Integrated campaigning: throw away the best practices

Show me a fundraiser who thinks they’ve solved integrated campaigning and I’ll show you someone who whistles past the graveyard.

What exactly constitutes an integrated campaign, anyway? Is it simply having a landing page that looks a lot like your direct mail piece? And why do it? From a fundraisers’ perch, the answer to both questions is…money. Integrated campaigns can raise the money you need to meet your revenue objectives. They do this by using complementary channels, which create multiple levels of exposure and engagement points influencing your donors to action. Donate Now is a good one; Unsubscribe, not so good.

Again, there’s no secret recipe for integrated campaigns. I’m still trying to figure it all out, as I hope are the rest of the non-profit and commercial worlds. But it’s out of this striving I’m convinced the best campaigns are born – they’re the result of both strategic and emergent planning. (Of course, the topic of integrated campaigns is broad and infinite, and I aim only to introduce some concepts in this blog post, and will write more deeply on each aspect in future entries.)

So, if the “what” of a gold-standard integrated campaign is undefinable (no two are alike) but the “why” is obvious ($), how then do you do it?

  1. Pick a story to tell. Fundraise from the frontlines. Always use the clarity of your organization’s mission to inform your fundraising practice. Divine your story, turn it into a case for support, and then…
  2. Determine your marketing objective. Marketing is about identifying, satisfying and keeping customers/donors. There are different marketing disciplines to achieve your objectives. Social marketing, for example, is used to build community. If you want to leverage human interactions to convey a message, this marketing discipline is the one you want. Do you want to change policy? Use the discipline of content marketing. Direct marketing targets people in the hope of eliciting a response. For most of us fundraisers, this is the discipline we need to study and master. (A cautionary note: direct marketing is not brand marketing, which has a wholly different objective and usually doesn’t raise money though costs a lot. I’m touching where it hurts on myself here, take my word on this.)
  3. Choose your channel(s). Respect each for what they do best, be thoughtful on how each also serves the story-telling process, and ensure the totality of your campaign’s message is present at each donor touchpoint. When we’re putting together an integrated marketing plan, flexibility and measurability are the criteria for the mediums we select. Take direct mail. Is it flexible? Yes and no. Yes, because you can write variable copy, segment and test test test. No in that once it’s dropped, it’s out there and there’s no going back. Is direct mail measurable? Again, yes and no: direct mail was bred to be a transactional channel, and generates fairly predictable response rates and average gift levels. But the more integrated we get, the harder it is to track a donor back to that mail piece, especially if they ultimately gave online. Other considerations for direct mail as a channel choice: it’s got a long lead time to production and is fairly costly.

How about the web? Yes, it’s a flexible channel: unlike direct mail, you can instantly refresh the content and it’s also an easy way for donors to give. Where it’s not so flexible is in the ask, which you can’t control with the same strategic precision as a gift matrix on a coupon or during a face-to-face conversation. The web as a channel is, however, highly measurable. It’s of course transactional, and we’ve got a number of other important markers to help tweak our messaging and campaign activities in real time: click-through-rates, number of visits and Google analytics. But as mentioned above, we can’t always measure what drove the final response to give (and that “why” is pretty important!). Was it the landing page, or the compelling lift piece in the mail package? Or the integrated experience? Final considerations for the web as a direct marketing channel: service levels from your server providers and data hosts, and it’s a really noisy space to compete in for our donors’ attention.

A final thought for now on channel selection: pick your media based on where your target audience is. Don’t spend a lot of money on billboards or cinema ads if those aren’t the spaces and places your donors are.

4. Know what integrated marketing IS NOT and DOES NOT

  • Integrated marketing is not replication.
  • Integrated marketing does not misalign priorities.
  • Integrated marketing is not uncoordinated scheduling.
  • Integrated marketing does not have an absence of metric-driven performance.
  • And integrated marketing, amazingly, is not about best practices.

Successful integrated campaigns, then, pull together uniquely many existing elements of both your best and emerging practices for the first time. Learn to love that tension of heritage and reactivity, and seize opportunities as they arise. In this new world of integration, problems, opportunities and solutions change rapidly. And there’s no mold for this. Happily, experimentation in integrated campaigns can be incremental, and results tracked in real time so you can immediately tweak what you need to and raise more money.

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