Capital campaigns can be absolutely critical to take your nonprofit’s work to the next level. These campaigns are periods of concentrated fundraising efforts to raise a significant amount of money to achieve a substantial goal that will allow your organization to more effectively work toward its mission. 

Your nonprofit might decide to launch a capital campaign to construct a new building, create a new program, or purchase a necessary but expensive piece of equipment. No matter what level of experience your organization has with capital campaigns, a refresher of outreach basics will help you make the most of your campaign. In addition, many nonprofits have had to adjust to coronavirus-related restrictions that place new challenges on capital campaign outreach efforts.

Although your outreach efforts might look different this year due to these changes, your capital campaign will still consist of two outreach phases: the quiet phase, where you reach out to your existing network of major donors, and the public phase, where you introduce your campaign to the general public and solicit final donations to your cause. 

Both phases have their own specific outreach opportunities to help achieve the goal of getting a sizable number of donors on board to meet your fundraising needs.

To make your next capital campaign a smashing success, we recommend a blend of tried-and-tested techniques such as letter-writing campaigns with a dash of the latest trending virtual tools to round out your outreach efforts. 

We’ve compiled a list of the six best outreach methods to use during your capital campaign depending on the phase you’re working on:

Quiet phase outreach methods: 

  1. Sending fundraising letters
  2. Making phone calls
  3. Polishing and publishing campaign website

Public phase outreach methods:

  1. Incorporating giving (and fun!) into kickoff event
  2. Reaching out via social media
  3. Following up with thank-you letters

According to Bloomerang’s guide to capital campaigns, organizations that conduct successful campaigns also see greater returns in their annual giving programs and an increase in subsequent major and planned gifts. Therefore, in addition to helping your nonprofit reach its immediate fundraising campaign goals, these tips can plant the seeds of giving in your community for years to come. Let’s take a closer look at the best outreach methods for each phase.

Quiet Phase Outreach Methods

The first outreach phase of a capital campaign may be called the quiet phase, but that doesn’t mean you literally stay quiet about your plans. In this phase, you’ll set up meetings with your major donors who have previously given large sums to your mission to see if they’re interested in supporting your current campaign. In the pandemic era, these meetings will be virtual, but these tips will also apply when in-person meetings resume.

The first phase of your capital campaign is where you’ll receive the largest donations to your campaign, so it’s important to optimize your outreach efforts during this phase of the campaign to make significant strides to your goal.

One of your greatest outreach assets in the quiet phase of your capital campaign is your nonprofit CRM database. You can use the information stored in your CRM to not only identify past major donors to connect with, but also identify other donors who have the potential to become major donors. For instance, your regular mid-tier donors who have the capacity to give more might be willing to do so because it’s a one-time campaign designed to accomplish a single specific goal. 

Look for these opportunities in your donor database by analyzing the potential generosity of your existing supporters (using prospect research software) as well as their engagement metrics. Supporters with a high giving capacity who are regularly engaged with your organization are the most likely to contribute during the quiet phase of your campaign. 

To maximize your fundraising results in the quiet phase of your next capital campaign, consider these outreach methods that rely on your nonprofit CRM and other digital tools:

Sending Fundraising Letters

Even though it may seem old-school, a well-crafted fundraising letter can make all the difference between a rejection or a donation boost in your capital campaign. 

Use fundraising letters to reach out and inform supporters about your campaign before setting up a meeting, or send a letter after the meeting to put the information you’ve discussed in writing for reference and to make a final appeal. 

