This is Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising, and today I am talking with Mr. Greg Warner of iMarketSmart, who will be speaking at our Nonprofit Leadership Summit on September 27-29th, 2016. So Mr. Greg Warner, who are you and what do you do?

GW: Okay. I am CEO of MarketSmart, and you’re right, the URL is imarketsmart because I wanted people to repeat it like three or five times and look at themselves in the mirror. If they keep saying imarketsmart.com, imarketsmart.com, eventually they’d probably become a better marketer. So yeah, I run the company here and I guess I’m the chief inventor, and everything else. Content developer, you name it.

MT: What does your company do?

GW: So our mission is really simple. We aim to help nonprofits generate more major and planned gifts at lower costs. And we do that using not only digital technology, but a lot smarter tactics for targeting and segmenting lists and delivering the right messages to the right people at the right times using multiple channels.

MT: You know, I wanted to originally ask you about donor advised funds because I had heard from another person that you were really good at those. So first of all, What is a donor advised fund?

greg warnerGW: Okay. So a donor advised fund is really a very fast growing way for wealthier people to be able to make gifts. But it’s a little bit more than that, and I’ll give you kind of my two cents on it, is that in the past, wealthy folks would want to create a foundation. Of course, a lot of people still do create their own foundations. But creating a donor advised fund is a lot faster. It doesn’t involve that kind of paperwork. It’s just really fast and really easy. But the wealthy donor can move money into the donor advised fund. It’s irrevocable. In other words, they can’t get it back. Once they move that money, it is technically donated. Okay? So they get the tax deduction for that instantly. Let’s suppose they put a quarter million dollars into that fund. They get the tax deduction for that immediately, but then they can give that money away over time. They can be very thoughtful about how they distribute it. The problem is that they tend to forget about it, sadly. And I think – and I’ve heard a lot of people, especially in the nonprofit world, are not all that happy about donor advised funds because they think that they’re just holding tanks for the money. But to a certain degree I guess that’s true, but I put a fair amount of blame on the nonprofit sector for not marketing these kinds of gifts properly, and not giving the donors access or the ability to donate from their donor advised fund right there online. In other words, every nonprofit has a donate now button. But unless they’re our client, they probably don’t have a little link right beneath that that says donate from your donor advised fund. Now if they did, see, the average gift with the donate now button might be $100. But with a donor advised fund, I bet it would be more like $4,000, at least according to Fidelity Charitable. I think it’s about $4,019. So they’d be very wise to put a link and technically – frankly, use our widget that will link to any number of hundreds of donor advised funds around the country.

GW: Well, the donor, they link there. They just log in, and usually their username and password is already on their – you know, there’s a cookie on their browser or something. So they just log in, and then they transfer the money. Boom. Now, before they were probably going to go to the donate now page. They were going to donate with their credit card. It maybe would have been $100, $200, maybe even $500. But then they remember if they’re doing it this way, my way, they remember, gee whiz, I’ve got a quarter million dollars sitting in my donor advised fund. Here’s a very convenient link. Let me click on that, and heck, I’ll just give $10,000.

MT: Wow. Wow. Just like that, you – what is it, magnify your gift by 20 times?

GW: Yeah, well, and that is just one example of what I’m talking about for our core mission, which is to help nonprofits raise more money at lower costs. There’s like 1,000 different ways like that that they can do it. It’s just you’ve got to think smarter, and you’ve got to focus on the 80/20 rule. You’ve got to provide convenience for these donors. This is why Amazon is so popular because it’s convenient. That’s why FedEx is. You know. When you’re convenient, when you provide convenience, that’s customer service. You’ll get more. You’ll open up the channels of either communication or donation. So what we do is we study what’s been done in the private sector, especially because that’s where I came from, in that kind of marketing. Then we apply those same tactics and strategies to open up the flood gates. But especially focused on the 80/20 rule, or also known as the Pareto principle, where we focus on the wealthier donors. Because those are the ones who are most likely to give you that 20 time sized gift.

