125: The People Behind the Products: When Marketing is Good and Increases Your Capacity with Aidan Augustin

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“We underestimate how much we all realize these days that we can have one on one communication and be seeing one to many communication and those are actually not in conflict with each other”

– Aidan Augustin
Episode #125


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Nonprofits have unique marketing requirements in comparison to other business entities. Unless they have programs that they specifically market for, their focus is primarily on generating awareness, engaging potential donors, and making a substantial impact on their target audience. To achieve this, nonprofits must understand their target audience’s needs, wants, and preferences, and tailor their marketing efforts accordingly. 

In this episode, we talk with Aidan Augustin, a visionary leader, co-founder, and Chief Revenue Officer at Feathr, a marketing software company designed specifically for nonprofits. With a passion for helping organizations grow their online presence, Aidan has played a pivotal role in supporting over 1,200 organizations using Feathr’s innovative tools. His expertise in website analytics, targeted digital advertising, email marketing, and automation have made Aidan a sought-after voice in the nonprofit sector. As a guest on today’s episode, Aidan shares his insights into leveraging data and technology for effective nonprofit marketing campaigns, bridging the gap between traditional marketing strategies and the unique needs of nonprofit organizations. In the digital age, simply showcasing the work that they do is not enough. 

So instead of viewing marketing as a necessary evil and doing the bare minimum, nonprofits should see it as a powerful tool to create positive change. By focusing on the potential impact on fundraising and mission achievement, Augustin encourages nonprofits to fully embrace marketing strategies and tactics designed specifically for their needs.


Aidan AugustiN


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Get to know Aidan Augustin:

Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and CRO of Feathr, a leading software company making digital marketing technology more accessible to nonprofits and member organizations. Feathr has helped over 1,500 nonprofits and countless events know, grow, and engage their audiences. Aidan spearheads industry education as a regular speaker on the topics of digital marketing tools and strategies. When he’s not steering the ship at Feathr, he’s playing strategy games, singing karaoke, or reading books about people who changed the world.


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episode transcript

Mallory Erickson  01:51

Hi, everyone, I am so excited to be joined here today with Aidan Augustin, Aidan Welcome to What the Fundraising.

Aidan Augustin  01:58

Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Mallory Erickson  02:00

So let’s start with you just sharing everything about you and feathr and what brings you to our conversation today.

Aidan Augustin  02:07

So I’m the co founder, president and chief revenue officer at feathr feathr makes marketing software specifically designed for nonprofits. So we help nonprofits grow their online presence, through a combination of website analytics, targeted digital advertising, email, marketing, automation, and all in one place. So multi channel digital marketing, specifically designed for nonprofits, we serve about 1200 Plus organizations currently, and rapidly grow. That’s another

Mallory Erickson  02:32

amazing and I was so excited to hear about your products and the gap that I feel like you’re filling in the sector. Can we just start and talk about because you do work in marketing beyond just nonprofits? What do you see as sort of the specific marketing needs and sort of current situation for nonprofits in particular?

Aidan Augustin  02:56

Sure, well, I’ll start with the obvious, but people are spending a lot more time online than they used to. And even in the last three years, the numbers have jumped somewhat considerably as behavior changes related to the pandemic. So in 2019, the number was something around six hours and 51 minutes was spent online every day, but the average US adult, which sounds like a staggering stat already, and that was 2019. But that number went up by a full hour per day in 20, and has gone up two more times by about 10 to 15 minutes per year, and 21 and 22. So now it’s over eight hours per day that the average US adult is spending online in 2022. So I think that’s where I would start, which is, as people spend more time online, ones, Marketing and Communications should spend more time online. So reach people where they are, that’s been a change. That’s obviously been ongoing for many years now. But it has meaningfully accelerated in recent years. And the nonprofit sector I think has been a little bit slower to catch up with some of those trends. And to therefore capitalize on the opportunity presented by people spend more time in line and the various digital marketing techniques and technologies that enable those techniques in order to maximize their mission by reaching whether it’s more donors, more supporters raising more awareness, reaching the target population that they’re attempting to serve, promoting their programs more efficiently, more effectively. So these are all the benefits and the opportunities around reaching people more effectively through digital communication channels and digital marketing techniques. And so tying it back that’s we’re here for so that’s kind of feathrs Animus is trying to bridge that gap, and bringing these technologies and tactics and best practices have been quite common in the business world over the last 10 years and appropriately applied them to the nonprofit sector. It’s not just copy and paste by any means. Again, I think that is part of our reason for existence is just using existing marketing software or marketing plans that were very much built and designed for businesses may not be effective. I think there is an appropriate interpretation and application to the uniqueness of nonprofit sector. I know I said a lot there but that’s what we’re seeing in some of our reason for existence and the gaps. We’re trying to help bridge. 

