This article is part of the series, "A detailed Guide to Digital Fundraising". Read the Table of Contents for a full list of articles.
This series is an overview of the steps required to manage digital fundraising activities. We will split the series into three core areas, covering investment management, charities and investor relations for listed business. The fundamental principles are the same, whether you are looking for retail investors, intermediaries, institutions or for more donations. If you are looking to fundraise or find new investors you need to do four things well:
There will be 14 chapters within this series focusing on these four areas. We will look at how to create an online ecosystem for digital fundraising to suit any organisation. Many companies will already be doing some of these steps, some may be doing all of them, but they can always be improved. This is not theory, these are functional and practical steps that make the boat go faster and generate measured returns. The key is to create systems and processes that are sustainable and work for you, your priorities and your organisation. This guide will show you how to implement a plan to achieve this.
2019 is the first year digital advertising has beaten print and television in the US. Companies like Facebook and Google have overtaken TV and newspapers in terms of advertising spend.
Companies often talk about “digital transformation” and going “direct to consumer”. When large companies fail, it is often because they have not embraced digital effectively and have been leapfrogged by smaller more nimble businesses. Just as there is a trend towards going direct to consumer, the same idea applies to fundraising organisations who can now go “direct to investor”.
But first we shall start with the basic questions. What is digital fundraising, and why is it important?
Digital fundraising is the process of using digital channels to raise capital, funding or donations online. Some of these transactions can be entirely facilitated online compared to others that may require more time to develop and close. A regular £52 monthly investment can be easily set up and managed online, whereas securing millions of pounds from a sovereign wealth fund is likely to take a little more time and effort. Typically, the larger the amount the more personal relationships are required, for these larger types of investments, LPs or grants, digital fundraising looks to attract and broker new connections for you to pursue and manage.
Irrespective of the amounts being raised, the process requires using content on digital channels to attract and convert new funders, prospects and connections. This can be done across several channels including social media, search and display as well as your website. Content can be created in all kinds of ways to drive engagement, but there should also be a great amount of importance and focus put on managing user experiences and user journeys to help drive the maximum conversion rates. All of these things combine to create an ecosystem that is important to create, manage and tweak as it evolves and grows.
Digital fundraising is important because every investment opportunity is different. If you are looking to find people to match a specific investor profile you can be most precise in pinpointing them through digital channels. Digital enables you to cover more ground more quickly, rank your prospects and supplements any traditional offline activities you may be involved in.
By going digital first everything becomes a virtuous circle, if you set things up correctly you can invest more confidently in growth online, the more you create content that performs well, the more influence and authority you are building for the future around the topics and keywords that matter most to you. It also gives you a critical platform to build fundraising audiences and networks and manage communications to bring your investors,advisers and donors together and get them closer to your organisation. In short, if you are not focused on expanding your networks online, your networks will shrink.
Traditional channels like broadcast and print advertising throw the net too wide and are now considered to be too expensive and difficult to measure. Digital marketing channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google Ads offer much cheaper and more refined targeting opportunities for businesses. The different measurements like CPC, CPA and CPV allow you to have control over how much you spend and only pay for those who have engaged with your content. With digital marketing, you can create more sophisticated messages tailored to specific audiences thus driving higher engagement. If your addressable market is just 30 companies/people, you can centre your digital marketing activities around this group and speak directly to them. There is no point in creating campaigns that accommodate for the lowest common denominator, by dumbing down your content to make it more generic and simple you can risk alienating the more sophisticated investors that may actually be your primary targets. It’s important to map out your audiences and personas so you can start to see the differences in how they can be approached and managed.
It’s time to start looking at how to start planning your digital fundraising activities.
This series is created by 52 Group. 52 has three divisions focused on helping investment management firms, charities and listed businesses raise and deploy capital. If you would like to receive future articles from 52, please sign up to our “Raise + Deploy” news.
The key to effective digital fundraising is in the planning. Mapping out every step of a campaign and the overall workflows you are going to create and manage is crucial to success. The more effort you put into planning, the easier it is to execute as you will always have a point of reference to stick to and fall back on. It is also important to document your approach, systems and processes, so that what you do can be shared internally and replicated. This allows aspects of the work to be delegated or managed by others. If you intend to grow your digital fundraising activities, creating an internal record of how it works means you can scale it properly and apply additional resources when necessary.
First things first, it’s important to understand the overall business strategy. This initial stage has nothing to do with digital and is all about gaining an understanding of what the plans and objectives are for the business as a whole. What is the company looking to achieve in the next one to five years in terms of revenue growth, employees, products, services or markets? What are the trends within your sector and how can you be in the right place to influence or shape them?
Your digital strategy needs to become an extension of your organisation’s business plan, so making sure that people understand it, is an important first step. A useful exercise is creating a business model canvas that takes your interpretation of the business plan and puts it all together to understand some of your key differentiators. Here is an example of how to complete one.
