5 in 10 not-for-profits have better digital results since COVID: here’s how

by Richenda Vermeulen
June 22, 2020

In 2020, we have continued investing in our annual research on digital success—despite COVID-19.

Early findings have found that 60% of not-for-profits have increased their digital investment and 1 in 2 have already seen improved digital results.

This is significant considering we know that 75% of people will remain digital first in their consumption behaviour, even as restrictions ease.

Here’s how to increase your digital results:

1. Become digital first for 2020/2021

With the majority of NFPs in our research investing in digital, and half of them seeing results, it’s important to become digital-first.

60% of NFPs have increased digital investment, 50% have seen increased results. Source: ntegrity

Plan for a fully digital world in which no face-to-face events occur. Know how to contact all donors and volunteers digitally, invest in CRM and make online fundraising channels a top priority — email, social and UX.

Use email for direct donation asks. Upload your lists on to platforms like Facebook for personalised targeting and creation of Lookalike audiences.

Invest in a CRM platform to segment your donor base based on donor value (e.g. mid-level, regular givers, lapsed donors) and interests. You can then target your email campaigns with different messages — a mid-level donor should receive different communications than a lapsed donor.

Cut down on (but don’t scrap) costly areas, like multi-page direct mail, and consider using digital to fill the gap. Use social media content for storytelling and impact reporting, digital advertising for acquisition, and ensure your website makes it easy for donors to understand what you do and how they can help.

Our recent work with the Salvation Army is a testament to the power of investing in digital. Read about it here.

2. Use this as an opportunity to test, learn and evolve

Our research found that thriving not-for-profits have used COVID-19 as an opportunity to innovate.

“We’ve invested a lot more in digital advertising this year with the aim of reaching new audiences”

“Our fundraising event has pivoted to a digital event and costs have not been cut to market. We are hoping to engage a whole new audience of people.”

Use this time to explore new marketing tactics and channels. You can test new marketing tactics, like audiences, messaging and creative, through A/B testing. Use the results from these tests to find the best way to reach and convert your donors.

Some successful tests you can try:

  • Use email as a main channel to drive donations

  • Reach out to your most valuable audiences (for example, 60+ y/o) on social media instead of direct mail or face-to-face

  • Trial creating video report backs instead of hard copy reports

  • Reach out to new audiences that have been created from COVID-19, e.g. those interested in mental health, young and unemployed people, people who are working from home

  • Test the word “COVID-19” in advertising copy

See this example of a digital report back from the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood:

3. Back your decisions with data

In our research, thriving organisations put a higher emphasis on data-driven decision making.

If your organisation isn’t strong on data-driven decision making, a good place to start is using financial modeling. Map out the impact on revenue for your digital activity, starting with cost per lead and cost per acquisition. Then expand this out to measure the impact of digital traffic, cash donations and leads on your ability to build a regular giving product.

To be able to build adequate models and reporting, ensure you have tracking embedded through UTM codes or pixel codes. Both of these allow you to track the success of different campaigns and ads, and understand your return on ad spend (ROAS).

As we head back to normal, don’t forget these key lessons. Investing in digital will set you up for long-term success.

If you’d like to learn more about how successful not-for-profits have adapted their marketing and communications in COVID-19, download our research report