MT: Hey, everybody. This is Mazarine Treyz with Wild Woman Fundraising and today I am so pleased and happy to have Justin Handley here, who is going to talk about marketing automation at our Nonprofit Leadership Summit this September. Justin, I know that you do marketing automation and WordPress development and you’ve helped a lot of different businesses with their online marketing. But can you tell us more about you and how long you’ve been doing this, and some other things?
JH: Sure. So I got into online business and online marketing about 20 years ago because I was an actor working in a nonprofit theater and that didn’t pay my bills. [Laughter.] So that was my side gig. Because the theater toured, it was hard to hold down a regular job. So I started building websites and I started taking on other work that way. So I’m entirely self taught. But over the last 20 years I’ve built up a couple of pretty significant businesses. My core business is actually in WordPress and I run another company that does web design and just general site maintenance, security, hosting. So that we help people who have WordPress sites keep things easy, and that really came as a byproduct of my core passion, which is helping businesses grow.
So I got into WordPress just because all of the businesses I was working with had to have websites. Most of them were on WordPress. So that’s become what it is. But I also, since about 2004, have been working in marketing automation. I’m really interested in talking to you about this because I have a background in nonprofits. I actually co-run a nonprofit right now with my wife. We run a homeschooling environmental education, like agricultural education program. I’ve done a lot of grant writing and fundraising for the theater that I was with for almost ten years, because everyone multitasked there. There was no separate admin versus actors. It was just everybody trying to make the thing go. But, these days I don’t actually have a huge number of nonprofit clients, and I’ve been doing a lot of research into how to help grow nonprofits and how to funnel donations and how to grow audiences using automation in the nonprofit sector.
MT: Well, I am excited that you are willing and interested to share your expertise at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, Justin. Partially because one of my best success stories, the Global Autism Project, who I coached quite a while ago now when I was first starting my business, has taken their nonprofit from $35,000 a year to half a million dollars a year using marketing automation, online marketing and Facebook, and tools that they have inside of Ontraport like automated emails, as well as landing pages. Not just for earned income but also for monthly givers to see their impact, and they also have automated emails if your card gets renewed but declined or whatever, because you changed your card number.
They automated that. So when I think about nonprofits that are really a wave of the future, I think about the Global Autism Project. I’m really excited that you could, with your session, and hopefully if people take you up on your consulting, help nonprofits sort of make the most of limited resources and take their organizations to the next level more than they ever thought possible with the small staff that they have.
JH: I think that there’s a huge opportunity with that because first of all, the nonprofit software world – and I worked for a short time developing one of the major nonprofit fundraising solutions that’s out there. It was interesting. But it was really maintaining a code base that was written in like 1980. It was huge and bulky, and because there’s so much to think about with nonprofits, people tend to get into solutions that cover all those things they need. But a lot of those solutions aren’t that progressive. Things have come so far, you know? So just because a solution can handle some very niche specific nonprofit needs, it doesn’t necessarily make it the best solution.
Luckily these days, a lot of platforms are opening up APIs. With things like Zapier, even if you are on a more archaic or older platform that’s limited, you can still integrate with some of the more advanced and newer marketing tools. But there’s so much that nonprofits have to do and there’s no reason that a person needs to do them. I mean, I used to – and I’m sure that a lot of nonprofits do this. But I remember one of my jobs at the theater. We used to do our mailings and like seriously going through the mailing list, preparing it, printing the labels and doing that whole process was a huge thing that we would do.
There’s no reason, these days, with software that’s intelligent. You can have it just kick out a list, sent straight to your inbox that has the mailing labels for all of the people that have donated in the last quarter with the merge info for their donation amounts. Not only that, but you can skip the paper if you want to and merge that all into an email and just have paperless transactions happening that are really no less personal. Because to be honest, it’s not like you’re handwriting notes unless you’re a very small nonprofit. The Greenpeaces of the world are not sitting there handwriting on every single thank you note, because a ton of donations come in. You want to thank them all and you need to give them the proper stuff to get their tax write off if that’s one of the benefits for the donor of donating. You have to give them the amount and the date and all of that stuff. There’s just no reason to have an admin staff sitting around and doing that.
Because if you have the budget for that staff, those people could be proactively out there getting new donors, growing the cause and doing so much more than just the headache.
MT: No kidding. Well, speaking as someone who’s had one of those jobs as an admin in fundraising, entering the donations with the checks in front of me and sending thank you notes, mail merging like crazy. Yeah. I feel like now that we live in the age of automation, why shouldn’t we have that automated? But more than that, I know for example, Ontraport sends out automated postcards if you want to, to certain target groups. You can also send to people based on emails that they’ve opened and maybe even clicked on, but not necessarily given to your cause, for example.