When you’re ready to write your letters, Fundraising Letters offers pre-drafted letter templates for all kinds of organizations including nonprofits, churches, public schools, and more. We have a few tips to help customize these templates and apply them to your capital campaign: 

  • Describe the goal of your capital campaign and how it fits into supporting your organization’s overarching mission.
  • Tell a compelling story of how the fundraising from your capital campaign will enhance your organization’s ability to help people in the community. 
  • Input the names of the recipients and the fundraising request amounts you gathered from your CRM to personalize the messages. 
  • Customize the templates to match the tone of your organization. 
  • If this is a preliminary letter, request a virtual meeting with the donor to offer further information on your campaign. If this is a summary letter after you’ve already held a meeting, thank the donor for their time and provide your contact information for any further questions. 
  • Sign the letters with your name—people appreciate knowing they’re corresponding with another human and not a robot. 

Following these tips will help you customize your outreach letters to match the urgency of your current capital campaign and connect with potential major donors.

Making Phone Calls

Similar to a letter-writing campaign, some people may shy away from making phone calls because it seems like an outdated, unproductive marketing tactic. However, making personalized phone calls to donors goes a long way toward fostering donor relationships and maintaining their support. Think of these outreach calls as calling up a trusty friend to seek their support for a new venture. 

Specifically, you might want to use your outreach phone calls to see if donors might be willing to be a sponsor of your capital campaign kickoff event and set up an ensuing video chat meeting to explain your request further. You can use Fundraising Letter’s sponsorship letter templates to guide the script for your outreach phone calls. These additional tips will help you have a successful phone campaign:

  • Make your calls during the evenings from 6-9 p.m. when people are generally at home and done working for the day. 
  • Use donor data from your CRM to reference the donor’s specific history of engagement with your organization and how grateful you are to have their continued support.
  • Use your script for reference to keep the conversation on track and include the ask amount that’s personalized to each donor.

Phone calls offer another COVID-safe outreach method that sets the stage for an eventual face-to-face donor meeting using video conferencing or live stream software. 

Polishing and Publishing Your Capital Campaign Website Content

As your quiet phase winds down and you start preparing to introduce your campaign to the public, ensure that content on your website devoted to your capital campaign is optimized for educating the public on the goal of your campaign and providing easy access to donation pages. 

Your capital campaign website content can be a separate microsite linked to from your main organization site, or a page within your website. Be sure this optimized information is ready to be pushed live on the day when you kick off your capital campaign.

Your capital campaign page or website should include an overview of the goals of your campaign and illustrate the ways that donations will help achieve your mission. Include prominent call-to-action buttons that encourage supporters to “Donate now!” and take them to a well-designed donation page where they can easily input their credit card information. 

Ensure your website is optimized for receiving a high volume of donations and ready to be presented as you transition to the public phase of your capital campaign. 

Public Phase Outreach Methods

After you’ve received the support of several major donors in the quiet phase of your capital campaign (nonprofits typically receive anywhere from 50-70% of total capital campaign donations during the quiet phase), you’re ready to launch into the public phase of your campaign where you garner support from the larger community for your cause. 

The aim of this phase is to reach out to as many potential donors as possible in a wide range of public-facing events and communications. Your outreach efforts should focus on energizing your audience to reach your fundraising goals. A few outreach strategies you can use to make it through the second half of your campaign include incorporating giving into your kickoff event, reaching out on social platforms, and following up with thank you letters.

Incorporating Giving (and Fun!) Into Kickoff Event

Just because your capital campaign kickoff event goes virtual doesn’t mean it has to be any less fun. Your virtual kickoff event can actually look fairly similar to in-person events. You can host a virtual concert with a well-known artist, an online gala with special entertainers like a comedian or public speaker, or a live-streamed groundbreaking ceremony for your new project. 

Use your kickoff event to not only make people aware of and excited about your capital campaign, but also provide donation opportunities during the event itself. In your virtual kickoff live stream or video, point people to your donation page on your website. Keep a running log of donations received on your website to allow donors to see how their donations are pushing you further toward your goals. Creating and refreshing a fundraising thermometer graphic is a fun way to continuously update supporters. 

Fonteva’s guide to virtual events provides virtual event best practices that all nonprofits should be aware of such as collecting key event data, fostering communication with and between attendees, and keeping an eye out for any technical challenges. Your virtual event kickoff will set the tone for the rest of your capital campaign, so use it to generate buzz at the start of the public phase. 