MT: Mm-hmm. Wow. So you basically told us why a nonprofit should care about donor advised funds. My next question is, how do you know if a donor has a donor advised fund? Like who in your database? How would you know that?

GW: So that is a very, very hard thing for any nonprofit to know because it is private information, and there’s no public record of who has donor advised funds. It’s not publicly available information. We’re the only ones who can find that information in a concerted type of way.

In other words, we have a donor survey platform that continuously asks donors about themselves, their interests, how they would like to give, things of that nature.

We call this progressive profiling, and by using this type of system, this type of strategy, and our platform for the donor survey, we ask them in one of the questions if they have a donor advised fund and if they would like to give to this particular charity using their donor advised fund.

If you’ve got a lot of people filling that out, then we may construct highly targeted, personalized, highly relevant campaigns specifically for people who have donor advised funds now that we understand who they are within the database. We’ll create those targeted, relevant, personalized campaigns to appeal to that.

MT: Wow. So I just want to ask you a bit more about that. If you’re making a highly targeted development campaign for a major donor, or a potential major donor who has a donor advised fund. Would the first email be like, here’s a survey, and the second one would be like, by the way, here’s something you didn’t know about us? Or you know, what would that look like?

GW: Okay. So I’m going to start with the second one. You know, here’s something you didn’t know about us, and the last thing I would recommend is talking about the nonprofit. So I would never say or put in an email that here’s about us. Really everything that we do is about the donor. It’s about finding out about them, and think of it as if you were to go to a party and you meet someone new. If you want to endear them to you, you would ask them about them, not telling them all about what you do. So but now, backing up to generally what we always do, generally speaking for almost every client, is we strongly recommend that they engage with their supporters using our donor survey platform. Because you can invest tons of money in predictive analytics and wealth training and segmentation and looking at RFM, you know, recency and frequency and whatnot to test historical information. All of that is great. It is terrific. There’s nothing wrong with it. But it’s also very 1990s or early 2000s, and it should still be around.

But if you really want to get to know your donors, the best way is to actually ask them questions to capture that data, which we call – when they fill out forms or fill out surveys, we call those verbatims.


Then to monitor their digital body language.

  • So that means where did they click?
  • How many minutes did they spend on a certain page?
  • Where did they navigate to?
  • Do they download and forward bequest language to an attorney?

This is digital body language.

So yes, in addition to all the other stuff, if you engage with your supporters and you ask them to fill out a survey or multiple mini surveys over time, and you progressively profile them using their verbatims and the digital body language, then all that goes into our platform in order to create highly relevant segmented personalized communications that actually do not promote the organization, per se.

But rather continue the conversation to help supporters, especially wealthy ones,

  • Find meaning in their lives,
  • See how they can make a real impact.
  • Learn more about how they can be a hero in somebody’s story.
  • Find out how they can honor someone that was near and dear and important in the formation of their life.


So by always offering people highly relevant messages, but also offering them opportunities to engage and find the best within themselves, is how you elicit the right responses.

And then, these supporters who then feel awesome – because that’s what fundraising is, by the way. All you want to do is make the donor feel good about themselves. Find out what you can do that will trigger that and make them feel good about themselves, and they will give.

They want to change the world. They want to make an impact. They want to help a starving child. They want to cure a disease because their mother had it. They want to take care of wounded Marines. You know, if you can make them realize their dreams and feel good and be the hero in their own life story, then you’ll get more money. Especially if they’re wealthy, then they’ll introduce you to people just like them who are also wealthy to do the same.

MT: Wow. So what you just described is sort of like what you call engagement fundraising, right?

GW: That is right. That’s the phrase I coined when we first started getting into this.

MT: Wow. So it’s different than relationship fundraising in that you’re looking at their digital engagement versus cultivating a one-on-one face to face connection. Is that kind of what it is?

