We’re all just coming down from the busy Calendar Year-End Season. And while many of us are still crunching numbers and gathering data, some points are becoming abundantly clear among NextGen clients.

We’ve been singing this tune for awhile, but after getting through a CYE season that was expected to be a correction from the COVID era boost, we can more confidently say:

Don’t get hung up on attribution. Your donors aren’t giving how you want them to.

According to M+R’s 2022 Year-End Fundraising study, 71% of the nonprofits surveyed saw a small decline in year-over-year revenue, and 60% saw a decline in the number of gifts. 

However, we found that our clients who invested in additional channels and adopted a true multi-channel strategy saw better outcomes than those who were more reserved. M+R also reported its study participants that incorporated expanded Display advertising, YouTube, Connected TV, Digital Out of Home, and Audio saw declines in click-through revenue but big gains in overall attributed revenue to digital advertising efforts.

This brings up another important point: While organizations who utilized a strong multichannel approach were typically more successful, that doesn’t mean direct revenue for each channel had a positive return on ad spend (ROAS). 

We no longer live in a world where attribution is clear cut. When you send a donor a direct mail letter, they may give on your main donation page. When someone sees a display ad, they may wait to give until they receive an email in their inbox. On average, it takes eight touchpoints for a consumer to make a decision, and we’re seeing the same logic now apply to fundraising. 

With this, consistent campaign messaging is the key to success. Your direct mail, emails, advertisements, and organic social posts should feel coherent. 

How Do I Know What Channels Are Working?

There are many ways to determine the effectiveness of your fundraising strategies without looking at direct attribution. Our number one indication is file size and year-over-year lift. Is your donor base growing? Are you raising more money? Obviously some years will be better than others, but, overall, are your overall numbers improving or consistent?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) will always be the strongest channel and show the best direct revenue because there is the intent to give, whereas other channels such as social, video, or display may not show positive ROAS. 

But there are ways to measure success on digital channels other than direct revenue. Find standard metrics like cost-per-click (CPC) and click-through-rate (CTR) and evaluate your campaign performance. (Note: Be careful in using email open rates as a metric. Apple devices that use the Apple Mail App automatically download all messages, which can artificially inflate this previously useful key performance indicator (KPI).). 

The biggest trap you can fall into is thinking that just because the direct revenue from a channel isn’t as strong that it’s not effective. As we mentioned earlier, donors don’t always give how we want them to. In an increasingly digital world, there’s a lot of noise to break through. More touchpoints help cut through that noise and remind donors to give. Look at the overall picture, evaluate engagement metrics, and spend responsibly for your organization. 

Let NextGen Help

If you need help with developing a new/improved approach to your fundraising strategy, please reach out to NextGen. We can help your organization create successful multi-channel campaigns. We would love to work with you!