The more developed the plan, the more campaigns you will likely have to develop. Very often these will not just be focused on finding new donors or investors, they might be adjusting your positioning, perception or enhancing your reputation with existing investors, or focusing on keywords that will become more popular in the next year or so. In this respect, the role of digital fundraising is intrinsically connected to your communications, PR, marketing and sales strategy.
The next step is to review what is happening over the course of the year. This can often seem like a daunting task, so it might be more manageable to tackle this on a quarterly basis. By listing all key events, dates and business goals for each quarter, it enables you to determine the most appropriate time to run your campaigns. Clear visibility on what is going on for the next 52 weeks will allow you create and launch campaigns in a timely fashion and therefore avoid any last minute scrambles!
We use the expression “let your subconscious do the heavy lifting”, the more time you have to think about things in the background, the better the final outcome will be. Nobody likes being sprung an important project without enough time and it happens all too often. It’s advisable to create a project folder for each campaign – no matter how far away it might be – so that you are able to add assets or drop thoughts into a document at any time so that you are passively building relevant information as you go about your daily work.
Also, by planning for the financial or calendar year, you might be able to structure your campaigns in a way that supports other events that are taking place during the year. Sector events, conferences, seasons or holidays might be a good way to synchronise the launch of a particular campaign, product or fund.
In our distribution chapters we will explore the optimal times to launch individual campaigns in relation todays of the week, time zones, lead times for launching and marketing a campaign with specific target dates or types of events in mind.
This will also be covered later, but a reasonably standard amount of time to create an individual campaign should be 2 months. As you get better at managing your templates and systems for planning, generating content and distribution, these timelines can be shorter. It’s important to remember that some of the best campaigns are reactive to events that happen on a day-to-day basis, so don’t feel restricted to the timeline . Most standard campaigns with a fixed date for launch should take 2 months to prepare. This also gives time for the creation of content, depending on the medium – video can sometimes take longer to produce, again depending on the concept, or where it sits.
Now that you know what the basic plans are, it’s important to determine your campaign objectives. The more targeted you are, the better the campaign will be. Do not try to be all things to all people, think clearly back to your business plan and see how your campaign can help support them.
Here are the three basic areas:
What do you want to achieve? When launching any campaign, it’s critical to determine a set of KPIs and conversions to help determine whether your campaign is a success. The more specific you are, the better your campaign will be. What is the main aim? Is it brand awareness, more customers or subscribers? Whatever it might be, make sure you are as specific as possible and clearly assign a metric to that conversion or KPI e.g. 1000 new followers on LinkedIn, 500 new subscriptions to a newsletter or investment alerts, 10 new meetings, enquiries or investors.
What do you want to say? What is the key message that you want to convey? It is easier to complicate than to simplify, so try and keep your communications objective to one central message and try not to keep adding things. In promoting a campaign to new prospects, you only have a limited amount of time to capture their attention, so be as clear as possible and try and make sure the message resonates. Our brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text so it is also helpful to think about visuals that can also help support your message.
Who do you want to reach? When identifying audiences, think about their sector, geography, demographic, companies, roles and interests. Your audience can be developed over time and can cover a variety of areas outside of your target customers and addressable market. It is always worth conducting additional market research to see whether you can tap into audiences that you originally didn’t consider - mapping out the decision making process helps you identify different people and advisers that may be involved at different stages of securing an investment.
You may want to go back over these three points a few times to make sure they are refined and complement each other as much as possible. The objective, message and audience should all be tightly connected with each other. You can also rotate different audiences with other campaigns and events during the year.
We will go into developing custom audiences in further detail, later in the series.
It is important to make sure you are well versed in the regulations and policies that govern your sector and organisation. Ensure you have the proper understanding of what your regulations are and that you are compliant. There are many directives and regulations being rolled out at the moment so make sure you seek counsel before launching any campaign and stay on top of them as they change.
Before you embark on any digital fundraising activities it is important that you review and understand the regulations within the sector and markets you operate. There are a variety of resources that each industry can reference. A large amount of the challenges that organisations face are common and consistent from sector to sector. Charities face challenges around restricted and unrestricted funds, how they are presented, obtained and how funds are used. Listed businesses are not allowed to make forward looking statements or comparisons and have to control how new announcements are made. Investment management firms are regulated in terms of how their investments are presented and marketed. Here are a few thoughts and resources for each sector within the UK.
Policies can also change from organisation to organisation. Compliance can be very restrictive and precautions are put in place for a reason, usually to protect the investor and to clearly present the liabilities, risks, costs, expectations or potential losses that can occur as a result of an investment. In short, your policies should be honest, simple, transparent and easy to understand.
As digital fundraising places an emphasis on building data, you also need to have a clear understanding of how you are collecting and managing data. Most organisations should have a DPO (Data Protection Officer). The role of the DPO is to have a representation of the processes used, protocol for breaches and a way to handle access data requests. Here is an article on GDPR.
One of the most important aspects of planning a successful campaign is assigning the right individuals to different tasks. This area is often overlooked but it will have significant impact on how smoothly your campaign runs. Once you feel that everyone is in the correct position, determine who is reporting to who and create a process for how key decisions are to be made.