GW: Right. Yes. So Ken Burnett’s book, Relationship Fundraising. I think it came out in the early nineties. It was really the bellwether. I mean, because it really broke apart the notion of transactional fundraising, which is well, you ask and then you get and then you sell your name. Sell the name to another charity or you buy names from another charity. You know, and all this transactional stuff that wasn’t really all that kind to donors. You know, if they give then you’ve got to go after them again with ten more letters and a bunch of telemarketing and invite them to events. Then you shame them at the events to make sure that they give more, and show them lists of people who are giving more than them and things like that. So Ken’s book comes around, talks about what the human relationship is all about, and moving away from transactional fundraising and more to relationship fundraising, which basically people are – it’s like a personal relationship. I mean, either you’re improving the relationship, you’re on autopilot which is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. Or the relationship is breaking apart.

But with engagement fundraising, the thing is, sadly – or maybe this is a good thing, actually – is that many supporters really don’t want to necessarily build a relationship with a human being at the nonprofit. This is especially true with planned giving donors. They’re not wealthy in general, and oftentimes of average means. They’re not going to want to meet with a fundraiser, and usually they’re scared that if they do meet with them, they’re only going to be asked for more money over and over and over again.


Unfortunately, too many nonprofits have already burned the bridge, you know? And a lot of donors are scared. They don’t want to get that involved. They want to get involved at a distance. So with engagement fundraising, the key is to engage the supporters, build trust by always offering opportunities for them to get involved in their way through permission based marketing. Even opt out marketing whereby you can send them a letter or an email saying hey, look. If you don’t want to receive this anymore, please opt out of it. I mean, why bother? I know too many fundraisers who look at it and say, oh no, we don’t want to reduce the size of our list. Well, why not? If you’re bothering them, just reduce the size of the list. Who wants to bother them?

So the key is to provide valuable offers for engagement and to track their engagement online so that – very much the way Amazon.com will track your engagement and offer you books or products that you want because they know where you’ve been shopping. They’ll recommend things for you. So we’re just doing the same thing, but it’s with offers for engagement with that charity’s mission, and all of it is designed to make the donor feel awesome and with a special emphasis on the people who have the capacity to give five, ten, 20, 100 times more dollars.

MT: Wow.

GW: Am I making your head spin? I hope I’m not talking too fast.

MT: No, it’s really good. What you told me before we started recording today was that most of the engagement happens without the donor present, and so this kind of builds on that is what I’m hearing.

GW: Well, that’s true. I mean, think about this, and boy, fundraisers will get mad at me because I’m going to compare it to buying cars. But unfortunately it is. Making a major gift is like making a major purchase. Either way, you want to feel good. Everybody loves the purchase of a new car. It feels good, it smells good. You get pride in having a new car, okay? But the last thing you want to do is go meet with the car salesperson. So you’re going to investigate the car. You’re going to go online. You’re going to pick out colors. You’re going to look at the interior. You’re going to decide what size engine. You’re going to do a heck of a lot of research and you’re going to engage, and hopefully if they’re smart online, they’re going to make you feel pretty damn good and they’re going to try and get you in to actually go test drive that thing. Okay?

MT: Right, right.

GW: Now, similarly, major donors will test out nonprofits, okay? They’re going to make a small gift. Maybe it’s a little bigger gift. Maybe it’s $1,000 or $5,000, right? They’re going to see, how do they react?

  • Do they thank me?
  • What does that look like?
  • Did they thank me by email?

Now I know one fundraiser who is absolutely fantastic. So she gets that kind of gift and then she starts sending little emails a little bit here, a little bit there. Hey, I just wanted you to see what your gift did. Here’s the child that is helped, and you’re so awesome, and by the way we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. I’ll be reporting back to you in a couple weeks. And a lot of times, she doesn’t even get any response.

But then she just kind of keeps dripping, and then she’ll give them an offer for engagement. Say, hey, you know, here’s a little workbook that I know different philanthropists – we’ve given this to different philanthropists because it helps them realize their dream. It helps them outline – most philanthropists don’t have a true, set plan for how they’re going to give away their money, so I just thought that this might be something that you’d enjoy.

