Finding the Communication Vehicle that is Right for You
by: Aaren Ballinger, Selena Fowler & Heather Todd
Communicating effectively with constituents is one of the most critical tasks for any organization. When it comes to setting up communication vehicles in Blackbaud CRM™, there are several options - which you pick depends on the type of communication you are sending and what information you would like to track in the system. Whether it’s a fundraising appeal, stewardship campaign, or another message, there’s a communication task that will fit your needs.
Three such communication vehicles in Blackbaud CRM™ are Appeal Mailings, Marketing Efforts, and Correspondence processes. They may appear to have similar functionality - maybe you have thought to yourself, well, what is the difference? Here’s a quick overview of each one to help you understand what they provide and choose the right one for your communication.
Direct Marketing Efforts are the “gold standard” in Blackbaud CRM™ when building and tracking fundraising appeals. They have the most robust features and flexibility, allowing you to incorporate complex segmentation and exclusion logic, A/B testing, and even solicit through email deployed by BBIS. Below is a summary of the main benefits and unique features that Direct Marketing Efforts provide.
Maximum flexibility with segmentation and exclusions
Marketing efforts allow you to include multiple segments and separate each segment into test segments for A/B testing. If you vary the creative for your appeal among different segments, you can track that by attaching different packages to your segments. Each segment within a marketing effort will receive a unique source code, allowing you to track the appeal results at a very granular level. When it comes to exclusions, marketing efforts will enable you to exclude records based on specific solicit codes, or exclude whole groups of constituents through exclusion selections and previous marketing effort exclusions.
Fail-proof ways to check your work
Once you activate a Marketing Effort, the process writes to each constituent record part of the effort to show that they have received the appeal. It’s often a bit daunting to push that “activate” button, so Marketing Efforts provide a few features that allow you to check your work before taking that final step. First, you can calculate segment counts before activating to check that everything is looking as expected. You can also export the mail file before activating to do an even more in-depth check.
Robust tracking and reporting capabilities
Once a Marketing Effort is activated, each constituent in the effort is assigned a finder number. These finder numbers are typically printed on direct mail response devices, and when a gift is returned, it allows data entry teams to quickly enter that gift and link it back to the marketing effort that prompted it. As contributions roll in, results for the appeal can be monitored directly in the Marketing Effort record, which provides KPIs like response rate, average gift amount, and cost per dollar raised for each segment. In addition, several marketing effort-level reports can be run to monitor results.
Ability to complete a wide variety of solicitation activities
Marketing Efforts provide you the ability to do types of solicitations that you can’t do within an Appeal Mailing. One crucial example is acquisition mailings. Only Marketing Efforts allow you to add outside acquisition lists that contain individuals without a constituent record in Blackbaud CRM™. Once an individual from an acquisition list makes a gift, the finder number provided through the Marketing Effort will help link back to that individual and create a record for them using the information in the acquisition list. Another example of functionality only available in a Marketing Effort is linking with Blackbaud Internet Systems (BBIS) and sending an email appeal. By attaching an email package and the appropriate HTML code-block, you can deploy an email via BBIS and see any responses tracked back to the Marketing Effort. You can also use multiple email packages within a marketing effort to vary the content, and creative your audience sees by segment.
As you can see, Marketing Efforts are ideal for organizations that are completing very complex fundraising appeals. In addition, they are often the top choice for larger organizations that have the staff and expertise to set up complex segmentation and complete things like large-scale acquisition efforts.
Appeal Mailings are a more scaled-down, simpler version of Marketing Efforts. There is no complex segmentation available, as only one selection and one package can be used for the appeal. Options around exclusions are also scaled back, as only solicit code exclusions can be used.
Some of the features found in Marketing Efforts remain. Most notably, the mailing is assigned an appeal, and all records in the appeal will be assigned finder numbers, which makes gift entry seamless. Once activated, the Appeal Mailing record will also be written to the constituent record for each recipient.
Tracking results for Appeal Mailings is a slightly different process. There are no source codes in Appeal Mailings, so there is no source code level reporting available. Some of the same KPIs that are available within Marketing Efforts are available in an Appeal Mailing, but those KPIs only report on the mailing as a whole since there is no complex segmentation to keep track of.
Overall, Appeal Mailings are ideal for very simple mailings - one message sent to one audience. A great example would be a letter to your board members asking them to pay their yearly dues. It gives you the ability to track your results but doesn’t require the setup time of a Marketing Effort.
If you are looking to send a non-fundraising communication, the Manage Correspondence process is a great option. This communication vehicle is not tied to an Appeal in the system, so it is perfect for tracking stewardship activities like newsletters, postcards, and impact reports.
Like an Appeal Mailing, in a Correspondence process you choose one selection to pull in your recipients, and you can exclude constituents using solicit codes only. One additional feature that a Correspondence process provides is the ability to link with a letter template and complete a mail merge directly from Blackbaud CRM™. You also have the option to output a list using either an output format or an export definition.
When you run the Correspondence process, it writes the communication to each constituent record. You can also add a correspondence code, which can be specified for each correspondence or kept more general if you send a particular type of correspondence more regularly.
Communication Vehicle Tips
Here are a few other things to consider when deciding which communication vehicle you want to use for your next communication.
One way to make the process of building a Marketing Effort less time-intensive and more fool-proof is to utilize communication templates. These allow you to select default settings or parameters for every Marketing Effort you create. In addition, you can use them to build in standard exclusions and other items to save you from having to add these each time you start an effort.
If you have a simple and straightforward fundraising appeal, an Appeal Mailing might be your best choice to save setup time. However, there’s plenty of instances where you might want to use a Marketing Effort to take advantage of some of the extra features. For example, maybe you need the ability to exclude a selection of constituents. There are no rules against building a simple Marketing Effort with just one segment!
There are also no rules about using a Marketing Effort to set up a non-fundraising communication. While using a Correspondence process is an excellent choice for sending out more minor communications, sometimes stewardship activities can be complex too! Marketing Efforts can allow you to account for different groups through multiple segments, assign other messaging through packages, and exclude constituents in various ways.