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Development Marketing

Development and fundraising

Development professionals have many ways to leverage marketing strategy and techniques to increase their institution's donations, including repeat annual gifts. Successful marketing in education covers a wide spectrum of functions, including database marketing, creating profiles, email and direct mail testing, analytics, and targeted lead nurturing. Note that the most likely group to be influenced by marketing efforts is small and medium-sized prospective and ongoing donors, as capital campaigns and large gifts are typically driven by personal contact with major donors, both individuals and organizations. In an ideal world, your ace development staff would talk with each donor or high-value prospect, but this isn't possible. How can marketing simulate that interaction?

Database marketing enables you to use data about a person's background, demographics, charitable giving history, and marketing activities to assess his or her potential as a donor. A good example for schools, colleges, or universities is how you treat various levels of donors based on their gift size, frequency and timing of giving, and relationship to the institution, e.g. do they volunteer or attend events? This information can and should be stored in a database where these factors can be used to develop a profile, or persona, of this individual and your other donors and prospects. The data forms the core of your email and direct mail efforts and decisions on when a prospect should be handled by a development officer or senior supporter such as a trustee. It also influences how and how often you communicate with your constituents over time.


Practical Questions That Marketing Can Help You Answer:

  • How can you best integrate all your data into a useful assessment of a donor/prospect's potential?

  • Who should be on your active donor list?

  • How do you plan to allocate your budget for direct mail and magazines to complement your email campaigns?

  • Do you test your email program to discover what subject lines and topics create the best response? Do you personalize your communicationsDo you test each of your paid channels to know what delivers the best ROI?

  • What individuals qualify for costly touches? Do you segment LYBUNTs ("last year but unfortunately not this year") and use different strategies for acquisition and renewal? How often do you review your criteria for each market segment?

  • Do or should you use strategic email or text touches to stay in contact with your current and prospective donors? Lead nurturing techniques most commonly used in admissions can be powerful in development too; connecting periodically with information or stories relevant to that individual.

    • Do you go beyond basic RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) modeling to tracking a person's interests and activity outside of donations?

  • Are you taking advantage of new data visualization tools and old standbys such as pyramid graphics that show where a donor fits in broader giving patterns? This tactic can produce higher gifts and minimize downgrading.

  • Do you know what time of year a donor typically gives, and if so, do you manage your communications accordingly?

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