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Lessons from J.Lo: Digital fundraising requires patience

I’m a huge J.Lo fan.

I’ve admired Jennifer Lopez’s talent for a long time now. But what I admire more is her work ethic and the incredible effort she puts into her career, which is now in its fourth decade.

She’s truly done it all—huge movie roles, chart-topping songs and albums, countless awards, pop stardom, celebrity marriages, you name it.

But success didn’t happen overnight for Jenny from the block. She started her career as a dancer, with a few small acting gigs for nearly a decade before she got her big break in the role of Selena.

J.Lo worked her you-know-what off—and still does—to get where she is today. This might sound odd, but it reminds me a lot of digital marketing.

When we think about the benefits offered by digital channels, we’re often drawn to speed. Targeted ads that appear in the blink of an eye. One click of a button to load pages of content. Email messages that are automatically dispersed out to thousands of followers.

It can be easy to get lost in this world of instant gratification and forget the hard work that goes in behind the scenes to make it happen. That’s especially true when it comes to digital fundraising results.

Too often we expect an immediate return from an investment in digital growth—something that would never happen in, say, direct mail. But we have to remember that digital fundraising growth is more of a marathon than a sprint. Even those comparisons aren’t perfect because races end, while digital strategies are constantly adapting, optimizing and innovating.

The point is that digital channels may move fast, but the strategies and efforts behind the fundraising still require time. Success doesn’t happen in an instant. We still need to put in the work to build an audience, draw their interest, engage them over time and ultimately convince them to give to our mission.

With that in mind, it’s critical to separate what can be “quick wins” in digital vs. what will take more time.

3 quick wins to expect in digital

  1. Testing: Whether we’re talking email, social/paid media, landing pages or donation forms, digital offers the quickest path to results for testing creative images, messages, tactics and new endeavors. Yes, it still takes time to plan the tests, but the feedback is quick. This allows us to optimize rapidly, and the learnings can also be used in other channels where it would take longer to get similar results.

  2. Timely launches: No need to worry about holidays, shipping delays, postage increases or any other external issues that can affect the timing of your big campaign launch. Sure, Facebook could crash or your email provider’s server could get overloaded, but those instances are few and far between. Digital is ready to go at the click of a button, and you can nail your deadlines.

  3. Engagement: Your supporters can quickly and easily learn more about your organization, watch videos, read posts on social media and much more. All the assets you’ve created are right at their fingertips.


3 digital investments that require patience

  1. Brand awareness: Remember, it took J.Lo years of hard work before she became noticed. Likewise, it will take time before a donor notices your organization and your mission. Each donor’s timeline is different, but we can’t expect immediate returns.

  2. Audience building: Similarly, we can’t flip a switch and suddenly double the number of online donors. We have to start small with media prospecting campaigns that build up a social media following and gather email addresses. Then, we can begin to engage them and start a relationship. The up-front investment will initially exceed the return, so it’s important to set that expectation.

  3. Optimization: I mentioned earlier that test results happen quickly in digital, and that’s true. But it does take time to implement those learnings into new strategies and approaches that move the needle. For example, we can gather data on donation form conversions—what works and what doesn’t—but we’ll still need to adjust creative and implement technical changes to improve results.

When planning to make an investment in digital marketing, just remember these key distinctions. Don’t pull the plug too soon on a strategy that takes time to pay off.

J.Lo may be “waiting for tonight ,” but fundraising results take a little bit longer.

Heidi Caster

Heidi Caster is Vice President, Strategic Engagement, at RKD Group. She brings a 25-year record of improving results through strategy development across a variety of clients and industries in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. Heidi is recognized for her high standards of integrity, excellence and the ability to simply get things done.

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