This series is created by 52 Group. 52 has three divisions focused on helping investment management firms, charities and listed businesses raise and deploy capital. If you would like to receive digital fundraising insights from 52, please sign up to receive our “Raise + Deploy” news.
When you create your first digital fundraising campaign, the systems you implement - although they might require tweaking or updating - should remain in place for all future campaigns. To implement a plan effectively you will need to think about how people will interact with your content, a tone that will resonate with your target audience, identify where you position your content, what data you would like to capture and how. Here are a few things that should sit at the heart of your digital fundraising campaign:
The process of creating personas is essentially stereotyping the types of individual investors, donors or people that are important to you. These individuals might be members of the public or employees with a certain role in an organisation. You must breakdown your audience into separate groups so that you can then customise content and campaigns for them. When creating content with your identified personas in mind, you will increase the relevance and performance of a campaign. Here are a selection that could be chosen. Please note: each example could also have a range of different personas within it.
Once you have selected your personas you can then dive into a series of questions that will help create a picture of the characteristics and demographics of people at the centre of each persona group. Their age, gender, likes, dislikes, interests, challenges, fears and needs. Some people even go so far as giving personas a name and a detailed back story (i.e. Mary K is 45 years old and is a doctor at Great Ormond Street Hospital or Michael J is on the executive committee of a sovereign wealth fund). This helps create a picture of these individuals so that you can create a language that speaks directly to them and matches their interests.
Once you have completed the groundwork of your personas you will need to start creating content that speaks directly to them in the correct tone of voice. Most branding guidelines have some rules on tone of voice. Here are some examples to help you think about what you might be looking to communicate within any given year of creating campaigns.
There are many expressions that people use to describe different types of content. These include, “Evergreen” and” topical” content or “Hero hub and hygiene”. They are all similar and cover the same principles. We describe them as:
When creating content, it’s always important to make sure that it is optimised for search so be sure to map out terminologies, expressions and phrases that can be used company wide and consistently in all communications. We will go into search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) in more detail later on in the series.
Conversions are a critical part to any digital ecosystem and campaign. Enabling people to connect with your business and convert as a new contact is a crucial part of this exercise. Careful consideration is needed when determining and structuring your conversions, they will also require constant monitoring. You must focus your conversions around what is important to your organisation, your business goals and KPIs. Although your end goal might be for a user to purchase a product or invest from your website, it must be noted that not all users will want to be directed to a donate/buy/invest now landing page and can often be put off by this. This is where customer nurturing is important and other softer conversion opportunities should be considered. Here are a few examples of other conversions:
Your digital framework covers what technologies you use as part of your online presence. This can start with how you publish your content, third party measurement and analytics tools, tracking codes, landing pages, automation tools, CMS and CRMs.
It is vital that you map out your digital framework and tools in order to decide what you use and how you can monitor and improve campaigns. This exercise also helps you determine where you gather your data and what types of data you collect. As things evolve at speed, often it is easy to replace or upgrade any of these by simply plugging in a new tool (for less money or more functionality) even if just for a trial alongside your existing set up.
Similar to your digital framework, your content framework maps out where your content sits within your digital channels. If you have established your personas and conversions you will realise that people can have varying levels of understanding and sophistication in terms of knowledge of your services or market and they will also be signing up or converting for a variety of different reasons. This means you need to structure your content appropriately. You will need to make sure that you support the decision making process of your target audience in a variety of ways. In some cases this may be generic content that introduces people to who you are and what you do. In other cases it may be covering fairly complex insights and explanations with more technical information. The basic cycle can usually explained like this:
The terms ‘user experience’ and user journeys’ are often mixed up or interchanged. User experience is often referred to how people experience a specific product, website or app while they are using it. Our focus is on the user journey, this is a person’s experience, consisting of a series of actions performed to achieve a particular goal. This starts from an initial touch point, perhaps on social media, through to visiting a website, exploring several articles, pages and then converting. As you will have multiple personas you can expect that people will be attracted to different things and you will need to map out the desired and potential user journeys for each one.
Workflows and automation are the actions that are triggered when an event takes place. For instance, when a conversion happens - what happens next. Is the person sent an email to support the action they just completed? Is there a series of email triggers that reminds them to complete a task until it is done? Does anyone internally get sent an email to alert them of this event? If you set up reverse IP correctly and there is a visit from an active prospect, does the person responsible get notified? There are a number of rules and recipes you should put in place to ensure that manual tasks are reduced when key events happen and everyone gets the right information promptly. This is also helps measure the impact of campaigns and get buy-in across the organisation.
It is always a helpful exercise to review what your competitors are doing. Covering the content and campaigns they are creating as well as investigating how they are evolving digitally. Reviewing peers and also companies that you aspire to be like (even if they are in a different sector) is also useful. Create a list of at least three of the following:
Create a spreadsheet and take notes on the following:
There are third party tools you can use like SEM Rush and Alexa that will give you a basic understanding on their rankings, performance and approach. This helps benchmark against your own progress and performance.
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