Welcome to Giving Season 2018, everyone. Your audience has likely been asked (and asked, and asked again) to contribute to multiple campaigns and causes — and it’s not going to stop just because the elections are over.
So with December 31st barreling at us like a freight train, what can we fundraising strategists do to recapture our audience’s attention — and get them to support our mission?
We’ve got some finely-honed and tested tips and tricks to help you make the most of this year-end, no matter your vertical, the size of your team, or the extent of your budget. But you’ve got to act fast, because time is running out (no, seriously, look at the calendar!).
Maximize existing moments
If you’re reading this now, you should already have a plan to blow out Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. If you don’t, now is the time. Seriously. Maybe read the rest of this post, but then cancel the rest of your meetings today and get cracking.
Why do these two days matter so much? For some of our clients, Giving Tuesday and Cyber Monday were their two biggest fundraising days of 2017 in terms of revenue — bigger than any two days during the last week of December, but only for clients that took full advantage of that 48 hours of attention.
So on Giving Tuesday, don’t just send one email, send five, seven, or even nine. Use your biggest senders, talk about your most resonant issues, and get in as many inboxes as you can. This day matters, and it could make or break your bottom line.
And don’t forget about Cyber Monday. If you have a client with a more tangible giving product or if your list responds well to swag, then Cyber Monday may be a great fit. Even if a shopping or merchandise ask isn’t your traditional strategy, it’s still worth creating a plan and going out on Cyber Monday. People are primed to spend money — they already have their wallets out — and if you can frame your mission in shopping language, then they just might find their way to your donation page.
Use your full toolkit
Of course, on both of these days and throughout end of year, make sure to use your full toolkit of email fundraising best practices — standout subject lines, swag (if you’ve got it), and the all-important match. These will help your content stand out in inboxes and get more eyes on your emails.
After all, there’s no escaping it: Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, and December 31st are wars of attrition. Your donors have limited dollars, and your organization will be competing for them in every inbox.
You need to send a ton of email. But what should those emails look like? Well, it depends on your audience.
You don’t need me to tell you that things like matches, fake forwards, supporter records, clever sender names or subject lines, and other email tactics can work. But maybe they don’t work for your community. Instead of worrying about trying something shiny and new, focus on doing what you know DOES work for your community — after all, we’re here to raise money!
Make something out of nothing
Mid-December and early November don’t have to be dead zones. See if there is an event, international day, or external hook you can fundraise around. If not, get creative and come up with your own — sometimes these moments can mean the extra funds you need to hit or exceed your goal.
Here are just a few ideas:
Try a time-based match: 36 hours, 48 hours, or even 24 hours — deadlines drive donations.
Create a tangible giving campaign: Assign different dollar amounts to items your donors can “purchase” in support of your mission: i.e. $40 for a year of clean water, $120 for a goat.
Offer a unique piece of merch or swag: Some people just won’t give unless they get something back.
Hook onto the news: Does your organization work in a war zone or has your target population faced a crisis? Is cold weather a threat to your mission? Talk about it.
We’ve found that creating new moments during these crucial months does not cannibalize giving during the big moments — whatever small cannibalization effect exists is totally blown out of the water by the extra revenue you can bring in when you create something new.
Using the BSD Tools or another good mailer, it’s really easy to swap out words, phrases, or entire passages on the fly using conditional logic (“if this, then that”).
We apply this type of logic throughout the body of an email to reflect everything we know about each member of our list. We’re not sending three or four variations anymore — we’re sending tens of thousands of variations of a given piece of creative.
Send to more people
Did you know that in presidential politics, the single biggest indicator that someone will give to a campaign in any given afternoon is whether they made a gift that morning? Yup!
That said, we don’t recommend this kind of extreme approach for nonprofit clients — after all, you have a much longer-term relationship with your donors than political campaigns.
But there is a lesson we can glean from that political world. And it’s having a “second-gift strategy” — strategically dropping your donor suppressions at key moments to maximize revenue.
Let’s say you typically suppress donors for a month. During those times (your Giving Tuesdays, your Cyber Mondays, your matches), drop those suppressions to two weeks, one week, or even just a few days. When you do it, make sure you go out of your way to thank those donors for their recent gifts and ask them to make another special, one-time gift. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to give again when they’re properly thanked.
These principles, strategies, and tactics can help lift your campaigns and revenue this year, but that’s not all. There’s a slew of other approaches that you can use to help your campaigns stand out in a crowded inbox, keep your audience happy, and raise a boatload of cash for good causes.