As we continue to navigate the “new normal,” one thing remains the same as before: Your organization needs new donors! And one of the best ways to ensure a consistent influx of new donors to your file is to start an annual digital lead generation program. This is something we’ve been doing with our clients for a while now, and it’s been extremely successful.

But what is it?

Very simply, digital lead generation is the process of serving ads to people online to capture their email address in an effort to get them to donate to your organization.

Digital lead generation is a fairly simple process. A typical campaign might look like this:

  1. Let’s use Facebook as an example. You serve ads to people who meet certain criteria — such as geography, demographic data, interests, etc — that you have selected in the Facebook Ad manager.
  2. Those prospects see your ad and click on it.
  3. Once they click you have two options. A) They sign up via Facebook, or B) They are taken to a landing page where they provide their email address so they will receive news and information from you.
  4. Your organization takes this email address and runs it through a welcome series of 2 or 3 emails — with a friendly introduction and an overview of what your organization does. (Maybe you make a small, soft ask as well, but this isn’t necessary at this stage.)
  5. Anyone who does not opt out after the welcome series gets added to your email list. Now that people know your organization, you can send them fundraising appeals and make a stronger case for giving.

Of course, I’ve simplified the process, but not that much. There is some set-up work required. You need to have a Facebook Ad account, which is easy to set up if you don’t (there are options other than Facebook as well, FYI). And the process works best if you can create look-alike audiences using your existing members. All this requires is for you to securely upload existing members’ email addresses so that Facebook can create a look-alike profile based on your actual existing users. And you need a page to drive leads to, but you likely already have one.

Why do you need it?

But why do you need online lead generation when direct mail acquisition works so well for most organizations? The answer is because people are consuming media online more and more. You need to meet the donors where they are most often, and more and more often that is online. As the current pandemic has precipitated beyond any doubt, we are quickly becoming a “digital-first” society.

Businesses are conducting meetings via zoom. Online streaming services are booming — they are literally replacing cable and over-the-air broadcast as the preferred method of media consumption. Ask yourself: How many local businesses in your community have a Facebook page? The answer is likely virtually all of them. Your organization needs to not only have a presence on these digital forums; it needs to be ready to acquire potential new donors on them as well. The next generation of donors are more and more willing to interact online. Eventually, this will be the primary marketplace for new constituent recruitment.

Listen, I am 100% a supporter of direct mail fundraising. But it shouldn’t work in a vacuum. A robust digital strategy works as a terrific complement to your direct mail fundraising, not as a replacement or an alternative. The two mediums working together can often provide a powerful one-two fundraising punch! More communications to a donor or potential donor are always better.

There are many benefits to digital lead generation. It has massive reach for dramatically less cost than direct mail. Cost per lead is often no more than $2–$3. A recent campaign for a client with a $3,000 budget acquired 800 new leads. That’s only $3.75 per lead!

And while we recommend running lead generation campaigns year-round, another benefit is that they can be paused at a moment’s notice. If there is a sudden budget issue, or if some other opportunity presents itself and could cause a conflict, you simply pause the campaign. You can’t “unsend” or stop the mail. And of course the real benefit of year-round lead generation is that it provides a steady stream of potential new donors to your organization. It can offset seasonal fluctuations due to weather or holidays or world events. Consistent lead generation can yield more consistent revenue streams.

One last benefit of digital lead generation that I want to call out is that digital runs in real time and gives you real-world insights instantly. You can get valuable feedback via comments, likes, clicks, etc. This is particularly valuable if you want to test new copy and images. As you get real-time results, if a test is clearly failing you can stop it and reallocate the impressions elsewhere. Digital gives you the flexibility to pivot in real time and concentrate your efforts on what’s actually working currently.

Year-round digital lead generation has the potential to do great things for your organization.

Interested in digital lead generation? Contact us!