Focus on digital marketing maturing for Canadian non-profits as experience grows

TORONTO — Digital Leap 2017, the eighth annual digital fundraising and marketing conference hosted by Stephen Thomas Ltd (ST) and, concluded its most-well-attended session yet yesterday at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Over 150 non-profit marketers and fundraisers from a wide variety of organizations came to Digital Leap 2017 for practical pointers on how to build on their digital marketing know-how and to get inspirational ideas on how to take their digital marketing strategies to a higher level.

A few new key strategic points of interest rose to the fore at this year’s conference, including discussion around content marketing optimization and email engagement, online donor acquisition and retention strategies, CRM, analytics and measurement and—perhaps most notably—digital culture and creativity.

“It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that online donor acquisition and retention strategies are top of mind within non-profit and charitable fundraising organizations,” said Kathleen Grace, ST director, digital strategy, “but it’s interesting to see that the level of discussion has very quickly evolved from ‘should we do digital marketing?’ to ‘how do we do it better, more effectively and more creatively?’”

“Canadian non-profits and charities are becoming more sophisticated in how they apply digital marketing to their overall approach, while ensuring the efforts contribute to the operational bottom line and contribute to building and sustaining a distinctive brand presence in the marketplace,” said Paula Attfield, ST president.

15 key learnings

Here are 15 key digital fundraising and marketing learnings from Digital Leap 2017:

  1. To create emails that beg to be opened: Know your audience, test and work the non-opening segment hard.
  2. To win the battle of time, stories are better at getting people’s attention and always win over data.
  3. The problem with making the digital leap is we’re trying to create concept cars on the assembly line – Ron Tite, The Tite Group.
  4. Donor retention tip: Go beyond a receipt… Make sure your message is meaningful whether you’re sending an email, a personalized note or picking up the phone.
  5. Three steps to customer retention: 1. Thank 2. Keep the conversation going 3

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    . Track your progress.

  6. 81% of first time donors don’t give again—focus on the first three months to build a lasting relationship.
  7. Combining advocacy and fundraising in campaigns can improve overall retention.
  8. Map out who the digital allies, adversaries, ambivalents and ambiguous are in your organization and develop a strategy to manage them.
  9. Step one in managing the digital evolution in an organization is to acknowledge the fear associated with the change – Alice Ferris.
  10. The key to implementing digital change is to consider what drives the people you work with.
  11. Develop more persuasive messaging by using data to build personas, keep them tight and keep them focused.
  12. Digital supporter personas can help non-profit marketers be more efficient with time and money.
  13. Targeted social ads are one of the most powerful tools in a digital marketer’s toolkit.
  14. The most successful non-profit organizations are optimized for digital and profoundly different from prior business, operating and customer models.
  15. Successful rewiring of marketing involves embracing customer centricity at the core.



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