Long gone are the days when just sending emails, mailing letters, or setting up a phone bank full of sophomores cold-calling your donor base will help you hit your institutional fundraising goals.
Not that any of these ought to be canceled altogether, of course. They have their place. But marketing has changed with the advent of the digital age. Inbound marketing is the future when it comes to engaging your alumni.
The quick and dirty explanation of what inbound marketing is and how it works goes something like this…
Whereas traditional marketing relied on interrupting people while they were trying to do something else—listening to the radio, watching tv, driving through the Cumberland gap without being bombarded by billboard after billboard—inbound marketing is a strategy that relies on providing information and putting it where your target audience is going to find it.
Inbound marketing is all about answering the questions your donor base is already asking themselves. It’s about adding value—enough of it, in fact, that when it comes to donating their time or money, you’re already on the short list of potential recipients long before you’ve even asked them anything even remotely resembling a check.
Think of it this way…
If traditional marketing is a megaphone, inbound marketing is a magnet. It’s not trying to shout anyone down. Instead, it’s designed to draw your donor base willingly back to you—over time and at their own pace.
So, why is inbound marketing the future of engaging your donors? Great question.
Here are four of the biggest reasons.
1. Inbound Creates Engagement
The main job of institutional advancement is not raising funds. It’s not about getting donations. It’s not about building new football stadiums or putting a new wing on the theater building.
No, the primary job of advancement is to create opportunities for people to support things they’re passionate about. It’s about identifying your Hero (your donor) and guiding them towards embarking on a journey that’s already in their heart. It’s also about fostering community. And it’s only when this first goal is accomplished that all the other good stuff flows out of it.
When I talk about engagement, I’m not using the jargon version that tends to mean “updating alumni” or “getting likes on Facebook.” This brand of engagement runs much deeper than simple interaction. We don’t want emoji hearts on social media. We want real hearts—yours and theirs—coming together to do something that makes the world a demonstrably better place.
Inbound marketing is an excellent way of generating this deeper kind of engagement, if only because it’s designed to be helpful, first and foremost. It’s unobtrusive. It’s all about answering questions. It provides value without asking for much (if anything) in return during the early stages of the relationship between your school and the potential donor. It values your Hero and positions you in a place of trust as the Guide.
You provide value and, somewhere in the background, loyalty is growing with your future donor. They’re beginning to engage with you long before they’re even consciously aware of it.
2. Inbound Resonates
Another reason why inbound marketing works so well is because it’s designed to run right in line with how people nowadays making purchasing and philanthropic decisions. The days of the hard sell are all but over. People spend money on things only after researching online, and only on things that solve a problem in their lives. They might know as much about where your school’s fundraising efforts go as you do.
So, giving them the information they’re already looking for—and doing it in a way that’s easy to find, easy to consume, and answers their questions—is going to resonate with them.
3. Inbound Creates Momentum
With the world now moving at breakneck speed, your marketing needs to keep up. Inbound marketing is inherently moving forward, gathering data, and creating a pool of current and potential donors that’s always up-to-date.
And the more you do, the longer you keep at it, the overall impact begins to increase exponentially. It’s like a boulder rolling down a hill: once it starts, it’s almost impossible to slow it down.
4. Inbound Loves the Scientific Method
Ask anyone in Silicon Valley if they’d rather have a million dollars or a big pool of relevant and reliable prospect data, they’re always going to choose the latter. Every. Single. Time.
Because data is what now makes the world turn.
And inbound marketing loves data. As it gathers, measures, and stores the real-time results of each campaign you’re running, it allows you the opportunity to make the whole machine run even more effectively. You can see what’s working and what’s not. You can then tweak this or add that, and as the data continues to pour in, you’re getting a clearer picture of how better to engage your donors.
Pop question: how well did that billboard up on the side of the highway just outside of town perform last quarter? You have no idea because traditional marketing implemented in isolation doesn’t offer up that sort of valuable information. (Or, at least not as quickly or with anything approaching the same level of precision.)
The future is all about data. And data is inbound’s BFF.
When it comes to fundraising, data couldn’t be more important. While in the past, you might’ve been able to get away with a simple spreadsheet of contact information, the world has changed. Now, your fundraising efforts have to include information about what potential donors care about, where they spend their time online, what resonates with them, where they are in terms of their decision to give, how they prefer to communicate… and the list goes on.
Because the focus has to be on your potential donor, and not the institution itself, you have to know your donors almost as well as they know themselves. And data makes that happen.
So, if you’re not incorporating inbound marketing strategies into your overall fundraising plan, you’re already falling behind the eight ball. If you’d like to learn more about what inbound is and how it works, click below to contact us. We’d love to chat with you about it!