Welcome to the Fit Fundraising Podcast, where we bring you game changing fundraising topics, direct from our meetings with major donors and nonprofits nationwide. While most consultants are busy giving advice, Fit Fundraising stays on the front lines with nonprofits and major donors. This podcast is a glimpse into our world of work with nonprofits, as we get on the field with them and successfully model fundraising.

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Roy Jones: Hello, I’m Roy Jones and you have tuned in again to the Fit Fundraising Podcast. Thank you once again for joining us and today I am very excited. We’ve got a great episode for you. You’re going to find out the inside look at how DRTV works, how acquisition programs work. You’re really going to hear from a pro today.

We are honored to have Alan Stininger with us today, who is the Executive Director of Development Operations and Programs at Shriners Children’s. He is responsible for the strategic oversight and success of the national English and Hispanic DRTV programs, direct mail programs, mid-level programs, the mail processing centers, the call centers, the gift processing staff. His focus is on increasing revenue by acquiring, retaining and reactivating donors, through strategic planning and innovation. He’s really a pro has a great handle on not only how to deploy DRTV, but how to do it in an economical way, how to reduce costs while at the same time, improving the overall donor experience. Alan, thank you for joining us today. 

Alan Stininger: Thank you for having me, Roy glad to be here.

Roy Jones: Let’s get things started. I want you to brag on Shriners Children a little bit and tell our listeners just about all the great things you guys are doing. 

Alan Stininger: Thank you, Roy. Shriners Children’s formerly Shriners Hospital for Children rebranded, a few years ago is a pediatric health care system that provides care regardless of a family’s ability to pay to, Children suffering from orthopedics, cleft lip and palate, burns or spinal cord injury conditions. We’ve been doing that as a healthcare system for over a hundred years now, 2022 we celebrated our a hundred year anniversary of the healthcare system. And again we do that regardless of a family’s ability to pay, so we provide that wraparound care, travel, food, lodging, and all of that regardless of a family’s ability to pay, very excited to work for a fantastic organization. 

Roy Jones: I just preparing for this podcast, I was just blown away. According to Forbes, the 32nd largest charity in America, you’ve already mentioned over a billion dollars annually is just amazing just to see the growth. Talk to me about when you moved into DRTV, when did that transition happen and give our listeners kind of the inside look at how it happened.

Alan Stininger: We officially launched our DRTV sustaining program back in 2014. That came about, a few different ways. One is, our board and joint boards, was communicating all the time to the fundraising staff, like we’re the best kept secret if people just knew about our mission and the work that we’re doing, people would support us and support us for years to come, and so we had the idea back in 2014 to launch a monthly sustaining giving program through DRTV, which was approved and established in 2014, so we’re going on our 10th year of the program. And DRTV had, an unintended consequence to all of our fundraising programs, it was like the tide that lifted all boats. Once we hit our stride with DRTV, direct mail started to increase significantly digital, all of our other fundraising channels, gifts to our local facilities and our local philanthropy staff started to increase so it truly was a transformational program for us in so many ways. 

Roy Jones: Wow. It is as you said, this whole concept of sustainers or recurring gifts, is very important to your acquisition model. Talk to me about the different treatments between a monthly donor and a single gift donor. Whether they come through TV, radio or paid search or any other acquisition. 

Alan Stininger: Monthly donors require more of an engagement and informational type of approach. We don’t contact our monthly donors with ongoing frequent asks, but we do include them in ongoing engagement. Opportunities and information about, how their gifts are being put to work by the organization. We target them in occasional special campaigns throughout the year where we may know that they want, might want to make an additional gift or special donation above and beyond their monthly contribution, so some of those examples include, special matching gift appeals that we do throughout the year end giving appeals or Giving Tuesday or, uniquely branded omni channel appeals like our superhero campaign that we just recently launched in 2023, so single gift donors are connected across various channels, we include asks and engagement opportunities to them, based on the audience they fall into so for example are they a high value or mid level type donor? Are they multi year donors or multi OTO donors who have also subscribed to our email list, et cetera so our approach here again, is omnichannel in nature, but our asks in the way we package these asks, varies by audience and again, we always lead with our patient stories as they are crucial and critical to everything that we do in direct response and our donors value those stories that we share and communicate to them. 