Reaching Out Via Social Media

Social media will be your best friend and one of your greatest outreach assets in the public phase of your capital campaign. 

Post to your social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep your supporters updated on your campaign progress and reach out for additional donations needed to reach your goal. Make sure to customize the content you post to be specific to the platform you use and the way that supporters interact with it. You can use Instagram Stories or Facebook Live to give people more information on your campaign or start up a Twitter hashtag with your campaign title to generate conversation. 

Depending on the size of your social media following, your campaign posts have the potential to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of potential supporters of your cause. Keep your social media posts concise and to the point so anyone who scrolls past immediately understands the purpose of your campaign and how their donations can help achieve your goal. 

Following Up With Thank-You Letters

Finally, as the donations pour in during the public phase of your campaign, be sure to thank each donor with a personalized message of gratitude.

Demonstrating appreciation and fostering donor relationships is a crucial part of donor retention. Donor retention is the calculation of how many donors continue to give to your organization year after year. According to this guide to donor retention from Bloomerang, boosting your donor retention rate has major payoffs because your organization won’t have to spend as much on donor acquisition and donors tend to give in higher quantities over time. 

Be sure to go above and beyond to show your appreciation to donors to boost your donor retention rate. For example, in addition to an initial thank-you in the donation confirmation email, you might also send a hand-written letter or host an appreciation event after the campaign ends. Donor appreciation letters help supporters feel valued and leave donors with a positive impression of your organization and a willingness to stay engaged in your mission.

Your capital campaign can be an easy jumping-off point for your donor retention strategy. You’ve already gotten the attention of an abundance of capital campaign donors. Now, you can focus ongoing outreach and communication efforts on converting these capital campaign donors to repeat donors who maintain an active and fruitful engagement with your organization.

With these outreach strategies in mind, your next capital campaign can thrive and be successful even in the midst of an uncertain year. By putting donor relationships at the forefront of your outreach efforts, you can gain the support of a wide range of people in your community who stay engaged in your mission even after your campaign concludes.

Jay Love

Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang.

Jay Love is the Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang.

He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.

Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.

He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.

Churches require money to keep offering services to their communities. Tithes and offerings help support the cost of operation, however, church fundraising is key to keeping afloat—especially during the COVID era.

The necessity for fundraising is apparent, regardless of denomination. For churches, fundraising can be a challenging undertaking. A route that many organizations take is sending out fundraising letters to their potential supporters. Mail appeals can reach a broad audience of congregants and are typically successful in gaining support from communities. Letters can be a cost-efficient way to share your story and frame your financial ask.

At GivingMail, we help churches like yours write and send effective fundraising letters to garner the support you need. Church fundraising is a bit unique in terms of sending nonprofit donation appeals. Sure, they inspire individuals to give, and they can raise significant funds, but there are additional items to consider for the most effective letter possible. We’ve created this guide to provide you with tips on what elements to include in your letters to best communicate with and strengthen your church community. These items include:

  • Personal Salutations
  • Campaign Information
  • Specific Ask Amounts
  • Appreciation For Their Support

Writing any church communication letter requires strategic language and personalized touches. We’ll explain the four elements that can take your fundraising letter and turn it into donations that help to push your mission forward!

1. Personal Salutations

To start your letter-writing plan, choose a church fundraising letter template that can apply to a large group of donors. After you plan your general body text, be sure to personalize each letter for every recipient. Add personal details wherever you can. Your congregants will feel valued and appreciated from being addressed personally. A few ways to add this touch are:

  • Addressing the donor. Be sure to call them by their preferred name. For example, instead of writing “Dear donor,” be sure to write “Dear [name of recipient].” This may seem simple, but it goes a long way, especially in a community as close as a church.
  • Asking based on history. Include suggested donation amounts based on the donor’s previous giving history. This shows the donor that you know them and have created an appeal that is specific for them.
  • Drawing information from your CRM software. In your letter, draw on other engagement information to personalize the letter further. This can include the last service or church event they attended, along with a broader history of how long they’ve been involved with your congregation. 
  • Segmenting your donor base. Put your hard-earned data to work. GivingMail explains how to use your nonprofit database to personalize these letters. For example, you can reach church members with the highest probability of getting involved with that particular campaign and leverage their interests to craft the message that will most resonate with them. 

