Your Guide To A Successful Online Fundraising Program

Year-end fundraising. So much at stake, so much to learn, year in, year out. Our top analysts have spent the last month digging into our 2014 year-end email campaigns and digital programs and packaged their insights in a handy guide to help make your online fundraising program the best yet.

We’re pleased to introduce the Blue State Digital guide to What Worked (and Didn’t) This Year-End: Eight Lessons for Online Fundraising in 2015.

We experienced a banner year for our fundraising strategy clients, with a 37.3% increase in contributions and a 25.6% increase in revenue compared to 2013. To get there, we tested, refined, and—in some cases—discarded our go-to best practices in our ongoing efforts to run the best possible programs for our clients.

We hope our findings will help you get a head start on a successful 2015 online fundraising program.

Want a quick taste? Here are two key insights to keep in mind for 2015:

Double down on a good thing

We all know that some emails will outperform others. The key is to quickly determine which emails are the “over” performers and keep them at the top of everyone’s inbox, while also identifying the “under” performers and learn from them, quickly.

We’re strong believers in what we call the over/under approach. For one of our largest nonprofit clients, we analyzed all historical fundraising data, and determined revenue benchmarks for each year-end milestone. This allowed us to identify when we had an over-performing email and apply a set of rules to that email. If the email overperformed by:

  • 15% – we resent the email to non openers 26 hours after the initial email
  • 20% – we sent a follow-up email or “kicker” that afternoon
  • 25% – we would do both a kicker that afternoon and a resend the next day

To be frank, the over/under approach will take some extra effort. You can expect your analysts to monitor numbers even more frequently than usual. You need to have “kickers” ready to send at a moment’s notice. And the approval process needs to be rapid. You also need to consider: Will the overperforming email take the place of an email that may have been scheduled for that afternoon or the next day?

The strategy paid off: The sends associated with the over/under rules accounted for 2,849 contributions and 10.9% of all year-end revenue for this client—a significant boost.

The “over/under rules” above may not be the best fit for your organization, but the key insight is to watch email performance, react quickly, and make the most of your high-performing messages. Be flexible in your email calendaring.

Make it personal

None of us have time for thousands of hand-written notes or messy datasets. So how do you personalize your messages? As email technology improves and your donor base becomes more accustomed to a more curated experience, we recommend leveraging the advanced capabilities of your email toolset to *automatically* optimize messages for your supporters.

For example, we use the BSD Tools’ contribution history “tags” to insert conditional content in a mass email. We can automatically include or refer to the following values in personalized emails:

  • A full supporter record containing the amounts and dates of all of the user’s contributions
  • Custom ask strings based on a donor’s full contribution history (amounts and times)
  • The date and amount of the supporter’s most recent contribution, and the number of days that have elapsed since then

Not only does this allow for more effective fundraising asks, it also make the entire process of sending highly targeted and personalized emails much more efficient for our analytics and communications teams, particularly during year-end madness. Investigate which automatic personalization tools you have at your disposal through your CRM, or learn more about the BSD Tools here.

Read six more insights to fuel your work in the BSD guide “What Worked (and Didn’t) This Year-End: Eight Lessons for Online Fundraising in 2015.” Download it here, and don’t forget to share it with your colleagues and friends. And cheers to a successful fundraising year ahead!