Roy Jones: Sure. Some initials you used OTO. 

Alan Stininger: So OTO is a one time only app. And I apologize if I use different acronyms and I’ll try to clarify if I do so used to speaking in what seems like different languages. 

Roy Jones: And with your 1 time only donors. How long will you continue to? I assume you mail? Email? Trying to get a second gift from them, second gift conversion is really important, isn’t it? 

Alan Stininger: Yes. Second gift conversion is extremely important. And what we do too, because a lot of these donors are essentially new to the organization. They’ve maybe only seen us through our DRTV spots so what we have regardless if it’s digital or direct mail is a welcome series built out for these new donors, like for email, for example, or a digital donor, or DRTV donor, they’ll get a four part welcome series. Where we go into more depth of our mission and the care and treatment that we provide to our kids will go into the research that we’re doing and really educating and informing these new donors and these new sustaining donors of, who we are and what our mission is all about. And really try to establish trust with our donors that, their money is going to help these patients and their families and try to achieve dreams or different things that they have, or that they want to accomplish throughout their life based on the care that they’ve received now they’re able to do that. And so highlighting those patient stories again is extremely important in everything that we do, and it’s the same thing with direct mail if we have a new acquisition donor that comes in, they go into a welcome series cadence before they even go into the active direct mail file, and that welcome series cadence lasts about 12 weeks with different communications that they’re receiving and then we utilize AVM or automated voice messages to where they get a personalized message from our chief philanthropy officer, Stuart Sullivan, to thanking them for their support, welcoming them in to the organization and the support of our mission, we utilize various channels and take a really omni channel approach, even with our welcome series for these donors. 

Roy Jones: Yes, and I’ve heard you mentioned use this term omni channel before. It really integration is key, right? People need to be communicated with in Omni, all the channels is what you’re saying, right?

Alan Stininger: Yeah. Even with acquisition, just to take direct mail for example to with acquisition with direct mail, so we utilize data from different co ops with acquisition as well as exchange, to mitigate against a high acquisition costs too, as well. But one of the things with utilizing the co ops that we’ve been able to do is target them with CTV ads and kind of prime them before they received that acquisition letter and appeal from us to hopefully boost conversions and hopefully maybe even boost average gift through acquisition which we’ve seen a significant increase in our acquisition average gift over the past few years too, as well. But now we’re utilizing our DRTV creative to this acquisition audience for direct mail and not even necessarily for DRTV and so really taking that omni channel approach with everything we’re doing or surround sound, so right now is another key ways that people like to turn now for omnichannel or multichannel initiative. 

Roy Jones: Yeah, it is interesting. The old days now I’m dating myself but even 10 or 15 years ago, we all had this wonderful idea that the direct mail donors would give only in direct mail and email donors would give only by email and phone donors would give only by phone and event donors would give only by events. And what we found out is the best donors given all those channels.

Alan Stininger: Yes, I’m glad you brought that up Roy, because actually we on an annual basis to do donor profiles for our donors. But we also take a look at the LTV for these donors and these different channels so,

Roy Jones: LTV, long term donor value, right? 

Alan Stininger: Yeah, for a year long term value, yep take a look to see what is that looking like? Are we increasing that value? And where’s that value lie in terms of our best ROI and, taking a look at single channel and then multi channel donors and it’s without question, the data doesn’t lie significantly higher in terms of that three year long term value for our multi channel donors, it’s not even close. And we’re just seeing more and more of those donors engage with us in that way in multiple ways, which is fantastic. 

Roy Jones: Wow so even by design, you want to get them to give and different channels? 

Alan Stininger: Correct 

Roy Jones: Very interesting. I’ve heard someone use the term sticky. You make these donors sticky. They’re more committed to you. You’ve improved their philanthropic intent, because you had a strategy to get them to given multiple channels. 

