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Has your food bank reached its digital tipping point?

Let’s think back to 2020.

I know, you’re probably trying to forget it—but hear me out. Prior to March, your food bank’s digital and direct mail channels were probably neck and neck in revenue raised. Maybe direct mail still reigned supreme.

Then the pandemic hit.

Donors everywhere turned to food banks to support their communities. Online donations skyrocketed. Sustainers reached record highs. And food bank digital programs were suddenly bringing in double (if not more) than they had just days before.

Now let’s fast-forward to today.

While digital programs have declined year-over-year for many food banks, they’re still light-years ahead of where they were three years ago. And for some food banks, they’re bringing in significantly more revenue than their direct mail programs.

We call this your digital tipping point―the point at which digital outraises direct mail.

How do you maintain this? With digital likely now raising more than most other traditional giving channels, how do you optimize your investments to sustain and grow?

Here are three main areas to focus on:

Conduct a digital maturity assessment.

Is your digital program mature enough to handle all the new donors—and their expectations? Here are a couple of things to assess:

  • Your tech stack: Do your tools talk to each other? Can you build personalized donor journeys across channels?
  • Your data: Is your data connected? For example, if your email donor data is housed in one location and your direct mail donor data in another, you could be missing out on key insights about your donors and the actions they take when giving to you.
  • Your website: A website is the digital welcome mat to your cause. If it’s outdated from a user experience or performance perspective, you could be turning off donors before they even get to know your cause. And according to Google’s metrics, 88% of food bank websites are lacking in performance.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. I dive into a few additional areas to assess when reviewing your digital maturity here.

Rethink the way you tell stories.

Be intentional about the way you tell and distribute your stories—some donors may still be learning about your mission and all the work you do.

On the distribution front, e-appeals will only reach a fraction of your new audience.

Use video, texting and social to help connect people with your cause and educate them about the various programs you offer.

From a messaging perspective, emphasize humanity and be authentic with the ways you tell your stories. Ensure the diverse community you serve is represented in your stories.

Quit doing things the same way you did them pre-COVID.

Are you still running the same digital campaigns you did three years ago? Are you relying on email and lightboxes to carry the weight of your digital program?

We know that digital food bank donors look different today than they did prior to the pandemic, and they’ve grown significantly in volume, so we need to adapt our online strategy to meet their expectations!

Consider increasing your paid media spend or introducing texting into your channel mix. Evaluate poorly performing campaigns to gain insights into where you can improve. Look into recent algorithm changes and optimize your website's performance and SEO strategy to increase organic traffic.

Your donor base is more sophisticated than ever—and by adapting your strategies, tactics and tools, you can help your digital program continue to flourish.

Jenn Thompson

As Vice President of Digital Strategy at RKD Group, Jenn brings decades of experience working alongside nonprofits to create integrated digital strategies that lead to omnichannel growth and high-value donors. She has been with RKD since 2010, and she provides the digital plan of attack for dozens of nonprofit organizations.

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