Mallory Erickson  04:59

I love that you’re talking Think about the unique needs of nonprofits while utilizing essentially overarching practices that we see effective in other markets. So like there’s this constant conversation around, have your nonprofit be more like a business, have your nonprofit be less like a business? Like, I feel like there’s always this sort of conversation. And what I hear you saying is like, okay, marketing has not been adopted as swiftly or as quickly by the nonprofit sector, as we’ve seen in other markets where it’s been really effective. We want to apply that knowing to the nonprofit sector and recognize that it’s not exactly the same, it needs different things, it needs to be customized differently, the tools need to be different, I’d love the way that you find that like, talk to me a little bit about some of the unique things or differences that you’ve noticed, and how that really plays a role in nonprofits ability to market their message,

Aidan Augustin  05:54

right, as a little bit of signup, we have this tagline that further, which is marketing is good with a capital G, which is a little bit of a pun, you know, because it’s both like effective marketing, good marketing is impactful, but also that nonprofits doing effective marketing is a good thing. And that’s partially because I think in the nonprofit sector, and to some degree, consumer sentiment in general, maybe marketing, and maybe more particularly advertising, sometimes has this negative connotation to it. And so I guess that’s a weird reminder that effective marketing is more effective mission, more effective delivery of value, more effective championing of the cause. So marketing is good for the capital G is our tagline for that reason. And I guess that’s one of the observations I would make is, maybe sometimes in some nonprofits more than others, there is an aversion to the idea, because perhaps the idea of marketing or advertising is viewed negatively and say we’re trying to do good in the world, we don’t want to do that, right. We’re not trying to manipulate people, we’re not trying to persuade people to do things they didn’t want to do, or whatever negative connotations one might have around marketing. And I think there’s a little bit of concern, and maybe specifically with digital if like, oh, I don’t want to be invading the privacy of the population I’m trying to serve, or the donors I’m trying to cultivate, right. So these are just some of the negative stigmas, perhaps again, not everywhere, but in some board meetings, or in some staff meetings that we’ve observed in the sector. So again, I’m here to make the case that marketing is a good thing for a nonprofit to engage in, use the tools and techniques to increase the good you’re doing in the world. But you can’t even focus in on marketing as an enablement of fundraising, right. So people can’t donate if they haven’t heard of you, they won’t donate if they don’t care about you, or they don’t care about the cause that you’re trying to serve, they probably won’t donate if you don’t remind them if you don’t nurture a relationship with them. Even if nurture relationship does not involve human interaction, just thinking about like, nurturing through maybe a drip campaign of emails or a retargeting ad that follows them into their Facebook newsfeed, but nurturing them in terms of building awareness over time providing relevant information or messaging to them, that over time makes them warm to your organization or your brand or mission. And then they probably won’t donate if you don’t ever ask. And so you can that ask him executing through marketing as well. So even if you’re just looking at fundraising, some people can’t and won’t donate this and they don’t know who you are, they don’t care about your cause. They’re unaware of the work you’re doing. And you never actually make the ask. And all of that can be accomplished through effective digital marketing. So,

Mallory Erickson  08:14

okay, I love that you walked us through that. And you were saying this earlier, as well, that there might be some resistance from the nonprofit sector around using marketing, because it feels less personal, or it’s not the way that they have historically thought about relationship building. But everything that you just said, sort of walking through that nurturing experience that marketing can provide, everything you’re saying makes me think and see that marketing can build a relationship between a date and a person. So talk to me a little bit about that, because I think there’s the mindset stuff in this sector that we need to rework around the role that marketing can play in relationship building.

