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Chief Marketing Officer
National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) is a public charity dedicated to providing philanthropic expertise to donors, foundations and financial institutions, enabling them to realize their philanthropic aspirations. Since NPT was founded in 1996, the nonprofit has raised more than $13.5 billion in charitable contributions and currently manages $8.1 billion in charitable assets. Additionally, NPT has made more than 273,000 grants totaling $6.8 billion to charities all over the world. It ranks among the largest grantmaking institutions in the United States. Bill Webster took on the role of Chief Marketing Officer in January of 2019 after many years in leadership roles in financial organizations like Liberty Mutual Insurance, Sun Life Financial, MetLife and most recently AXA US. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing the planning, development, and execution of NPT's marketing and communications initiatives. His mandate is to build the brand’s identity, raise visibility and foster increased growth.
“With my interest in being a part of a philanthropic organization, my experience in the financial industry and the organization’s increased emphasis on marketing as playing a larger role in the overall strategy, it was a good fit for me to join NPT,” Bill says. “Our grants grew 39 percent to 1.39 billion in the last year, and our CEO, Eileen Heisman, wanted to kick that growth to the next level. As such, a study was commissioned and one of the key recommendations was to hire a CMO to guide that growth through outreach to our different segments.”
Bill’s background in financial services lends itself well to communicating with the various stakeholders of a nonprofit organization, such as NPT. With, many of NPT’s strongest relationships being with the top financial services organizations in the world, his ability to speak their language strengthens those connections.
“With a deep background in financial services and insurance, and a thorough understanding of the distribution network of financial advisors, my skills were highly transferrable to this position, which gave me the opportunity to be able to come to a nonprofit which, from a personal standpoint, was very compelling,” he says.
The target audience for NPT is a very broad set of high-income donors, with different goals, priorities and areas of interests. With the organization’s commitment to delivering a superior level of service, Bill’s experience in personalizing interactions has translated into a continued strong value-add for the organization. When he started at NPT, Bill focused on defining key drivers for various sets of donors, to appeal to different segments of the donor population, including segments that may have been historically underrepresented in the industry, such as millennials and women.
As an omni-channel marketer, Bill ensures that part of NPT’s personalization approach is to reach donors in ways that are most relevant depending on where they are in the customer journey. “My approach is to look at the end-to-end customer experience,” he says. “Historically, marketers have been hyper-focused on the top of the funnel to bring new customers in, but that is now shifting to focus on understanding the needs, the satisfaction and the overall experience of existing customers once they are actually on board.”
“I focus not only on what channel we are engaging with, but what content we are using to engage,” he says. “I look at all the different touchpoints and interactions we have and analyze whether there are opportunities for additional touchpoints, and what content might be most compelling for that moment in the journey. We want to enhance all areas of the communications engagement experience, from day-to-day interactions to problem resolution.”
Adding new touchpoints that truly add value to the customer can only be achieved by better understanding their mindset and interests. While regular updates sent via methods, such as newsletters, can be effective touchpoints, to truly connect with stakeholders, those types of interactions need to be relevant and personalized to the person on the receiving end.
“Most content today is pushed out without consideration of its relevancy for the person on the receiving end,” he says. “Marketers need to evolve to understand that the 360-degree lens allows you to be better in terms of your messaging from an acquisition standpoint all the way through the entire customer journey.”
While digital communications are much easier to analyze from a concrete metric standpoint, such as through determining click-throughs, data on where someone’s time was spent and items such as whether more information was requested are still required to understand and ultimately engage audiences.
“We need to focus not only on what is most measurable; we must shift our attention to communicating with different demographics in the way they would like to be communicated with or in the way they consume information,” he says. “This will evolve marketers away from that push mentality and towards a higher level of engagement.”
He says that generally speaking there is increased interest in hard metrics at the board level for measuring marketing success and it is important to fully explain marketing activities and their impact to fully engage the board. “The most effective way I have found to reassure board members of the impact of marketing activities is through ensuring efforts are done in combination with the totality of a strategic plan,” he says. “Determining which aspects of a marketing plan are most efficient cannot be determined in a vacuum. Rather, if you're looking to maximize your growth, you have to look at a variety of vehicles, alongside the insights you have gathered about the behaviors of your end targets, and then optimize your plan accordingly.”
When it comes to the execution of those plans, he says working with the right partners helps to find the balance between efficiency and effectiveness. “Along with any historic insights about our audience, we then focus on media consumption habits, lifestyle, and a host of other insights that drive our plans,” he says. “If there’s enough due diligence put into the initial plan, then there isn't that constant pressure to constantly change and evaluate and revaluate. Rather, we can then look for opportunities to periodically optimize.”
Looking forward, he has two main goals. First is to create more meaningful human interactions to ensure that people can be strategic and feel connected to the causes that are most relevant to them. “We are known for delivering a high level of service at NPT, as well as a great product from the standpoint of managing people's money and investments and handling their grants,” he says. “With philanthropy, the human element is fundamental, so part of my goal and my mandate is to continue to expand the personal, human connections our donors feel with NPT as we grow.”
His second goal is to apply more disciplined metrics for success. “We know how to define success from a company standpoint and now we need to work on defining success from a marketing standpoint,” he says. “As the role of the CMO continues to evolve and expand, we need to be able to prioritize. The good news is, there is a lot more interest in marketing support and that brings higher expectations. To be successful, we need to manage expectations and tie those expectations to marketing metrics so organizational stakeholders understand exactly what we’re delivering.”
At the end of the day, he says his enthusiasm in his role comes from knowing that he is making a difference. “We’re in a quiet sector; it's not one of those things that warrants primetime television,” he says. “We're not going to be Flow. We're not going to be a Geico. It's a relatively small segment, but it's one that has, and continues to see, significant growth, that offers incredible value to its customers and helps people donate their money to causes that matter. It's good to be able to go home every day and feel like you're working towards a common good and helping people realize even more support for the causes that they feel passionate about.”