Alan Stininger: Yeah, and it’s being in front of them to Roy when they’re ready to give. And being in front of them wherever they’re at like on the digital space with programmatic, If they’re streaming audio or if they’re listening to podcasts or they’re streaming, connected tv. We have our messaging out in front of them because we never know too when they’re ready to convert and make that gift. So being there too when they’re ready is an important factor of the success that we’ve seen with these multi channel donors too as well instead of just hoping one of these next Direct Mail pieces they’re ready to give at that moment in time when they receive it in their mailbox that’s being much more responsive to when the donors are ready to make that gift and they’re responding through various channels, which is fantastic to see. 

Roy Jones: Talk to me about frequency, I know what I normally have seen is the smaller the gift amount, the more frequent communication and communication, as you said, omni channel everywhere from every channel that you can approach them with. And then as they begin to give more money and they become a middle donor and a major donor, there’s a different frequency there. How do you guys manage that and what is the process? 

Alan Stininger: So what we do, Roy is we’ve built out different donor journeys for our different segments and audiences of donors. Say, it’s just a general direct mail donor, they have a different journey throughout the year than say, one of our mid level donors which we’ve branded Hope and Healing Society. They have a different donor journey, and even for sustainers, they have a different journey as well so we’ve built out different journeys based on the audience of our donors and then communications from cultivation, stewardship, and then even solicitations are built out within that journey. And so the cadences and frequencies vary from journey to journey, depending on the type of donor in the segment of the different types of donors that we have so it’s really tailored to that specific audience too, as well and we’re trying to and we’re always trying to optimize and get better and do we’re doing constant testing within these journeys too in terms of cadence by looking at response and seeing what’s performing our metrics increasing in terms of KPIs, do we need to test different appeals or reposition the cultivation pieces in the stewardship with the solicitation pieces and move some of those around? So we’re always testing these different journeys to try to optimize these journeys to one, produce a seamless experience and the best experience possible for our donors while also trying to generate the best results for the organization to further our mission of helping kids so it varies, it truly does vary depending on those audience and those journeys that are built out.

Roy Jones: You create a unique treatment for each segment in the file. And you call them donor journeys. I like that.

Alan Stininger: And building out these journeys to we try to take an omni channel approach depending on the contact information we have for the donors, the journeys can vary and will vary a little bit depending on that information that we have at our disposal. We truly try to take an omni channel approach with all of our journeys that we have built out for our donors so. 

Roy Jones: Very good. Wow, it’s just so insightful to see, now will you have certain people that manage each journey? I’ve heard of organizations and seen organizations that kind of create a middle donor team internally. Of course they’ve got major donor teams in the field, but you guys take it one step further with a segmentation based upon giving level and frequency with your recurring gift program. 

Alan Stininger: Yeah, so for us, we have say our mid-level program for example to we had a good problem to have, we had too many mid-level donors that we didn’t have enough staff in the field to follow up with these donors so, we really took a look 18 months ago, we launched it about 18 months ago so our mid level program formalized mid-level program, hope and healing society is still relatively new and still in the infancy stages but, we really took a look at that cohort and built out a journey to make it feel special, personalized like a VIP experience that they were having with the organization and through our chief philanthropy officer, Stuart Sullivan. And I think we’ve really established a great program and a great journey for them. Some of the donors within that do have field officers and our prospects for field officers so there’s still building that relationship locally with some of these donors while we’re engaging with them on a national level through the hope and healing society program. We’re trying to cultivate them, steward them, extend exclusive type opportunities to them like in special personalized invitations to some of our signature events that we have, invitations to insiders calls and things like that. That are hooked by our chief philanthropy officer and usually we have one of our physicians or somebody within our hospital system to sit with Stuart and they really dive deep into specific topics, we just recently did one about our international program, and how that program has grown tremendously over the past couple of years and the support that we’re providing around the globe and the impact that’s had, internationally and within those different countries was a fantastic and insightful piece that was done here recently so, we do have donors and major donors too so we have it tiered out for mid level, for example, five to 25, 000 is tier one, mid level tier two is 25, 001 dollar to 99, 999 dollars and then majors, a hundred thousand plus anybody 5, 000 or above is part of the mid level program so we even have major donors that are getting these personalized VIP type communications and engagement opportunities to from our department, from our chief philanthropy officer and it’s been successful for us in terms of engaging metrics to as well in terms of gifts being up from this cohort and this group of donors as well as the number of them, we have up and comers which we call who haven’t quite made that commitment to make it into the mid-level society. We have done some modeling and scoring on them and target them to try to get them to upgrade. So we’re seeing some success there too, as well. But yeah, very excited about that engaging with those donors and providing those opportunities for our field staff too engage and hopefully, strengthening that relationship through this program where it makes it easier for them to cultivate them and hopefully solicit some of those larger gifts or major gifts.

