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How to fundraise, Netflix style: 3 tips for nonprofits

November 25, 2020
A nonprofit professional looks at a digital screen as he researches ways to fundraise, Netflix style, and improve the donor experience.

Netflix has forever changed the way audiences watch their favorite shows and how people view and think about television. Other streaming services like Hulu, Amazon, and Apple are all trying to replicate the Netflix model for their customers. 

Over the years, Netflix has cultivated an engaging multichannel platform that learns and caters to each customer’s preferences. What can nonprofit organizations take away from these business practices, and how can you incorporate them into fundraising plans to create a more positive donor experience?

1. Adopt technology that integrates and automates multichannel communication.

As any Netflix user will attest, there is an unending amount of programming available to stream on the platform. To curate an experience for each individual user, Netflix developed a simple, but highly effective, multichannel engagement strategy.

Through email and smartphone notifications, Netflix promotes shows based on your previous viewing habits. So, when a new season of your favorite show is added to the platform, they’ll make sure to promote it to you. Netflix also provides personalized suggestions for you, recommending similar shows and new programming that aligns with your viewing preferences.

Through their programming and accessibility, Netflix makes you feel like you are a segment of one and that their programming is tailored just for you. Your nonprofit can emulate this personalization with simple strategies like reaching out to donors through preferred communication channels, addressing them by name, referencing past involvement, thanking them for specific contributions, and inviting them to events and opportunities that align with their interests.

2. Study donor engagement levels.

Many nonprofit staffers worry about sending donors too many emails, too often. However, when you send messages that are highly relevant to donors and their interests, they typically don’t mind frequent communications. So, how often should you contact donors? 

Bonterra Donor Engagement’s research (formerly Network for Good) shows that 40% of donors would like updates one to two times per month. Your organization can use a bi-weekly e-newsletter to accurately track your supporter’s interest levels.

Again, look at Netflix. Why do we engage with their emails and notifications—and even look forward to them? It’s because Netflix has a deep understanding of data, beginning with how we engage with their content. To provide a tailored user experience, Netflix leverages its understanding of:

  • What device(s) users access programming with. 
  • When, where, and how long users watch.
  • Time lapsed between watching one episode and the next.
  • Number of users watching an entire series and over what period of time.
  • Demographic data like user age, ethnicity, and zip code.
  • The day(s) users watch specific types of content and genre.

Netflix’s focus on engagement both drives retention and helps predict it. By focusing on engagement as a key metric, nonprofits could dramatically affect their donor retention rates.

3. Create a donor-centric experience based on donor preferences.

The idea that one-message-fits-all for current and lapsed donors, special event attendees, volunteers, board members, friends, family, and prospects is simply outdated. Personalizing your message and segmenting your donor lists for more tailored communications is key to centering your donors, providing a positive experience, and inspiring future support. 

For a truly donor-centric experience, reimagine segmentation and look beyond gift history, frequency, size, and relationship to the organization. These are all important data points, but they mean more to the fundraiser than the donor. Leverage your programming, like events, campaigns, and initiatives, to recognize the value of your donors’ philanthropy.

Key takeaways from Netflix's strategy

Make no mistake, the quality, variety, and volume of its programming options drive Netflix’s ability to acquire customers. But, programming options alone do not retain those customers. Netflix relies on data, segmentation, personalization, and multichannel communication to engage and keep its customers coming back for more. To garner more long-term, loyal supporters, nonprofits need to do the same.

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