How to turn omnichannel outreach into ROI—from segmentation to stewardship

Through our growing suite of tools, EverTrue is committed to helping you connect with the right donors with the right message through the right channel. 

Before we dive into why omnichannel outreach is so much more than just a buzzword, consider this quote from Chris Savage, CEO and co-founder of Wistia, one of the leading video and media platforms:

“Everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners, some learn by listening, some people need to see it in writing. You need to produce something for everyone to engage the broadest audience.”


Think about how YOU engage with content. Depending on where you’re at (walking, driving, on your phone, at your desk), what you’re trying to get from the content (top highlights, deep-dive, entertainment, curbed curiosity), the time you have (10 seconds, 2 minutes, an hour), and myriad of other factors, you will seek content in different mediums. 

Because you are a human and you are living in 2022. Nice to be here with you!

Your alums are also humans living in 2022. And re-engaging more alums with your institution really boils down to finding the most sustainable and scalable ways to reach your alums where they are at.

Enter omnichannel outreach.

What omnichannel engagement really boils down to is strategically planning use of all the channels through which you can get a meaningful message to your alums. But how do you go about determining what messaging should go on which channel? And who should you be engaging during any given campaign?

The reality is, things have changed a lot in the last several years.  For example: the QR code is having a renaissance (QR code scans have had a 443% increase in 2022! Source: QRTiger). More companies are using text as a means to reach their prospective customers. Email unsubscribe rates are higher than ever. The marketing space in 2022 is a LOT different than what it was in 2019. 

So. How do advancement shops keep up with their alums (fellow humans living in 2022) through omnichannel outreach?

We met with some experts from Brandeis University and Cornell University who helped break down how their teams are building strategies to engage their constituents from all angles to meet their alums where they are at and build more affinity for their schools.


Here are our top takeaways:

Email is a successful medium - especially if you make it personal.

Cornell’s use of conversational tone in their email messaging, rather than “marketing speak” has helped keep their email engagement high. (Email was their top performing channel during their giving day!) Here’s a tip from Ashley Budd, Director of Marketing Operations at Cornell. If it sounds like you’re writing a speech, it’s time to rewrite. Instead, channel language you’d use if you were having a personal conversation with the audience you’re talking to. (Remember, we are all humans.)

What if you are dealing with high unsubscribe rates–like many institutions across the country–due to the increased number of emails sent at the beginning of the pandemic? ThankView to the rescue! Since ThankView is a separate marketing tool than your standard email platform, it’s a great outlet to engage folks who may have unsubscribed from other university-related emails. Brandeis University uses ThankView to send strategic content in a thoughtful way, featuring a friendly face or two from campus and creating a personal touch to help email unsubscribers stay connected with the University.

The Brandeis team has also reworked their outreach strategy to top-top supporters by using ODDER to send on-demand digital endowment reports. No longer are they spending a week’s worth of staff time stuffing 800 endowment reports into envelopes and dropping them in the mail. Instead, they’re generating reports and sending them via a secure ThankView, topped with an impactful video Eric Shoen, Executive Director of Donor Relations at Brandeis, noted that of the 800 people they planned to send the report to, only 70 or so preferred to receive it via snail mail. It’s a huge win for the team (and the recipients!) with tons of time saved and more opportunities to connect with donors. Eric noted that utilizing ODDER actually helps their team spend more time working on getting personalized thank you cards (via Pledgemine!) out the door to donors. In short, Brandeis is crushing the omnichannel outreach game: Email, video, printed mail – boom.

Speaking mail isn't going anywhere. Embrace it!

Hallelujah  – there’s a way out of long, drawn out direct mail processes. Enter Pledgemine, EverTrue’s on-demand, data-driven direct mail solution.

Brandeis partners with Pledgemine to help with quick-turnaround direct mail pieces. And as Lindsay Roth, Director of Direct Marketing and Participation at Brandeis, noted, it’s helpful to “fill the gaps of a traditional direct marketing vendor that is not always as nimble,flexible, and available.”

If the last several years have taught us anything, we all need to be ready to pivot our messaging at any moment. With Pledgemine, you can send small batch, personalized communications that capitalize on a moment in time. By numbly swapping out designs and templates, Pledgemine allows teams to quickly get beautiful direct mail pieces out the door and in front of donors.