With these best practices in mind, your donors will feel like the valued members of your congregation that they are. Plus, you can mutually strengthen your relationship through this messaging tactic. It’s a win-win! 

2. Campaign Information

As you’re drafting your church’s fundraising letter, be sure it is clear what you are asking of your donors and why. Be sure church members and supporters understand what the fundraising campaign is for, how it will affect the church’s mission, and what part their donation will play. No one likes to donate to a cause blindly. Answer these questions when drafting your letter to effectively market your fundraiser:

  • Why do you need their donation? 
  • Why are they donating right now?
  • How can you communicate your campaign to the best of your ability?
  • Can you include a story to explain your need? 

While answering these questions in your letter, you should position your donor as the person doing the action. For example, you could provide a scenario such as, “your gift of X dollars will help send five children to Bible Camp this year.” This detail might seem menial, but it helps the reader understand your campaign’s purpose and gives them a sense of connection to your cause. If you’re stuck on how to word your ask, check out GivingMail’s tips on how to ask for donations.

Once your mission is clear, some people may want to help out but cannot contribute financially. In which case, be sure to provide other opportunities for getting involved with your campaign, like giving time or supplies depending on the mission. After the campaign, you’ll want to reiterate your goals and progress towards them with a well-crafted impact statement to your donors. 

3. Specific Ask Amounts

Don’t leave it up to the supporter to decide how much to give. Using data collected in your CRM, you can group recipients based on giving capability. This type of personalization can help you determine specific amounts to suggest in your appeal depending on their wealth indicators and giving history. 

When you provide suggested donation amounts, the donor will recognize that you’re paying attention to their prior contributions. This gesture will reflect your church’s attention to detail. Specific amount options can benefit your fundraising efforts by:

  • Giving the donor an idea of how they can help
  • Drive them to give more
  • Tailoring asks to their giving abilities

With these benefits in mind, it’s worth spending extra time targeting your potential donors based on their giving history or financial information.

4. Appreciation for Their Support

A little appreciation goes a long way. Show appreciation for your donor’s support throughout your campaign. Each time a congregant gives your campaign somehow, whether in money, time, or supplies, you must thank them for their generosity. Without them, your church would not be able to fund its efforts and achieve its goals.

It’s important to note that sending thank-you messages strengthens your relationship with your church community as a whole. Retaining donors is more cost-effective than acquiring donors, so take advantage of every opportunity to deepen these connections. Focus primarily on those who have given once. Securing their second donations help to make it a habit. To do this effectively, be sure to show appreciation for the past engagement, drawing on personal information when applicable.

Thank-you note best practices for any point of the donor journey are crucial to optimizing your appreciation efforts. Be sure to check out these templates for inspiration.

Church fundraising letters are a persuasive and effective way to empower your community to give to your cause. How you frame and ask for fundraising contributions determines if your fundraising goals will be met. The bottom line is that a little personalization and attention to detail go a long way when communicating with your potential donors. In no time, your church will be acquiring and retaining support from a compelling fundraising letter.  Good luck!

Come warmer weather, your school may be looking for ways to plan an exciting outdoor event. Walkathons are an excellent way to bring your students and families together safely while raising money. In the COVID climate, your school walkathon might be virtual or socially distanced but can be just as effective as a typical fundraising event.