MT: Wow.

GW: So you just give. You give. It’s the law of reciprocity, and by doing so, you’re building that relationship. You’re building that trust with that individual, very much in the same way as when someone’s online picking out their colors, learning about that, reading the reviews about the car. You know, the safety standards, this, that, and the other thing. So the major donors are doing the same thing online, and it’s funny because people often times will say to me, well, I don’t think that wealthy people go online. I’m like, what? Why? Because they can’t afford a computer? What are you talking about? That they don’t have time. They certainly don’t have time. Wealthy people, I would figure, have time. They’ve got to – they’re not working three jobs at McDonald’s and Subway and the shoe store.

MT: Right, right. They totally have time, yeah. So the reciprocity thing really works. So you offer value to your customers and you recommend that nonprofits offer a giving plan. An online version, a PDF they can print out to their donors, or they could mail it to them, I guess.

GW: Yeah. Without a doubt. The key is to always be providing value to your supporters in ways that help them realize their dreams and make them feel good.

MT: Right.

GW: It’s really very simple, but what charities usually do is they treat supporters like ATM machines. They ask them for money. Sometimes they say thank you. Many times, unfortunately, it’s not heartfelt. It’s not genuine. It’s computerized. That doesn’t make a donor feel good. Many times they don’t report on the impact of the donation, so that leaves the donor wondering if you A, even cared, B, you know, even want the money again, or need the money – need more money. You know, it leaves the donor wondering what happened. Did the money go into a black hole? When they give that donation, they’re raising their hand saying, hey. I’m interesting in making you – get ready for this. I’m interested in making you a part of my social network and my family, and in some cases, I might even get rid of my family when it comes to my will. Because my son-in-law – I’m just making this up. Or I’m sorry, my son married a woman who I don’t like. Take her out of the will. But guess who’s going to be put in the will, is the charity. In some cases, that’s what they’re saying is I want to make you – meaning the organization – at the same level as my family, if not higher.

I just want to engage with you and be respected and be treated – and I want things to be easy.

I want convenience, and yes, in many cases I may actually also want to meet with a fundraiser face to face. But in some cases, that supporter might not, and if they don’t, we’ve got to open up the channels of communication and relationship building.

We have to give them an opportunity to give through their donor advised fund in a convenient fashion.

We have to give them opportunities to feel good about themselves and achieve their life mission online, just as much as they might do it face to face. But here’s the problem is that fundraisers can’t be face to face with donors all the time. How many fundraisers have that much time? They don’t.

MT: Right, right. Exactly.

GW: So they’ve got to automate the process. Look, every other business in America, if not the world, is figuring out how to leverage technology and the internet to build scale and to lower costs. For some reason, the nonprofit sector in fundraising is willfully behind in this area, and that’s what I aim to fix.

MT:  Okay, that just seems like a perfect moment to end this on. So how can people get in touch with you?

GW: Okay, well, so they can go to our website at imarketsmart.com, and there’s tons of resources and free downloads, calculators, things of that sort that they can check out. Let’s see, there’s a lot of webinars and information from researchers that we’ve partnered with. But if they want to see the dashboard in action and see how this all really works together, and case studies of how powerful it is for many of the largest nonprofits in the country and also in four other countries around the world, they just need to request a demo at imarketsmart.com.

MT: Oh, good. Perfect. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for being interviewed today. This has been really, really interesting.

GW: My pleasure.

MT: And I think a lot of nonprofits are going to be looking at you and saying, wow, you know, like I never knew that I could get all this data and figure out who really does care, and how to like automate that process. You know, I think that’s a big relief for us because we have so much pressure to cultivate all these donors, and we just don’t have enough hours in the day, you know?

GW: Well, that is the easiest part, in fact, is to put it into a machine and let it do the cultivation for them so that they’re only focused on the people who are highly engaged and ready to give.

If you want to learn more from Greg Warner of MarketSmart, check out his session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, Sept 27, 28 and 29!