Hyper-Targeted Strategy Produces Fundraising Record for Oregon Cultural Trust

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Oregonians enjoy a special relationship with our state’s cultural community, and a unique way of supporting cultural organizations.

While we enjoy and patronize our arts, heritage and humanities organizations throughout the year, we — like most people across the nation — are most likely to make a charitable donation in November or December.

That’s where the innovative Oregon Cultural Trust comes in. The state’s leading arts funding organization and a major supporter of 1,400 Oregon arts, cultural heritage and humanities non-profit organizations, the Trust was founded in 2001 with the express purpose of raising funds for cultural organizations without competing with those organizations for critical donor dollars.

The Trust’s Donate, Match and Get the Whole Match Back campaign does that by offering a tax credit to people who first make a donation to an Oregon arts, heritage or humanities organization. After they donate to the organization, individuals can then make a matching donation to the Oregon Cultural Trust and receive a credit on their Oregon state tax return equal to that matching donation.

The Trust retained Turtledove Clemens in early 2014 to provide strategic counsel and media planning for its annual campaign. As fervent supporters of Oregon arts, heritage and humanities, we were excited to provide our strategic thinking and absolutely thrilled when our work helped generate a new record of almost $4.5 million in donations to the Trust.

The incredible success of the 2014 campaign was the result of four key strategic recommendations:

  • Increase Communication with Member Organizations. We discovered that many member organizations misunderstood the Trust, viewing it as a competitor for donor funds. So, we worked with the Trust to educate the organizations about how the donation match program works and to encourage them to work with the Trust. We were particularly careful to emphasize that the Trust is a partner, not a competitor, because the Trust’s program is available to donors only after they contribute to a local organization.
  • Increase Communication with Donors. We wrote and executed a donor survey that provided a wealth of valuable data about donors to the Trust, including their understanding of the Trust and how it operates. The results made it clear that people who attend performances are the ones who donate and, therefore, highlighted the importance of communicating with these people and educating them about the win-win-win offered by the Trust.
  • Identify the Most Productive Organizations. Our research matched Trust donors to the organizations they patronize and generated a valuable list of the organizations whose donors contributed the most funds to the Trust.
  • Use a Hyper-Targeted Media Calendar. The unique structure of the Trust’s Donate, Match and Get the Whole Match Back program dictates a unique marketing strategy — and, at least the first time around, faith in the old adage, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes”.

Our research showed that a high percentage of donors to the Trust attend cultural events and performances throughout the year. However, before they can take advantage of the Donate, Match and Get the Whole Match Back  program, individuals must first make a donation to an arts, cultural heritage or humanities organization. Understanding the tendency of people to make charitable donations toward the end of the year, we recommended a strategy in which:

  1. The majority of advertising occurred in November and December, after people have donated to an arts organization and at the time they are thinking about taxes and ways to reduce their tax burden. The decision to hold most advertising until the final eight weeks of the year was understandably unnerving for some at the Trust, but it paid big dividends by reaching donors at the right time.
  2. Advertising ran primarily in event programs and related media consumed by donors of the most productive organizations. The targeted advertising enabled the Trust to educate the people most likely to donate to arts organizations and make a strong case for the Donate, Match and Get the Whole Match Back program. We eschewed most traditional “reach” media and, instead, focused on media most likely to be consumed by arts fans and donors.

The unique strategy executed on behalf of the the Trust produced record donations totaling nearly $4.5 million and set the stage for an even stronger 2015 campaign. The ultimate winner is Oregon’s arts, heritage and humanities community.