh, we don’t wanna overwhelm our donors with emails. So we’ll only send them, this is one thing that’s not too relevant once a month.


And then yeah, for sure, I think a lot of organizations are either not, they either don’t have the right technology to be able to do it, or they have all this technology and they haven’t spent a lot of time thinking. I mean, they have a tool like Virtuous and they’re using 1% of the capabilities of that. Because you’ve got to really, I think, put those two things together and go, oh, what can I do? So, here’s a data point from our clients, at least data. The number one predictor of long-term value for a new donor is how quickly you get the second gift from them. I know that that sounds so mercenary because everybody wants to have partners and be engaged, but I kind of go back to what I said earlier, which is somebody who’s donating by and large, they’re donating because that’s the way they want to engage with your mission and your organization. Like that’s what they can do to change a child’s life or to provide food for somebody. And so giving them those opportunities is actually, I think a blessing to donors. But getting that second gift within 90 days is sort of that window that shows the exponential growth on the long-term value of getting that new donor.


And so at a minimum, how can you combine those two things? Okay, look, we’re gonna work hard in the 90 days after getting a new donor to get them to give another gift. And we have a tool that can do all this triggered stuff based on things that that person has done. Like how do you bring those two things now together to build a strategy that you don’t have to hire another person to come in and manually send emails to people call them or send them texts or whatever.

Yeah, yep. Are there, I kind of want to get really practical for a minute and this is just kind of like base table stakes but are there in terms of recapturing that second gift within 60 to 90 days, what would be some starting recommendations you’d make?


So whether it would be, you know, how are you, I’m gonna throw a couple of questions out just because my brain is rattling and spinning a little bit. But so do with it with what you may. But I’m kind of thinking about how you determine your segments. So is it behavior-based? Is it, you know, by giving level? Is it based on intent? And then like, what are the actual touch points that you would recommend before making the next gift ask to secure a gift within 90 days?

So what does that look like from a step-by-step segmentation to delivery? Yeah, I think the radical change that trigger-based automation brings is you use the phrase, I don’t know if you said batch and blast or spray and pray. The sort of mass sends. And I think we often call those punctuated moments. So if you start to think about a calendar, there are these punctuated moments in which some of that makes a lot of sense. Giving Tuesday is one of those punctuated moments. But beyond that, a lot of your communications for an organization don’t need to be that tied to the calendar. I think what we see is that historically it was tied to the calendar because sending direct mail was tied to the calendar. Yeah. You had to have an in-home date on a piece of mail and you had to send it all at the same time so you could get your discounts and your postage.


With digital, it doesn’t matter. And the more an organization can kind of decouple their digital and their direct mail, which I know sounds anathema in the era of multi-channel integration, actually really being able to decouple those things and let those two paths swim at their speeds, helps you start to rethink the way that you can reach somebody. So you can have a segmentation of one very easily with the tools that are out there. And you can build an entire year-long automation series that is sort of just like the backbone of your communications to somebody, to a donor. And that can start on whatever that donor’s day one is and be moving along.


Again, it can be punctuated with stuff because Giving Tuesday is always gonna be the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and Christmas is always gonna be December, whatever, 25th. And so you can still punctuate that, but you can create an experience based on the things that you know about the donor when they first came onto your file. What did they give to you? How much did they give? Whatever you might know from some sort of wealth score that you might be able to. All those sorts of factors can put them down a path that you’ve created that’s designed to cultivate in the core sense of that word, right? Like kind of keeps the relationship going. And again, you could sit down at the beginning of the year and build out an entire 12 months’ worth of those communications in a really smart way.

And then take kind of a breath, you know, and yeah, think about your campaigns and your punctuated moments that happened throughout that. I think the stuff that I would do early on is to not be afraid to ask again. And probably don’t the core thing I’d say is don’t be afraid to ask them to step up a level to subscription-based services. And that the first gift is actually like the paid trial. This is like your seven-day paid trial of Netflix. And what does Netflix wanna do? They wanna make sure you watch as many of their shows and movies as possible during that time. And I think too often somebody makes a first gift and nonprofits think, great, that’s our donor. They send out that email that’s like, welcome to the family.

And they’re like, nope.