Other software that I know out there doesn’t let you get that granular with your donor records or that automated. You know what I mean?
JH: There’s opportunities too. A lot of software these days has either a lead score or even just a custom field where you can store a number, right? But where you can automate off of those things, so that for example, it used to be that if you wanted to know who your major donors were, you were going to go into your database and you were going to put together a search query. You were going to pull back a list of everyone who had donated more than X over a time range. Then you would think about what you wanted to do with them.
But really with automation, you can create a process where when a donor hits a certain level, that automatically are followed up with in a way that encourages them to become a bigger donor. Where all of the correct kind of thank you’s and the sending of gifts as a nonprofit does that at different donor levels. It just happens really without anyone thinking about it. I think that it’s a huge opportunity for nonprofits. It’s a great time for nonprofits. There’s a lot of people in the world right now with a lot of money and there is a heightened social awareness because there’s a lot of strange things happening in the world.
Everyone’s aware that the world is in a delicate balance. But I think that when you can get out there with your message, and you’re doing good work in the world. If you can communicate that, there’s a huge opportunity to connect with people now in a way that there didn’t used to be. Like you said, Facebook is a huge one. It’s got everyone on earth on it. It has something like 5 billion users at this point, and so the ability to just reach out with your message and hit people who are interested in it but may not have ever heard of you is so much bigger than it used to be, where you might have done mailings, hoped that your audience space would tell people they knew or meet people in person.
Do live events. The ways that you can now bring donors on board are huge, and also filtering donors so that when you go out there with your cause and you get a lot of interest, there’s also automatic segmentation where you can ask questions or watch how people respond and know that oh, the people who respond this way are slightly more active. Maybe those are the guys. Because you can still call people. Obviously there’s still a lot of value in talking to your user base and in personal interaction But you can use automation to help you figure out who the right people are. Who your real highest value targets are to reach out to personally, because there’s only so much time that we have.
MT: Well, exactly. I mean, for the smaller nonprofits, the ones that maybe have one fundraising staff person or it’s just the ED and admin for example, like some of the nonprofits that I help. It’s a constant juggling act between what do we do? Do we work on this grant? Do we get ready for our event on Sunday? Do we send that thank you note? I mean, I do advocate personalized thank you notes. Don’t get me wrong. Writing them out is really good, especially for a donor above a certain level. But for someone who gives you $5.00, you don’t necessarily need a personalized, handwritten note.
So for example, there’s a couple different software solutions. One is called MarketSmart. That allows you to take a survey and then funnel people into different email sequences based on their answers to that survey. But their cost is prohibitive for the vast majority of nonprofits. So I happen to know that there is another software called Bloomerang, which allows you to do that for a lesser cost. That’s in their beta testing right now, that is probably going to be started to be rolled out in January which is really exciting to me because they already do like A/B testing of landing pages inside their software.
It’s donor software. It isn’t necessarily repurposed like consumer software, like Ontraport or InfusionSoft, which I know is something you specialize in. But they seem to be similar packages to me.
JH: Yeah, and with software, I think that there’s very little. Software like InfusionSoft, I know for instance. It’s a nightmare trying to take donations in InfusionSoft. It’s not set up for that. It’s set up for sales. So that’s a problem, right?
MT: Right, exactly.
JH: But there are things like Active Campaign which is very low cost, and again, this is where you get into integrations is because if you’ve got a fundraising specific way of taking money, as long as that system can notify – I mean, even MailChimp has marketing automation these days. As long as you have a way of notifying the systems that something has happened, then you can go ahead and automate. There’s also workarounds for people on a really limited budget. Most of the big automation software also – just to address what you were saying. You can automate tasks.
Everybody thinks that automation is all impersonal. But I automate very high end sales calls with prospects and I do that by having a system just tell me what I need to do when so that I never forget. So that I never drop the ball. So that I’m always on time. The same with you. You could say, like, if we get a donation. It’s all just if then logic. If we get a donation and it’s more than $100, then we can assign it to this person to write a note. Or if we get a donation that’s less than $100 then just print the label. Or add it into two different groups of labels. One group that you’re going to sit down with all the letters and write little notes to all the donors. Then the other one.
But where even the human side of the interactions can not only take less time, but be more consistent.
Obviously most people have a database. But if your database is big and you’re really actively working with people, a lot of stuff goes just in your head. You sort of know things about those major donors and you’re sort of balancing all of that. It’s very easy, if you don’t have a system that says, hey, you haven’t followed up with this person in 30 days. Because you can also do things like that where you can put timers and say, I want to know every 60 days if there’s somebody that I haven’t touched. Then I’m going to reach out to those people. That makes all of the efforts more effective because you’re in regular touch. It’s bizarre because a lot of people associate automation with this like, oh, it’s too cold. It’s not personal.