Roy Jones: Yeah, I think the thing that you mentioned that just jumps out at me, is I got excited earlier about the culture of philanthropy with your medical staff, facilitating those stories and really helping the development team with offer development. But now to hear you talk about Stuart and the development leaders actually taking those patient stories to the donors, not to twist their arm, but to plug them in and engage them and get them involved in the mission of the organization, it goes both ways. Doesn’t it? 

Alan Stininger: Yeah it really does and we survey our donors a lot too, to make sure where their interests lie, are we providing content and information that they find value in and provide feel that it’s insightful and really showing the impact of their giving and what it’s having on these patients and their families lives, 100 percent the culture of philanthropy is system wide and all staff and very grateful for that culture that’s been established here within our organization. 

Roy Jones: Alan, thank you so much for the time today again, you really did pull back the curtain and give us an inside look. I made notes to myself here some of these terms that I’ve got to learn and start applying, because you guys are doing it and really providing a wonderful model of philanthropy inside your organization that is now emanating out so that those of us in the nonprofit world can replicate the great work you’re doing. We have all kinds of listeners. We have people that are nonprofit pros, but we also have a lot of donors that listen to our podcast because we’re one of the only podcasts that just doesn’t interview other consultants. We actually interview the nonprofit organizations and that’s by design, because we want our donors to understand and we want to be transparent with them and we have a lot that listen in, but there’s a donor out there that wants to get in touch with Shriners hospital. How do they do that? And if there’s anybody that would like to reach out to you and get your thoughts or input, how do we do that? 

Alan Stininger: Sure. Thank you, Roy. So if anybody is interested in learning more about Shriners Children’s and our mission and organization, they can go to shrinerschildren.org. If you’re looking to support the organization and again, we appreciate any gift large or small goes a long way in helping further our mission they can go to loveshriners.org or some donors still prefer to mail in donations, you can send a donation to 2900 Rocky point drive in Tampa, Florida at 33607. Or if you want to reach out to me personally, and you have questions about DRTV or acquisition programs, or how do you retain your sustaining donors and what does that look like? We have a great reactivation program to reactivate these sustaining donors, feel free to reach out to me at Astinger@shrinet.org. That’s A S T I N G E R at shrine S H R I N E T. org. Or you can find me on LinkedIn under Alan Stininger. I’m always happy to help. Other nonprofit colleagues looking to establish a new program or fix something that might not be working correctly, or if something’s stuck in the mud, how can we get it forward? Or what are some new innovative ideas? Love to share and brainstorm so thank you again Roy, too for having me be a part of this great show. 

Roy Jones: Oh, thank you for all you do, Alan we so appreciate you. So appreciate the work of Shriners Children’s. You guys are just really leading the way, and we’re so appreciative to you as we close I just want to remind our listeners to pay close attention. Look at your social media. Usually about every two weeks we post a new interview, a new podcast. And so keep following us. Last year we helped 41 nonprofits nationwide. And our goal this year is to help 50 nonprofits. So if you need some help, if you need some advice, reach out to us at fitfundraising. com. I thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you again, Alan Stininger and our friends at Children’s Hospital. Thank you again.

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