How is Brandeis weaving direct mail into their omnichannel outreach strategy? By sending pledge fulfillment reminders in coordination with their phonathon program, Brandeis has a pledge fulfillment rate over 85%. Within three days of the first phone connection with a donor, a pledge reminder lands in the donor’s mailbox with an ask to fulfill– either by going online and completing their gift, or mailing back the buckslip. That reminder even features a photo of the student who they spoke with on the phone to to really make a personal connection. We give that level or personalization and timeliness a 10/10.

The Brandeis team also utilizes their partnership with Pledgemine to sendannual fund appeals. Brandeis loves to celebrate donors’ gift anniversaries. First, they call the donor asking if they’d like to renew their support. If they can’t reach them after a  few attempts, they follow-up with a hard-copy letter. Then, they circle back with an email.  Omnichannel, FTW.

Data is your friend when planning any omnichannel campaign

EverTrue data points search
A quick search in EverTrue can help you see giving history, job changes, facebook engagement data...and more!

As Ashley Budd at Cornell notes, “If you can’t track it…did it even happen?”

The Cornell team tracks digital engagement to determine where they’ll take their strategy next. They look at social media engagement, email engagement, who responds to texts, who downloads content from their website…and they pull together the data as part of their overall alumni engagement index. Creating a good, foundational engagement plan for all alumni to help build this data is crucial,and Ashley recommends doing that before jumping in to more targeted campaigns. 

But what if you  have a new program, event series, or department you need to promote? How do you go about building an audience for something that doesn’t have data points attached to it yet? Well, we recommend you start with EverTrue. Constituents with 11+ likes on Facebook are 62.4% more likely to be a donor (Source: EverTrue analysis), so pulling in social engagement data–especially when building out a solicitation!– is a good place to start.

Cornell creates segments for these traditionally hard-to-pin-down audiences by looking at constituents who fall into certain industries and engage with similar topics on social media. They make data-backed assumptions about where donors’ affinities may lie based on the things that are present in their daily lives.

Smart segmentation to drive relevant messaging. We love to see it.

Repurpose similar messages on all of your channels, or as many as possible.

Giving your content as many legs as possible will help your ROI in terms of both dollars and time spent on content creation and distribution.

In simplest terms, work smarter, not harder.

To see this in practice, consider this  “Tuesdays at Brandeis” campaign. Throughout this campaign, Brandeis featured teaser videos sent via ThankView, which drove the audience to a webpage containing longform versions of the videos. The major stories dropped  every Tuesday, and then on Thursdays, a targeted follow-up would be sent to those who opened and engaged with the email.They also utilized social media–both paid and organic–to share these stories.

Similar content. Packaged differently. Multiple touch points. Multiple channels. Really great results. (Check them out!)

Setting your team up for success at the beginning will ensure success of your campaign overall

Securing a gift is a team effort – from the initial ask to processing the payment. Host a kickoff meeting ahead of a big campaign and bring the entire team to the table – including marketing, gift administration, and advancement services. Make sure that everyone is aligned at the forefront so that when you launch the campaign, there are no surprises.

Once you’ve brought all of the key players into the fold, utilize a project management tool to keep everyone on track and moving in the same direction. This helps provide clarity surrounding responsibilities, timelines, and is great to see what still needs to get done! (Some project management tools that the EverCrew uses include Asana, Trello, and Notion.)

And of course, put together a meeting of the minds and host a creative brainstorm session and get the ideas flowing. Ashley Budd hosts a quarterly meeting to dive into a mindset exercise with her team. With prompts like,”This time of year makes me think of ____” or “These are the types of activities I do when ____”, it not only helps frame the content for Cornell’s upcoming campaigns, but serves as a reminder of what their audience will engage with most in terms of messaging.

The bottom line? Omnichannel outreach means engaging the right people at the right time through the right medium.. By folding in direct mail, email, social, texting, and good ol’ fashioned phone calls, you will engage the widest audience possible–and the ROI will follow.

Ready to take your omnichannel engagement to the next level? Let’s chat!

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