There is so much community need competing for attention this year that personalization needs to be your most important priority for the 2020 EOY giving season
A common joke to emerge from living in a pandemic is that no one knows what day it is anymore. It’s like we’re all living in that song “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” from the 1975 cult classic movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Whether it’s the day of the week, the calendar date, or even what month it is, the coronavirus crisis has seemed to loosen our collective grip on time.
And so here we are in July 2020, still stuck in the shock of March, wishing it were sometime in late 2021 or 2022 when this has all passed, and starting to plan ahead for the November and December EOY giving season.
Starting to strategize the EOY giving season may feel especially odd or untenable right now because everything about the future is so uncertain and unpredictable. Questions greatly outnumber answers, and we know they will for some time.
In this warped reality, the best we can do is to take things one day at a time, step by step.
And interestingly enough, this advice has a nice corollary to our top recommendation for your EOY planning this year.
Segment your donor list.
One ask will not fit all in 2020. There is so much community need competing for attention this year that personalization needs to be your most important priority for the 2020 EOY giving season. And one of your best strategies for achieving personalization is segmenting.
Thread Senior Consultant Abigail Rybnicek offers this analogy to underscore the importance of segmenting: “To be a good gift getter, think like a good gift giver. You wouldn’t get everyone on your holiday shopping list the same gift, and for the same reason, you shouldn’t communicate with all of your donors using the same message. The best presents always feel customized, leaving recipients knowing they are sincerely appreciated and even more excited about their relationship with the gift giver.”
So what is segmenting?
Segmenting is the exercise of taking the master list of people you want to solicit and creating smaller groups based on a shared characteristic. That characteristic could be any number of things, such as (but of course not limited to):
Last gift amount
Average gift amount
First gift date
Last gift date
Maximum gift size
Volunteer vs non-volunteers
While the world is your oyster for choosing which attribute(s) to select, the most important thing to remember is:
Thread Principals Loree Lipstein and Tracy Shaw elaborate on this advice this way: “We often see that the idea of segmenting is overwhelming to the majority of our partners. There’s too much choice on how to tease out the list. What I say to partners is, PICK ONE OR TWO attributes and start small. You can’t do all the things! Start with the capacity you do have and go from there. It will make a difference.”
Additionally, it’s essential to know that segmenting takes time. This is not a quick and dirty undertaking. Set aside a robust chunk of time, put on your favorite podcast or Spotify station (or the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat…) and really go line by line in the data to ensure you’re assigning people to the correct bucket.
Once I have my segments, what do I do?
Once you’ve segmented your list by one or two criteria, your next step is to tailor the messaging and ask to each segment. This can be something big, like having a completely different direct mail letter for various segments, or something more modest, such as changing just the specific ask amount for each segment’s solicitation.
The point is that your donors know that your communication was designed with them in mind. Your communication demonstrates your knowledge of their relationship with your organization.
“You’re showing these donors that they’re a part of your organization’s family,” reminds Thread Principal Taryn Deaton.
Consider this experience from Thread Director Stela Patron: “Loree and I both went to the same university, and a few years ago Loree sent around one of their appeal emails as an example. I noticed that while hers was generally similar to what I got, the ask amount was different, along with some of the language. I’m big on stewardship, and to me, smart, thoughtful segmentation is synonymous with good stewardship. It’s showing your donors, or potential donors, that they are more than a number.”
This last point is so important, especially living through the coronavirus crisis in which numbers and statistics dominate so much of the information landscape. Your donors are individual people, and segmentation is your superpower to remind them so.
If you need help strategizing your segmentation, or you have a logistical question about how to actually do the work, let us know! We’re here for you. Drop us a line at [email protected] and we’ll help you get it done.