Aidan Augustin  08:58

Absolutely. And this is not to say that digital marketing is a replacement for the role that like a major gifts development officer would play in storing that type of one to one relationship. First off, if you’re ever have done an appeal, that is a little bit like larger scale one to many, if you were doing direct mail in the past, right? Oh, that’s marketing. And that’s one to many marketing. And just many of those things have converted to digital, but that’s still, what I’m referring to in marketing here is primarily one to many, which can be a complement to One to One activities, and also can do some things that one to one activities can never do, right? Because it would not be record scalable. So I think marketing activity is particularly well suited for if you think about the stages of either a donor journey or just any type of user journey, consumer journey, buyers journey, whatever. It starts with awareness. So reaching people meet people even knowing that there exists in this case, let’s say a problem, the problem that the organization is trying to solve and so by raising awareness and public interest communications, if you do it that way, that there is a challenge that your organization is solving the next step perhaps is that Your organization is solving it so that your organization, your specific brand, maybe if we take an example of a local food bank first would be raising awareness that there is food insecurity, and hunger or poverty in one’s local community. And next to that this specific food bank exists in this community is already doing great work. What are you doing, then that gets in the next layer of detail, emphasizing the program’s emphasizing the three decades of involvement emphasizing the volunteer says, well, the staff that have deep community roots and engagement, right, and getting into more of that, and so then, why contribute? Well, in order to keep doing these things, this is why all of that, again, you can envision ads in your Facebook newsfeed that help tell piece of the story, the highlight is that you can envision an email and a series of emails that get ever more detailed that have a mix of imagery, video and texts that tell the story you can think of, on your Instagram feed on your phone, you’re seeing an autoplaying short video that has a testimonial from whomever in the community. And then eventually there is that ask in the Ask driving to a very simple and optimized, hopefully landing page with a donation widget right? That makes it very easy for one to contribute and support the cause. Hopefully, that adds a little more specificity to just kind of walk through, you can imagine that is still building a relationship, you’re just doing it in a manner that hopefully, many people are receiving that information at the same time or in parallel, they might then slightly different timelines a week later a month later, but you can have these evergreen types of campaigns running in parallel marketing campaigns, I guess to draw a distinction there from a fundraising campaign. And so if you set these things up, a lot of this can be done, somewhat automated. And you might be periodically checking in and tweaking, but you can have one set of marketing campaigns for that top of the funnel, right awareness. And you can have another for that middle of the funnel engagement nurturing. And then another once people match certain conditions, they’ve been at the website, certain number of times, they’ve opened a certain number of emails, then they start receiving either the email drip and or the ads that make the ask. And you can set all of that up. So most of it can be fairly automated. And these across multiple channels, we’re talking to write ads, and email and website touchpoints. And so if you set this all up correctly, it is a personalized experience that is happening. And that is a journey of getting warmer and warmer of nurturing of applying ever more specific types of communication. Whereas at the top, you can be more broad, and then you can more specific as you go. However, it’s done one to many. And it’s done, where people are on their own journey within this. And that’s, I think what effective digital marketing looks like.

Mallory Erickson  12:20

Yeah, okay. You know, it’s so interesting, when you were walking through that, I started to think about all of the ways that there are relationships in my life, that are strengthened through one too many channels. And I think, okay, I meet someone for the first time at a gathering, then we start to follow each other on social media, I start to see their posts, which are not directly to me, which are not personal, but I get a sense for who they are, what they care about what they’re doing, I start to see more alignment between me and that person, I make some decisions subconsciously about how much I want to invest in that relationship, how much I want to get to know that person do I want to come then when they send me an invitation to something there, Jose. And so I think there’s so many ways that we don’t consider how we build deeper connection through one to many models of communication. And we think as nonprofits Oh, people don’t want to hear from us or oh, they want to stay don’t want to see that story from us. And it’s like, no, like, this is how we are all building relationships these days.