Walkathons are relatively simple to plan and host for your organization with the right tools. If your school is new to this type of event, reviewing a few frequently asked questions and getting set up with pledge fundraising software (like 99Pledges!) will simplify the process. Once you plan your event, there’s still one critical task left to tackle — promoting your walkathon.

Your school has to take steps to actively promote your walkathon to get the most out of all the hard work that went into planning it! These strategies will help you build a solid marketing foundation to ensure a successful walkathon.

  • Taking a peer-to-peer approach
  • Using multiple communication channels
  • Offering perks and shout-outs
  • Encouraging healthy competition

Effective promotional strategies will ensure that your walkathon raises money and that your students and families know about it to begin with! With a range of marketing tactics at your disposal, your event is sure to succeed with your community. Let’s dive in.

1. Take a peer-to-peer approach.

The most crucial aspect of your walkathon is the promotion of your event. The more frequently people post and talk about your event, the greater the support and turnout. As a school, the connections between your students, families, and community will give you a real leg up in this regard.

So what’s the best way to tap into the power of these community connections? Taking a peer-to-peer approach to promoting your event.

Successful peer-to-peer fundraising involves your supporters promoting your campaign on your behalf to collect donations (or, in this case, walkathon pledges) from their own online networks. When word spreads about an event, especially for a local school, people will want to support the community they are a part of. Overall, peer-to-peer strategies have a range of key benefits:

  • They help you reach a much wider audience than you would on your own.
  • They help you raise more support from your growing audience.
  • They help to strengthen your relationships with supporters by letting them directly further your
  • campaign on their own.

To give your participants an easy way to spread the word about your walkathon, you’ll need dedicated walkathon software or pledge fundraising tools. A support service specialized in these types of events will be able to set up each of your registered walkers with their individual pledge pages, which they can then easily share far and wide online.

Encourage your walkers to actively promote their pledge pages to help your school tap into these networked benefits. Parents and students alike can play crucial roles in peer-to-peer marketing to your community. With friends and family as the faces of your cause, you can gain traction with your event with the personal touches that they provide.

Ask your students and families to personalize their social media posts and emails with their own messages or stories about what your school means to them. Hearing their motivations and reasons to contribute will be effective in putting a face to the cause.

Get creative to come up with additional fundraising and marketing twists, too! Check out 99Pledges’ favorite fundraising ideas for kids to start brainstorming ways to give your promotional efforts some extra energy. For example, if your students share their pages to secure a certain number of pledges, your principal might have to complete a funny challenge.

2. Use multiple communication channels.

As you and your walkers promote your walkathon, make use of multiple communication channels to maximize your reach. For instance, fundraisers typically rely on both digital and physical outlets to spread the word about campaigns and events:

Social media – Your first step is to promote your walkathon on your organization’s main profile pages. Then, be sure to encourage your walkers to heavily focus on social media, as well. These feeds are where their friends and family are checking most frequently. Be sure to include a link straight to the relevant page for signing up or making a pledge.

Email – Send announcements to your organization’s broader community with clear instructions for getting involved or donating. Have your walkers (or their parents) actively share their personal fundraising pages via email, too. It can be a good idea to provide your participants with easy donation request templates to simplify the process.

Direct mail – In addition to digital promotion, physical letters can be just as effective for spreading the word. If you’ve planned out your walkathon well in advance, you should have plenty of time to promote it to the community using physical mailers and newsletters. Be sure to use best practices for effective fundraising letters.

Rather than relying on a single outlet, like your participants’ social media posts, your school should actively work to promote your walkathon wherever possible. If your school wants a deep dive into multichannel marketing for nonprofits, DNL OmniMedia’s digital strategy guide can be a helpful resource. However, the main idea to keep in mind is that a multichannel approach in the physical and digital spaces will maximize your visibility in your community and beyond, leading to higher event turnout and more pledges.

3. Offer special perks and shout-outs.

A prize or reward helps boost the energy and anticipation leading up to your walkathon event! Offering perks like branded t-shirts, water bottles, and more to your walkers and donors can inspire extra giving and engagement.

