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6 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Use of Luminate Online

As with most things, you may find that there never seems to be enough time to do everything you would like to within your Luminate Online™ instance. But, if you’re strategic about where you focus your time, and know some of the ways to optimize your database, you can get the most from your resources.

Chances are, if you’re reading this article, your role involves raising money, acquiring new constituents, or a combination of both. This means you need to get new people into your database, get them to stick around, and compel them to donate and/or raise funds for your organization. Whether you’ve used Luminate Online for years or are just getting started, here are some simple things you can do to make sure you’re optimizing your acquisition and retention/cultivation strategies:

Email Acquisition

Luminate Online is an online engagement tool that can be used to facilitate all types of online interactions. Using its functionality to collect new constituent information and even update existing records is a great way to expand your database. Although you’re likely already collecting constituent data one way or another, here are two simple, but effective ways to use Luminate Online to collect additional information:

  1. Make your “contact us” form a Luminate Online Survey on your website. Set up a survey that requires email address (and perhaps other basic information depending on your business rules), and then use “Unlimited Text Value” for the question type (under step 2. Include Question) to allow users to enter their question/comment. Set up the survey so that an administrator receives a notification every time someone “contacts” you to stay on top of your inquiries (step 1. Identify Survey, option 10. Email Responses).
  2. Require new constituents to enter their email address before downloading a free resource from your website. Whether it’s an annual report or a nice PDF fact sheet, if it has some value and meaning to those who might want to look at it, use either the Survey or the eCommerce feature to require that a user first enter an email address (and possibly other information) to access the resource. There is a fine line between asking for information to enhance your data and discouraging users from completing actions, but if you’re offering something that is free and useful, this is a handy tactic to database acquisition.
  • If you’re using the Survey feature, configure it so that upon submission of the survey, users are taken to the survey submission page which would host the link to download the resource. For example, set up a survey where email address, name, and maybe zip code are required, then once submitted make the Survey Submitted Page link (Step 1. Identify Survey, option 11. Survey Submitted Page) a page (possibly a PageBuilder page) that has a link to the downloadable material. Only those who complete the survey will be able to access the page with the download.
  • If using eCommerce, create a new product using the digital download options (option 6 under Product Configuration), set pricing to $0 (option 2), and make the product available in an existing store or set up a new store to allow users to “purchase” the download.

Just about any feature you use in Luminate Online allows you to collect constituent data, so keep these tools in mind as you plan new campaigns throughout the year. In some cases, your data collection strategy will be simply to get email addresses that you can then develop a relationship with, while at other times you’ll be looking for more information so you can properly target your audiences based on some kind of characteristic (location, connection to cause, interests, etc.), which leads to the next topic of constituent retention and cultivation.

Constituent Retention and Cultivation

As you likely know, simply collecting email addresses does not produce a healthy database. You must also be able to communicate with the constituents in your database in ways that result in engagement (or at the very least do not result in them unsubscribing).

  1. Use interest categories. While you never really want someone to unsubscribe from your emails, it’s better than the alternative of them reporting you as spam. Be sure it’s easy for a user to unsubscribe, and make sure you use Luminate Online’s interest categories, which allow you to give constituents the option of unsubscribing from a particular email campaign versus from your whole database. To set up a new interest category, go to the Constituent360 tab > Interest > Create a New Interest Category. Once it’s set up, you’ll be able to associate this Interest Category with any email campaign(s).

Here’s a real-world example: to do an end of year appeal, create an “end of year appeal” interest category as well as a new email campaign for the relevant emails. Associate the new end of year interest category with the corresponding email campaign (Step 2. Interest Opt-In / Opt-Out when editing an email campaign). This would mean that anyone who clicks “unsubscribe” on an email within that campaign would first see the option of unsubscribing from just that specific campaign, rather than unsubscribing from all communications.

  1. Create email campaigns that are composed of multiple emails. You can use multi-email campaigns for things like welcome series, end of year fundraising, event registration — just about any communications with multiple touch points. Plan 3-5 emails, and set them to automatically deliver to specific groups or your entire house file by scheduling the email ahead of time to a target audience.
  • Use re-buildable queries to create an audience group that excludes people who have completed the action you’re asking them to do. For example, for an end of year campaign, you might target your entire database, but exclude anyone who has made a donation within the last 30 days by setting up a query with these parameters. Then, whenever an email goes out, the query will automatically update your target audience and exclude those who have donated from receiving the next email in your series.
  • Use recurring emails that go out daily, weekly, or monthly to a specific group to ensure those communications are automatic and not dependent on a staff member completing the action. For example, you could set up an email to go out weekly to anyone who contacted you (i.e., filled out your “contact us” survey) asking if they want to learn more about your organization and if so, what they might be interested in.
  1. Use S-Tags for conditionalized and personalized content. The more you can make your constituents feel like you know exactly who they are, the closer they will feel to your organization and the more likely they’ll be to support you. Luminate Online uses S-Tags (session component tags) to call in information specific to a constituent — like first name, last name, and address information; or more complex information like group membership (e.g., has completed a particular survey) or last donation information. S-Tags allow you to not only personalize the email with these bits of information, but also show conditional content only to groups of people with certain characteristics (perhaps you want donors who have given in the last 30 days to see certain text and everyone else to see other content in a newsletter). Using S-Tags in this way allows you to send appropriate content to multiple audiences without having to create entirely different emails. Read more about various S-Tags on Blackbaud’s help files.
  2. Use tools in Luminate Beta to make emailing targeted audiences easier. A few highlights: Luminate Beta’s list tool gives you the ability to target people and create email audiences based on geography* and wealth ratings. It also offers new social insights reports, which let you see which of your constituents are “loudest,” or most active, on social media. If you haven’t checked out Luminate Beta yet, give it a try!

*If you ever plan on targeting constituents based on geography, make sure you are asking for pertinent data such as state and zip code when setting up functionality such as surveys and event registration.

Luminate Online offers a wealth of tools for online constituent engagement. By employing the tips in this article and implementing some of the less obvious ways of acquiring emails and cultivating relationships, you’ll be well on your way to optimizing your database for your organization.


Daniella Dowiak is the Account Manager of Cathexis Partners. Daniella has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than seven years. With a deep understanding of nonprofits’ limited resources, she is passionate about helping organizations get the most out of their technology. Daniella has presented at nonprofit events, and writes for nonprofit-focused blogs, including the Cathexis Partners blog.

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