We aren’t family yet, you have to convince me to continue with this. And so what’s the best show that, as it were, you would want to put in front of this new donor? How do you give them all the proof points that they made a really good decision? And then I would first introduce them and invite them to become a recurring donor because the value there is so strong is still unique enough, even though there’s a ton of these out there and everybody, I mean, there’s a ton of subscription things, and every non-profit’s trying to get it. We still just see that it’s different enough from, well, you’d send us another $25 check. It’s so much more different to say, will you join us and give monthly, and with your monthly gift, it’s gonna do this sort of thing in the world.

Yeah, we’ve seen examples of I guess you could call it downgrading to upgrade, works really well. So I think an example that we’ve seen to double down on what you’re saying is, let’s take every donor that gave, I’m just gonna, for the sake of simplicity, I’m just gonna say, let’s say we have 200 donors in our donor database that gave 500 bucks in the year-end giving season. Well, they gave in December. We’re going to go back at the end of January, or early February after showcasing the transformative power of their impact and say, hey, we’d love you to give again, but instead of making another $500 gift, we’d love it if you just gave $45 a month. And that $45 a month or $50 a month over 12 months is going to upgrade their $500 gift into a larger gift.

Yeah, I think it’s a misnomer that’s out there that becoming recurring has the risk of downgrading donors. And we went back over 10 years in all of our client’s data and found that there is no statistically significant downgrade to moving any donor into a recurring model. Even if they give a lot, what happens is that they just give additional one-time gifts that still sort of balance the whole thing out. But you’ve got a steady monthly income that you can rely on. Predictable, sustainable.

I love this idea that you’re saying, hey, you know, you gave in December when everything was wild and crazy, we start this in January. That’s another one of those triggered automation that we, we counsel a lot of our clients to work and build, which is, we’ve seen in the data that that it’s usually within about 30 days of making a gift that somebody becomes a recurring giver. It’s like there’s a proximity toward giving a gift. And so we’ve built triggered automation that say if somebody makes a one-time gift, take them out of whatever your batch and blast sort of approaches or whatever other communications that are in and put them into a special fairly tight set of emails that’s designed to get them to become a recurring donor.

And those have been very successful because it’s top of mind for them still. And you can use some data to connect it back to the amount that they just gave. But like you said, you’re reminding them of the good that they’re doing, how the organization is funded, and then inviting them to give in a recurring sort of way.


I think two things come to mind here. One is we kind of skipped over this. I know we intended to talk about this, but we kind of wanted to demystify some of the assumptions around automation. And I think we started to scratch that a little bit because automation is so much more than email automation, right? You just touched on the backend, back office, and workflow automation. So every nonprofit should be living in a world where maybe I’ll say every nonprofit’s a little too broad of a stroke, but if you’re bringing, if you’re raising at minimum a million dollars in individual contributions a year, you not only should be using email automation, but you should be using workflow back office automation to help you work more efficiently.

We see across all of our customers, nonprofits decrease by about 20% in administrative back-office time because of workflow automation. So, like you said, imagine a world where based on someone’s behavior, they gave during the year-end giving season and there’s an automation in place that removes them from all other marketing communications. It’s not something that you have to go in and change manually on their donor record or you don’t have to update a tag manually. The workflow is doing that for you and it’s doing it across a whole segment of your donor file so that your donors, after making the gift, are getting the right touch point and not getting inundated with five different communications, right? It’s like a very, very intentional, personalized process. So I think that that’s kind of the one piece that came to mind.

And the other thing that came to mind as you were talking was, we have an incredible customer, Meltrotter Ministries based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. And I was sitting down with their CTO and he made a comment about their email automation and their workflow automation that pretty much took my breath away. And he said, yeah, we’ve been on Virtuous long enough where essentially, they’re in a rotation where they’re using data and analysis on their automation on a monthly and a six-month cycle to the point where not a single automation will exist in the same iteration that it does six months from now.

So to your point, it’s not quite set it and forget it. Like, you know, you could set out all your automation to run for a year. I think the important thing is we have to go back and review and analyze that air cover. So if you have automation that are running while you’re, shoot, what did you call it? Your punctuated moments. You know, while you’re executing your punctuated moments in real-time, we got to make sure that we go back and see what’s working, what’s not because maybe the third email touchpoint in an automated series, because again, automation is not just email, automation could include having the third touch point be an SMS text or triggering a direct mail piece, right? So you can use multi-channel across automation.