Aidan Augustin  13:22

Absolutely. And that’s a great way to tie it into how this can complement some more one to one or one to few activities. And so perhaps I was describing before could have been entirely one to many and entirely digital base. But what you just highlighted is how that might be a perfect complement to someone who wants a few might be an in person event that they’re invited to a one to one might be someone who has met with somebody from the development team, you know, potential major gifts contribution, but they are also in between their one to one meetings, which might happen whatever, often once a month, and once a quarter, so forth, they’re still hopefully seeing those social media posts or they’re seeing the emails that you’re sending, or they’re seeing the ads that you’re targeting with to kind of pick and nurture them. And things like surround sound. Some people talk about this around sound marketing, where they’re seeing you and they’re hearing from you in multiple ways, in an ongoing manner. And that might be punctuated by either in person experiences, one to few, or one to one meetings with members of the team. So even people who are kind of in your one to one high touch journey, which is not everybody, but it’s a subset, kids would still your organization would benefit they would benefit from this type of marketing activity happening in parallel.

Mallory Erickson  14:28

Yes. And I think we really underestimate that because we think, Oh, well, if I have a one to one relationship with them, then they shouldn’t get all this other content because I’m managing the relationship with them, where people worry about automated journeys for folks where they also have a personal communication with and I think we underestimate how much we all realize these days that we can have one on one communication and be seen one to many communication, and those are actually not in conflict with the each other because there’s transparency around that story is being shared on Instagram On Facebook, that was not meant directly for me. And then when I get that personalized email, but it is something maybe I want to learn about or care about, because I’m interested in building a relationship with this person, or I loved that last meeting with them, or it serves as you were saying before, a prompt, a reminder to help drive me towards taking a certain action, maybe I did get an individual email inviting me to the event, but then I forgot about it, I didn’t buy the ticket. And now I’m seeing a social post about it, or social ad about it. And that prompts me and reminds me to take that action. So I love that. And as you were walking through all the steps, what also really struck me is the opportunity. Like there are moments where I’m like, I want to go back and run an organization now, because the last time I was running an organization, where all of this would have been really helpful, there was not these types of capabilities. And there’s just so much here around like how tools like this can increase your capacity, like we think about capacity growth as humans like adding another human to the team. And when I think about marketing, I’m like, marketing is the fundraising work, the messaging work, that community building work that you can grow without another team member, like it is doubling you, as a human. And the other thing that I feel like it really strengthens fundraising teams and marketing teams with this type of marketing, in particular is the data, like the data it provides, like when you’re walking through, you know, okay, they’ve had this many touchpoints. And then they start to get entered into a drip campaign, or they’ve done this type of behavior. And so then they start to get asked behavior. And these types of technologies really provide like behavioral response, where you can sort of like cue things up in that way, and then collect data around how people’s behavior or engagement ultimately impacted those conversion rates, too, right?

