Lessons from bbcon: Support Should Never Take Just One Form

Lessons from BBCON: Support Should Never Take Just One Form

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Walking through Blackbaud’s bbcon conference, it is inspiring to see how many organizations have gathered to bring about change. Thousands of people have come. All are engaged in social good. And all are here to learn and improve.

One of the lessons here in Nashville is about the nature of those who power our organizations. It’s easy to think of supporters in only one dimension. They are members or donors or advocates. But because of how digital technology has flattened the world, is one person can now easily be all of those things and more. If we communicate properly, support from our constituents should never take just one form. 

A donor can also be an advocate who calls a member of Congress. An advocate who signs a petition can be moved to make a donation. That donor-advocate might also attend an event or even become a sustaining member. How we address people, both through messaging and technology, is what moves them to increase their support. 

We see it often at Phone2Action: companies use best-of-breed solutions like Blackbaud for fundraising and marketing and come to us for advanced advocacy tools (hence our new Blackbaud partnership, announced right here at bbcon). The combination often results in increased levels of support across the board. 

Jeb Ory with Jay Odell and Vince Menzione Phone2Action’s Jeb Ory with Jay Odell, President, Enterprise Nonprofit Business Unit at Blackbaud, and Vince Menione, Vice President, Partner Ecosystem and Alliances at Blackbaud.

One powerful example is the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a nonprofit that has worked to protect America’s National Park system for 100 years. I recently wrote a post on Blackbaud’s npEngage blog about the organization. I also did a session here at bbcon together with Zach Ragbourn, director of digital communication at NPCA. We did a case study, too.

NPCA has a great story to tell. Using Blackbaud’s Luminate Online, the organization doubled both its sustainer donors and its online revenue. Since adopting Phone2Action in 2018, NPCA has run more than 30 campaigns that facilitated more than 100,000 connections to Congress and the administration. They have built a text list with thousands of people in a little over a year. Their top-performing campaigns have seen double-digit conversion rates.   

Those are the type of numbers that are possible when supporters are active in multiple ways. As Zach and I discussed in our session, there are many people who support the organization in more than one way. For example, Jim in St. Petersburg, Florida, joined NPCA in the 1980s and took no fewer than 135 actions through Luminate. Through Phone2Action, in the last 15 months, he has participated in 19 campaigns. Kelly in Los Angeles joined NPCA as an email subscriber in 2014 and took 35 actions through Luminate. In the last 15 months, she joined 18 campaigns through Phone2Action. 

What makes this possible is loyal supporters who believe in the mission and want to do what they can. A compelling message lights the way, and technology makes it simple for these supporters to follow their hearts. Ideally, the tech should fade into the background, and put the advocate forward. 

NPCA chose Phone2Action to take advantage of text messaging, patch-through calling and integration with the public comment functions offered by regulatory agencies. All of these are efforts to make it easier for NPCA supporters to contribute to the organization’s mission however they can.   

As Zach put it, “Modern advocacy requires modern tools. Advocates shouldn’t have to worry about the mechanics of contacting their own government. The tools should be simple, reliable, and right in their pockets.”

NPCA is a dramatic example of what can happen when an organization doing social good makes it easy for supporters to get involved. They began with text messaging in 2018 and the results are impressive. In their four largest campaigns this year, the click rate averaged 24 percent, well above the 2 percent average click rate for email in the advocacy world. The conversion rate, meaning the percentage who took action, averaged almost 15 percent, far above the 1.8-percent industry average for email.

When you make it easy for supporters like Kelly and Jim to act on their passion, good things happen. Encouraging them to do so makes immediate sense. In the business world, many say the easiest sale you can make is the customer you retain year after year. Much energy is spent cultivating repeat business. That same principle applies to nonprofits. Moving constituents to multiple forms of action is a valuable force multiplier.  

Here’s a little more information on our new partnership:

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