On their face, three topics covered by The Agitator over recent days seem quite different — the rise of marketing pros in nonprofits … #Giving Tuesday … and email ad nauseam.

A comment by Claire Axelrod to Tom’s post Yikes…Fundraisers Make Way for Marketers! triggered my desire to tie the three topics together.

Claire commented, “Many nonprofits could use more pros — of all stripes. The key problem with much of nonprofit marketing and fundraising, IMHO, is that it’s not integrated. It’s always mattered, but the digital revolution has shined a gigantic flashlight on the problem of keeping the two disciplines — which are more alike than they are different — siloed.” [Emphasis mine]

Ahh, the deadly ‘silo’ again rears its ugly head. Tom and I’ve railed against this structural killer over and over through the years. Herehere…and here. And Claire herself has written eloquently on the subject of the silo.

So, here’s the question Claire’s comment triggered, considering our posts:

What is the effect on retention when the digital team in a siloed organization unleashes a tsunami of emails on the organization’s donors?

I’m thinking of examples like #GivingTuesday, some Matching Gift Campaigns, or in a crazed political climate, as is the case with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Most likely the truthful answer to the question is, “We don’t know?”…”We can’t measure that.” We have separate databases and it’s too difficult/expensive to do an analysis.

Everything I’ve studied about donor experience over the past three years would indicate that the effect on retention, donor loyalty, satisfaction and commitment is negative for those organizations who bombard their donors over and over.

I’m hoping some Agitator readers have gone to the trouble to analyze this. If so, please share your findings in the Comments section or send it to me privately and I’ll abide by requests for anonymity or confidentiality.

As Tom noted yesterday, too many organizations operate with the delusion that email appeals and social media are basically ‘free’ or very inexpensive. Consequently, many behave in an unfettered way when it comes to digital fundraising — especially when it comes to events like #GivingTuesday or important milestones in the political season.

While the simple metric of ‘unsubscribe rates’ might signal some donor dissatisfaction, it sheds no light on the cumulative effect of this behavior toward donors. I do believe the adverse — or positive — effect will show up in donor retention rates and the lifetime value of the file.

Several organizations have tested frequency of contact with donors where postal mail and telemarketing is concerned. And we’ve covered this discussion and findings in our series Raise More, Ask Less, appearing in four parts: hereherehere and here. And in a detailed case study featuring a  presentation by Lauri Marden, Chief Development Officer at the Union of Concerned Scientists … a ‘must-view’ presentation she gave at the 2016  npNEXT conference organized by Blackbaud.

Given the increasing use of digital — especially mobile — in the fundraising mix, we need a more complete understanding of its effects on the key long-term metrics of an organization — retention rates and lifetime value.

I’m hoping some Agitator readers have gone to the trouble to analyze their digital programs and schedules and determine the effects on retention.

If so, please share your findings in the Comments section or send it to me privately (Roger@theagitator.net). Again, I’ll abide by requests for anonymity or confidentiality.

Other thoughts?

Roger