Aidan Augustin  17:04

Absolutely. So making all of that visible, that’s usually the first place to start is, can you see what’s happening by having a tool that brings multiple channels into one place, that also makes it a lot easier, as opposed to need to log into three separate platforms or different marketing tools, and then you also can’t have duplication. So that’s part of the value of having a marketing platform all in one or at least most in one type of solution. Part of the benefit of digital marketing should be that it is very clear to see what’s happening, that should be one of the benefits. And I think not every organization has experienced that over the last five to 10 years, despite the explosion in digital activity. Because things have been disparate, or things have been confusing, or it’s been technically challenged to set things up correctly. I think the technology has gotten better has gotten easier. And also to bring it back to why we exist having some of its purpose built designed for the sector and the use cases that are at play for the complementary technologies. And what do we integrate with? What do our customers tend to use, and that’s part of it as well. I mean, getting back to the point about capacity, you can think about the best analogy, but people built houses before power tools, but they took a lot longer and they weren’t as good, or they were way more expensive to build. And now you can build them faster, better, cheaper, because power tools increased the efficiency of workers and also not just increased efficiency. But increased efficacy in some cases like you can lift more weight than ever could have been lift in the past, it’s not just doing the same tasks faster might be things that literally could never have been done without the right tool, or some translation of that it’d be fair to say around technology as an enabler for marketing, you can do things that were literally not possible for the technology. But also you can do some of the same things easier or faster, you can see more so having greater visibility, particularly into things like conversion rates, and two steps of the journey where people are dropping off into testing messaging so much quicker, you can start seeing what works like running an A B tests about different calls to action or different messaging that you want to try. So you should be able to learn more and more quickly, because you can see, again, greater visibility, and you can run tests much more affordably than perhaps in the past, particularly as compared to things like direct mail or to things like TV, radio, billboards, things that were very slow and expensive to run experiments around.

Mallory Erickson  19:05

So you know, the nonprofit market from a business perspective is not always the easiest place to be. So I always have to believe that the people who are here building products, building businesses for this sector, like really love this sector and really believe in it and want to see it thrive. And so what are your like deep hopes for the sector? What are some things you’re excited about? What are some things you’re nervous about? Just what are you thinking about for this space right now?

Aidan Augustin  19:31

Yeah, that’s absurd, wouldn’t be anywhere else and would love that some of our legacy is leveling the playing field between the folks doing good in the world. It’s not good versus evil, necessarily, but whether nonprofit would think so or not, you are competing against Coca Cola against these pretzels against anything that marketing and advertising that is consuming attention that is fighting for attention of the same people, right. And so I think that’s part of again, our motivation is bringing these techniques, these technologies, these best practices, to organizations that do So much good in the world, I’m trying to help them more effectively compete for attention and for dollars in this busy and crowded and overstimulated world that we live in. And our goal is to try to level the playing field there. So that’s definitely part of our motivation here.

Mallory Erickson  20:16

I love that. Okay, any final things you want to make sure we leave folks with and I will make sure all the links are below to learn more about feather go check out do a demo. But any final words for everyone?

Aidan Augustin  20:28

Oh, just reiterate. The marketing is good thing, right. This is a force multiplier of mission of programs of fundraising. That’s what we believe marketing is and should be at a nonprofit at something that is very positive and helpful. And that’s what we’re here to make happen.

Mallory Erickson  20:43

Amazing. Thank you for everything you do to support the sector. I’m really grateful.

Aidan Augustin  20:48

Right back at you mallory.

Mallory Erickson  20:56

All right. I’ve learned a lot from this episode. And here are some of my favorite takeaways. Number one, embrace the idea that marketing is good for nonprofits, as it can lead to more effective mission delivery and increased support for your cause. Number two, create a personalized donor journey using a mix of one to many and one to one communication methods, incorporating social media posts, email campaigns, and targeted ads. Number three, optimize your website with an easy to use donation widget to encourage donations and support for your cause. You did a lot of work to get them there. So let’s make sure we’re optimizing that donation page to number four. leverage the power of video imagery and storytelling to build connections with donors and showcase the impact of your nonprofits work. Number five, periodically review and tweak your marketing campaigns to ensure they remain effective and relevant to your audience. Number six, consider integrating in person events and meetings with your digital marketing efforts to create a more surround sound marketing experience for your donors. And lastly, I really suggest utilizing a marketing software specifically designed for nonprofits like feathr. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with this whole concept, a partner like that can help you grow your online presence through website analytics targeted digital advertising and email marketing automation. Okay, for additional takeaways and tips. Inside this episode, head on over to Mallory erickson.com backslash podcast to grab the full show notes and resources now. You’ll also find more information there about Aidan and feathr. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review and share it with a friend. I’m so grateful for all of my listeners and the good hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. And if you miss me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram under what the fundraising underscore. Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode in this mini series.

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