You know, like are we seeing poor conversions at certain steps and how do we change the story we tell, the language, the subject line, the channel that we’re using, etc, to try to improve the donor experience?

Yeah, the direct response world and fundraising are all about the test and control. And I think the phrase that I like to use to describe what you’re talking about there is care and feeding. And you actually, every single moment is a, whatever a test and control and A, B split.


What you’re doing is carrying and feeding for this little automation and going back and trying to look not in a test and control sort of way, but in what the data overall telling us about the effectiveness of this approach. And then you’re tweaking, you’re hammering in little places, you’re trying a different subject line here, you’re trying inserting a different touchpoint in the automation, like you said, an in-home experience. What would happen if we sent a postcard at this moment? And what would that end up looking like? Your experimenting gets to be, from my perspective, a lot more fun. It’s where the development director’s job just gets, I think, really exciting to step back from this impact calendar that just keeps chugging and more for getting to play with this whole web created to figure out whether it’s working or not. Or not being a really like, I’m doing an audit right now for an organization and I made a gift and I haven’t got a single email from them in two months. And I don’t think they think that’s what’s happening when somebody makes a gift. I think they assume that all the smart automation and stuff that they’ve developed is working, but it’s something that’s not working.


And so they’re not, they’re not in there caring and feeding and looking at the data and trying to see how it’s working. And so, yeah, you’re right. You can get the biggest whiteboard in the world and sketch out the most beautiful, intricate, triggered, multi-level automation that you can. And if it’s not working, if it’s not running, then it’s not gonna do a whole lot for you.

Yeah, we did a study with a partner of ours where we gave a gift to 110 organizations and then studied what the donor experience was, and what touch points we received across what channels. It was a multi-channel study ultimately. And of the phone calls that we received, this is like another jaw-dropping stat that hurts my heart. Of all the phone calls we received, no one said thank you and they only asked about gift designation. No thank yous. So it’s like right there, there’s like what’s the back office workflow automation that’s sending a task in your CRM to your development team to make sure they’re making a phone call within 24 hours of a gift, boom. Like we’ve done half the work right there, very simply in a not complex way, making sure that our donors feel seen and heard, right?

It’s just, that it can be simple to your point. It doesn’t have to be this complex hybrid web. Well, and that’s what you just said. It’s an important step for anybody in this space.

Go create an alias and use your uncle’s address and a different phone number and go donate to your organization in an incognito window and then track it. And if you don’t feel good about the whole experience as you do when you go buy something on Amazon, then you have work to do. And cause that’s the experience that everybody wants. Everyone’s expecting online at least for you to be as easy to interact with as it is to buy a pair of Bamba’s socks and give a pair of Bamba socks to somebody experiencing homelessness. If you’re not that easy, if you’re not that enjoyable in your experience if you’re a thank you page, just like a little line that says, thank you for giving, you will get an email that tells you how much you gave. What can you do in each of those moments to make that experience? Because we’re talking a lot of the technical stuff, but all that technical stuff is what builds up to create an experience that somebody goes, yeah, that felt good to donate to that organization. I’ll do that again.

What other strategies can we implement on the foundation of automation? What recommendations do you have for folks?


What I would say is think about anything that you want to be done internally as you talk about the back office, or that you want somebody engaging with your organization to do, and then start just kind of sketching out how might you automate that. So, we’ve done some A-B split testing on donation pages and shown that even just asking for a phone number, even if it’s optional, is a pretty huge hit in conversion rates.


And we’re still kind of right at the beginning stages of people being willing to think about their cell phone numbers the way that they ended up thinking about email addresses. Well, I guess I can’t control it. But I saw this and I asked, I was auditing an organization’s donation pathway. And I said, well, why are you requiring a phone number? I’m sure you’re turning off a large number of prospective donors because they don’t want to give you their phone, or your phone number. You’ve been giving them a reason to give you their phone number. And they go, well, we’d like to call them and thank them. I said, which is fantastic, yes. But you’re not promising that anywhere. Maybe they don’t want you to call them. But if there’s a, it’s great to have that number. You can create automation for texting. You can thank them that way. I think that’s becoming a more common way for an organization to communicate.


