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Beyond the Reply Device: Redefining Attribution in Today’s Philanthropic Landscape

While fundraising is under continual transformation, the pace of change seems to be accelerating. Traditional strategies like direct mail - still a cornerstone of philanthropic giving - are being challenged for supremacy with tactics from a vibrant digital ecosystem. Giving Tuesday, GoFundMe, and donor-advised funds have redefined the ways that individuals engage with charitable causes.

At the same time, the composition of donors themselves has evolved. Digital channels have made giving and engagement more welcoming than ever before. The pandemic served as a recruitment vehicle for many first-time donors. And the imminent transfer of wealth that will continue over the next few decades from baby boomers to their children means that tremendous assets will be at the disposal of an audience that chooses to give in new and different ways.

If fundraising efforts have become more fragmented, their measurement certainly has as well. These forces call for a reevaluation of how we measure charitable giving. Traditional attribution is broken. Performance marketing can't be measured by a direct mail reply device alone. 


Emerging Trends and Attribution Challenges

The rise of mobile-first philanthropy, data-driven fundraising strategies, and artificial intelligence has dramatically changed the donor journey. These trends present opportunities but also significant challenges for accurate measurement. The diversification of giving channels, coupled with privacy concerns and data protection regulations, makes it difficult to track linear donor behavior and their preferences.


The Allegiance-Pursuant Analytics Approach

Allegiance-Pursuant serves many nonprofit organizations as their agency of record with responsibility for comprehensive direct response programs.  While program and channel complexity varies wildly by organization, collectively, we are all simply seeking to measure the fruit of our labors.  We need evidence to affirm that we’re directing resources to channels that are having impact.  In each of these engagements, we face these attribution challenges and the Allegiance-Pursuant Analytics team customizes measurement solutions to meet client needs. 

The Allegiance-Pursuant Attribution Framework that we explore with our clients is described below.


Walk: Direct Attribution

This approach focuses on contributions that are explicitly and directly linked to a specific campaign. It is the most common.  This would typically involve donations that are made in direct response to a particular fundraising initiative or appeal.

  • Straightforward Tracking: These contributions are easier to track as they are directly coded to the campaign - however, there is most certainly “leakage” through other channels that is underreported.

  • Channel Breakdown: Includes a detailed analysis of different channels through which the donations were made, enhancing the understanding of donor behavior.

  • Standard Reporting Feature: Directly attributed contributions are usually part of standard reporting procedures, making them a fundamental aspect of campaign analysis.


Jog: Campaign Adjacent Attribution

This approach is more sophisticated than direct attribution alone, more expansive, and counts gifts or contributions that can be indirectly linked to the campaign. These gifts aren't direct responses to a campaign appeal alone but are influenced by the broader activities of the campaign.

  • Diverse Sources: Encompasses a variety of sources such as web giving, monthly donors, non-campaign revenue, etc., reflecting the indirect impact of a campaign.

  • Team-Specific Reporting: This type of attribution is included in reports when requested by the organization, indicating its adaptability to specific campaign strategies. A specific example might be reporting on Mid-Level and Annual Giving response separately.

  • Broader Strategy Alignment: These attributions align with the overarching strategy of a campaign, providing insight into the extended influence of campaign activities.


Run: Indirect Attribution

This is perhaps the most sophisticated and expansive approach. This category captures contributions from individuals solicited for a campaign through any channel but who did not immediately respond. These donations are made in a period following the campaign's active phase, often captured within a timeframe of 45 days post-campaign.

  • Time-Bound Analysis: Focuses on donations made within a specific timeframe after the campaign, indicating the lingering effects of solicitation efforts.

  • Ad Hoc Basis: Indirect attribution is typically done on an ad hoc basis, tailored to the specific needs of a campaign or analysis.

  • Comprehensive Donor Engagement: Offers a more comprehensive view of donor engagement, capturing those who may take longer to respond to a campaign.  It assumes that access to all potential response data sources is available.

Data availability is the biggest factor that drives solution selection. Typically, organizations with the greatest command of their data have the opportunity to explore and apply Campaign Adjacent and Indirect Attribution approaches.


Enhancing Fundraising Performance through Attribution

The current philanthropic landscape demands a shift in attribution measurement beyond the limitations of traditional metrics. By striving for clearer attribution, organizations can gain a deeper understanding of their impact and optimize their fundraising strategies in an increasingly fragmented digital age. 

Please contact Allegiance-Pursuant Analytics to discuss reporting, analytics, and attribution solutions.