Blog posts

To get personal, you need to start with data

Chris Houghton
December 3, 2018

People today want to feel a real connection with the brands they engage with.

It doesn't matter whether you're a retailer, a bank, or a charity. The brands that are thriving today are those fostering real human connections with their customers or supporters. Brands like Patagonia, Monzo, or charity: water.

Screenshot 2018-11-29 at 20.16.58

Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts - these are all new communication mediums that provide new ways of engaging with supporters. In a world where there's so much choice, people today choose the brands that they connect with.

Personalisation doesn't just sound good. It can drive huge value in your marketing. MailChimp recently analyzed over 11,000 campaigns using segmentation (the how of personalisation) and found that personalised emails get 52% more clicks than non-personalised campaigns.

To build a connection, start getting personal. To get personal, you usually need data.

Nonprofits have always had fantastic opportunities for engagement. Supporters feel deeply passionate about truly important causes. They want to make real differences in the world.

But there's also a whole host of challenges. How should we treat volunteers differently to donors? Should we add them to the fundrainsing MailChimp list? What if they ran in the London Marathon last year?

And wait... is all of this GDPR compliant?

These are the perfect kinds of questions to ask. Problems to be solved.

At Beacon, we're working hard to build the nonprofit database of the future. We believe strongly that the right approach is the store all the data that matters in one secure place. We take a very human approach to building software - you won't see strange terminology like "opportunities" or "income codes" anywhere in our product. You won't be storing volunteers separately to fundraisers.

We've also banned the word "constituent" from our office.

I've recently been working closely with an amazing charity that supports children with epilepsy. Many of the parents of these children end up becoming some of the most committed volunteers and donors years after the children first received help from the charity.

What's the right way to communicate with these parents? What are the right and wrong times to be sending out different kinds of communication?

An initial strategy could be something as simple as:

While using services:

  • Do not email them asking them to donate
  • Do send them useful information
  • Do keep them in the loop about general activities of the charity

After using services:

  • Do not add them to the standard "potential donors" email list
  • Do add them to an exclusive "after service" list - where you use different imagery and terminology

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to personalisation. But getting personal starts by treating your supporters and beneficiaries like the humans they are.

To build real connections, we need to move beyond a siloed mentality of "volunteer records" and "donor records" - and start thinking digital across the organisation with all the information available to us.