So how do you use automation actually to progressively capture that information from somebody in a way where you’re earning it as opposed to demanding it up at the donation point, right? So how do you follow up and say, using automation, part of those things could be to say, you know, hey, we’ve developed a, you know, an eight-part devotional that has to do with what our organization does?


Or we’ve developed, if you’re an organization that works with people experiencing homelessness, it might be hard to know what to do when you encounter somebody homeless. And we’ve created a sort of a series that you can get delivered to your phone. So you can sign up for that reason. Like giving them a reason to sign up and then just sort of think about all those things that way. Oh, I’d love to know their birthday. And find that out later. Like you can use automation to progressively enhance your data capture of an individual.

One backhaul thing, you know, you mentioned that, like if somebody gives a gift at a certain amount, then you better be slacking or texting or emailing or whatever a mid-major donor rep or a major donor rep right away so that they, that doesn’t sit around waiting and for them to go in and do some research and figure out, oh, we should probably go get coffee with this person.


So I think those are two examples right there that, again, they just sort of help you to build what you want, but without either having to try to make all that happen on the front end or having to have somebody do anything manually. Yeah, that’s a great point. Just reducing friction on the donation form, increase your one-time, your first-time donation conversions, and then earn the trust of the other channels that you want to reach a donor.

That’s brilliant. It’s funny, you triggered a thought. I used to work for a nonprofit called Invisible Children. I don’t know, you might have heard of them. I’m not entirely sure. However, the mission of the nonprofit was we were working to end the longest-running conflict in Central Africa. It was a child soldier conflict at the hands of an army called the Lord’s Resistance Army. And we worked to, this is just a quick context. We built the first-ever radio network in Congo that was mapping, doing crisis and conflict mapping. So we would use radio updates as data points in our CRM to be able to see when was a village attacked, when was a child abducted, and when was the rebel group last seen as a means and ways to help the community effectively remain safe

What we did with that was we created an app. And so a donor could download the LRA crisis tracker and you could see the conflict mapping on your phone. I never even thought of it until you said it just now, but one of the features was, if you want real-time updates on the conflict, sign up to get text updates. And that’s one way that the organization captured cell phone data, like really meaningful tied to the urgency behind what’s happening on the ground and how, and ultimately we also used it as a fundraising mechanism too. So, yeah, I just, I just like that, I kind of had like a chain reaction in my brain where I was like, oh, like I didn’t even, you know, didn’t realize that 10 years ago, you know, we were, we were doing that powerful stuff.


That’s just the way to be thinking about it, I think all of the triggered stuff. Like if this happens, I want, you know, some sort of code to do this for me. And as you started talking even about the radio thing, like think about RSS feeds, like imagine if you built something that scanned the news and let you know as soon as something came up that you could send an email around. That works well.


The last thing I’d say is I often tell organizations they are emailing too little. It’s just not emailing. If you go look in the for-profit space, in the commercial space, they are sending usually more than one email a day and people say, well, you know, our donors get too much email, they’ll all unsubscribe. And I often will say, well, think about something you bought, like I know you’re in Maine, so you love LLDing, I’m in Seattle, so we like Filson and email a day from Filson. And I do not have the kind of budget to buy that much stuff from Filson, but I don’t unsubscribe because, at some point, they’re still relevant to me. And at some point, they’re probably gonna hit me and I’m gonna go, yeah, okay, that works. And I think if you can start to think about email in that way as a nonprofit, you can stay in people’s inboxes as long as you’re staying relevant. And at some point, someone’s gonna go, oh yeah, that’s the thing I wanna give to. And then they’ll respond to it. Because we think of email so often like direct mail, that one email carries so much unnecessary weight for ROI, you know, how much money can that one email make?

Well, what if you had sent 15 emails and it was all spread across all of them? And so another way I think you can think about automation from an email perspective is, part of Always On is to help organizations move toward more brand-style marketing, as opposed to offer-oriented marketing.

So much of nonprofit marketing is about what’s the offer. What’s the thing we’re gonna ask somebody to give? And so much of the commercial space is about the brand, like Coca-Cola or there’s always gonna be an ad running for a Big Mac, it doesn’t matter. Like that will always be out there, whether it’s January or September or December. So what’s the thing that’s true about your organization in January July and December? And you should be able to make, you know, 50 emails at the beginning of the year that just talk about your brand and what you do and tell stories. And then you could just load them all up and say, this is one of my favorite automation.