But you can actually make your entire experience warmer and more personal by letting computers do what they are good at, which is just keeping things organized and keeping things moving and reminding you when you need to do things, so that as a human who is likely to forget or miss the deadlines or misplace stuff, you have a way to keep you on track.
MT: I agree with you. I work with a nonprofit right now that has an ED that used to be really on that. Like he would call every single donor and say thank you. But now unfortunately he’s had a health challenge and he’s no longer able to be on that. But if he had a software that was able to remind him, I think he would be able to still do it. So I ask you people listening, as executive director, as development director, or someone who wants to move into one of those roles. What would be easier for you? Keeping it all in your head? Or not assuming that you’re going to be on your game every single day and automating some stuff that would allow you to be more effective in stewarding your donors?
And steward them towards larger and larger gifts. That’s exactly what Molly has done so effectively with the Global Autism Project. She has taken Facebook ads for a BCBA exam. So she’s like, hey, I’ll help you do test prep for that. Then once they are in that, she’s like, hey, do you want to actually get the whole test prep course? They say yes. Then when they’re done with that and they’re actually autism therapists, then she says, hey, do you want to become more culturally competent?
They say yeah, and she’s like, how would you like to go to another country and learn how to do that? So suddenly she’s got this huge volunteer army of edu-tourism people that go with her all over the world on these different trips, and she’s been able to grow her nonprofit tremendously through automation. She never could have done that without automation and without online marketing.
So when I tell people, hey, you can do it too. I mean, Molly is an extremely driven person. But you can do it too. You just have to have the right tools. If you have MailChimp, is what I’m hearing, Justin, is you can still work MailChimp to your advantage. That will be some of the things that you’re talking about in your session at the summit, right?
JH: Yeah. There’s definitely a tiered progression in all business, nonprofit or for profit. You have to start with what you can afford. So a lot of these tools start at $100 a month and go up from there. It’s pretty easy to spend a couple hundred dollars a month just on the software. That doesn’t include the time it’s going to take you to set it up. It can feel like a very serious investment. So I encourage people to start small and really, there’s two main paths. One is to say, I see an opportunity that I can take advantage of if I can make it happen automatically. Maybe we don’t have the staff to grow in this way, but if we could kind of automate a process we have an opportunity to grow.
But the other one, and usually the easiest one to start with, is to say, well, what are we doing internally? What does anybody do more than once? Let’s all write down the things that we do over and over on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Let’s get rid of those. Suddenly the time that you buy back from the people in your organization and the happiness factor, business who really loves sitting around doing some repetitive thing in a database all day? It’s not the most fun work, to be honest. With that, then you can hopefully leverage it into further growth. With most of these systems, because I think that with nonprofits, you’re probably not looking at some corporation’s launch. There are probably use cases in the nonprofit scenario where you’ve got this idea and it’s only going to work if you start at the highest level.
But for most nonprofits, you can start small. Do the little thing. Watch it work. See the actual benefit of it. Then go a step further. With most of the software that’s available you can also import and export. Like data privacy and data ownership have made it so that everybody these days has to make it pretty easy for you to get the data that you actually own. So if you’re ready to grow into a new system, it’s pretty easy just to dump everything out of one and move into another. The only thing that that’s not really easy with is accounting. So I think that’s the one thing I would say, is when you are looking at systems and planning for the future. Figure out your accounting. What does the nonprofit use internally? Are they on Quickbooks or Peachtree or Zero or something? Are they using a nonprofit accounting package that they really are going to have trouble breaking out from?
Because that is often the most difficult thing. Marketing automation is marketing. Right? It’s not accounting. It tends to lean towards marketing. So if you’ve got your 20 year history of donors. But then you’ve got things like Zapier, which is $20 a month and will connect almost every system out there that has an online API. So that even if you are in a system that you can’t break out of, that doesn’t mean that you can’t grow into systems that do the marketing automation side of it for you, too.
MT: Right. Thank you so much for sharing all of that, Justin. I can tell you’ve got a wealth of knowledge at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit and I am really looking forward to people learning from you. If they want to get in touch with you before then, where can they find you?
JH: So my company is Pirate and Fox and we’re just online at pirateandfox.com. If people have questions, you can feel free to reach out to me. I’m Justin. My email is just firstname.lastname@example.org . I’m looking forward to putting together a nonprofit specific growth plan. We can look at specific software at the tiers of different software for different sizes of organizations and also at some of the best kind of out of the box campaigns. The things that everyone should be doing.
MT: I love that. Thank you so much, Justin.
Come to his session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit and learn how to automate your donor interactions so you can keep donors from falling through the cracks, and let software help you succeed!