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Thoughts from Next in Direct: Plan for multiple channels

I’m a big fan of the NFL. One of the things I’ve learned over the years as a fan, is the way trends return. Setting aside rules changes, team strategies come and go. What’s old is new, and what’s new will eventually be old, and the cycle returns. When teams get faster, they get lighter, so the league counters with bigger, which becomes slower, which gets countered by faster… You probably get the point. At the end of the day, teams that work together to stay ahead, win.

That’s sort of similar to what I’m observing in direct marketing. Yeah, technology has completely upended traditional channels, but at the end of the day, the foundational principles emerge, and things start to look similar to the past.

Ellyse Wallnutt, from Agility Lab Consulting, reminded us that some of the rules have changed.

Amongst low-dollar donors she notes:

  • 10% dip in Giving Tuesday donors year over year
  • Cost to convert up 80%
  • Organizations are sending double the emails to generate flat donor counts

These changes are driven by factors that impact display and email marketing. In fact, they change so rapidly that success hinges on breaking down internal silos and working together to understand how to optimize results with limited resources and an audience that is on the move. Reliance on traditional methods of fundraising without truly understanding the new landscape is not a path to success. Of course, we all know this. My personal experience aligns perfectly with her message: Communication and respect for both new and traditional approaches is the path to effective omnichannel efforts.

Now that we are talking to each other, what’s the message? The next speaker, Kevin Gentry, from Stand Together, reminded us to think big! Fear of failure or (probably worse!) the core belief that a board of directors will never buy your ideas, won’t change the future. Kevin’s aspirational message was a reminder that the gift of working in a nonprofit organization is that your work really does matter to people.

At the reception afterwards, I met a fundraising rock star who has walked this very walk – Cheryl Lovinsky from the AARP Foundation. Ever read the tagline, “For a future without senior poverty.”? That’s thinking BIG. Cheryl relayed her experience when she unveiled her vision and was rejected. She didn’t quit. She fought and believed and eventually her team’s vision transformed her organization and is indeed working to end senior poverty. Platitudes are only empty when they aren’t accompanied by hard work. I’m inspired!

The last speaker, Samantha Justice Kelley, shared her experiences and approach to managing against the dangers of burnout. Burnout is a real threat to our careers, particularly with people who work in the nonprofit sector. The work is important, but the people who do the work need to be mindful of their own responsibilities to themselves and others when it comes to burnout. Samantha shared how she communicates with her team to make sure they are receiving the support they need to manage their work lives to accomplish their goals and have a healthy mindset in the process.

I left as I usually leave DMAW events – smarter, with some inspiration, and a few new friends. Great night and I’m looking forward to the rest of the DMAW calendar in 2024!


Chris Buoni is VP of Business Development for Perfect Communications, a printing and direct mail company in Moorestown, NJ.