Basically, you say, like, here are these 50 emails that are just about my brand. They’re not tied to the calendar. And if somebody hasn’t received an email from us in the last N number of days, send them one of these emails. Cool. And so all of a sudden you’re doing a better job of feeding people’s inboxes and earning a place at the top of the inbox without having to do a lot of work or scheduling emails or all of that stuff. They’re all just there. And you basically say, if this person hasn’t received an email from us in, let’s just say the last four days, send them the next email from that series.

Another secret. Most people don’t remember the emails that they’ve gotten. So if you change the subject line on a good email, you can send it again and no one’s gonna notice. Yeah, would you recommend like, you know, kind of doing in terms of the if-then mindset, like if someone doesn’t open the first email, send the same email with a different subject line? That, would that be your recommendation? Absolutely. One of the, I mean, for us, we build a variety of different templates and approaches in our email marketing. And one of them is exactly that. It’s the, it’s a resend of a fundraising email with just a different subject line. And it’s always the, from a, from a pure fundraising perspective, it’s almost always the top performer. Like, and I think part of the reason is the way that people engage with email, which is mostly on their phone, mostly in the little moments before they go into the dentist or while they’re waiting for their kidney to get out of practice they see that email and they go, oh yeah, I want to give to that. And then something happens and they forget about it. And so when you get back at the top of the inbox later, when they’re back home and on their laptop and they can talk to their partner about a giving decision, then they see the email again sort of prompts them to make that gift.


And this is why if you’re only in there one time and they see your email just before they go in for their root canal, you lost your shot probably. Yeah. And actually, that happened to me this past giving Tuesday. I got an email from a nonprofit I intended to give to. It’s an organization called Inclusive Ski Touring here in Maine. They’re providing access to, because of the affordability for access to outdoor adventure is so high. And so they’re building a wonderful, inclusive, diverse community by enabling people to get outdoors and enjoy the sport. And I forgot to give it, I was really busy. And , it was the next day on Wednesday, I saw a social media post that said that, their matching campaign was extended till December 5th. And I went, I forgot to give. And three hours later, I went directly to the site by just typing in the URL and making the donation. But the email and the social touch point ended up in the result. The result was I came to them directly by just brand awareness, knowing the org, and typing in the URL.

So you could, in a way, right? Like that, you might not be able to see the ROI on the email, but the gift was still captured. If I get an invite back, we can spend an entire one of these talking about attribution and how, yeah, how broken attribution in digital is if you’re not thinking about people’s journeys in that way. Because that’s the way people engage online is not where they want to control it.


I mean, there are still Cyber Monday deals all over the place right now. So like, again, you can’t control that. You have to kind of respond to people. And I think that’s lovely that idea that they’re like, yes, our Giving Tuesday matching grant is still in effect because we realized that, you know, we can’t chart people’s lives out by our marketing impact calendar. Well, we’re going to.


We’ll have to have you back for the part two because an hour wasn’t enough time, but Mark, this was great. I loved diving into this idea and kind of navigating our way through the layers of using automation to stay always on. So thanks for joining us. How can folks get in touch with you and Masterworks? How can they find you?

Probably our website’s an easy place. So it’s a masterworks. agency which is a weird one to type in, but I’m on LinkedIn. If you want to look me up there, I’d love to have a conversation like this with anybody interested in doing that. Beautiful. I’ll make sure to link Mark’s LinkedIn and the URL to masterworks in the show notes if you want to easily access those and get in touch.

And Mark, final question. It’s the only one, it’s one of the few we didn’t prep for – I love to end every show by just asking folks, what does generosity mean to you?

Oh man, that’s a good question. What does generosity mean to me? I think generosity is that thing that you do that you don’t want to do. Like I think there’s something core around that part of it like that, it takes a change in your mindset to truly be generous. And how that plays out in a nonprofit context I think is an important part of our marketing as well. So often I think to be truly generous is to go, I never really thought about, you know, how that dollar spent there or that extra time spent there or that acceptance of an apology that I didn’t wanna accept there is going to help the world be just that much better of a place.

That’s a good word. Thanks, Mark. Thanks for joining us. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.

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