For example, a water bottle or t-shirt given to someone as a thank-you for making and then fulfilling a pledge can go a long way. As people contribute to your walkers’ pledge pages from around the community (or even the world!), the more geographical spread your swag items can have. This is a relatively effortless way to gain publicity for your school.

Leading up to your event, be sure to also stir some excitement on social media. Give your walkers, event volunteers, and donors public shout-outs (with their permission). Post about them on your social media profiles and encourage plenty of likes and shares. For additional peer-to-peer promotional efforts, you might even ask your supporters to write their own posts explaining what your school means to them and the community. Use these testimonials to share on your main profile to give your event a personal touch.

Use your shout-outs and promotional materials to set appropriate expectations for your event, as well. If you’ve hosted a walkathon in the past, you might include photos so that participants can know what to look forward to. If you’re conducting your walkathon virtually or taking extra precautions to ensure social distancing, take the opportunity to fully explain how it’ll all work.

4. Encourage some healthy competition.

A bit of healthy competition can go a long way to secure more pledges and raise more money for your walkathon!

Think of ideas for offering a prize (or a range of tiered prizes) for your walkers who secure the most pledges or walk the most laps. Donors will be more motivated to give if their pledge can help their loved one win a prize or rank highly among their peers. Perks for students during the school day are the best motivators for kids to get involved!

Popular prizes for school walkathons include:

  • Extra recess time
  • A homework pass
  • A goodie bag
  • A pizza party for classes with 100% participation
  • Wear a silly hat to virtual class

Use your walkathon software to set up a digital scoreboard or leaderboard to regularly update leading up to your walkathon, and reference it in your social media posts. If your virtual walkathon occurs over a longer timeframe, keep updating your leaderboard as the laps and pledges roll in to show everyone the progress your walkers are making. This option will add a fun, competitive edge to your fundraising efforts.

Amid the challenges of coming up with socially-distanced fundraising ideas, walkathons have proven to be a reliable and adaptable choice. These events can quickly gain traction within a community because of the many connections that schools have with families in the area. Through conversation in the digital and physical spaces, your walkathon will grab the attention of your community in no time!

Be sure your volunteers and walkers are spreading the word about your walkathon. The best way to get donors is to put a face to your cause, and who doesn’t love to help their kiddo’s school raise money?

As a school, you can promote your event through your own social media pages with shout-outs and share testimonials from participants. Add a fun, competitive edge to the walkathon by awarding prizes for levels of pledges or laps walked. Your community will feel appreciated for their efforts in supporting your school and will be back to help in the years to come!

Imagine you get a postcard in the mail from a nonprofit you’ve supported. It displays a photo of a smiling kid holding a backpack. The words “Because of supporters like you, Maya can go to school with all of the supplies she needs.” You’re so inspired by the messaging, that you decide to give to the organization again.

The above scenario effectively displays why nonprofit marketing leaders should do everything they can to encourage their supporters. While your organization’s mission is important and essential, that alone is not enough to incentive your audience to support your efforts and give back. That is why you need a strong content marketing strategy. 

With modern fundraising, your content marketing strategy may be focused on digital efforts. The content in your emails, on your website, and on social media all play critical roles in how supporters respond and engage with your nonprofit. However, you can’t forgo printed marketing altogether. For starters, your older donors are more used to direct mail than the internet. On top of that, receiving a physical letter offers a special touch that is harder to mimic over the computer screen.

Aligning your digital and print content strategy is essential, especially if you want your nonprofit mission to reach and inspire the right people. This guide will walk through the following topics to ensure your content strategy is set up for success:

  1. Establishing goals, audiences, and messaging
  2. Mapping out a timeline and workflow
  3. General best practices for nonprofit content strategy

The best nonprofit websites, email messaging, and other digital materials should all align with and support the organization’s other printed content. Read on to learn how. 

1. Establish goals, audiences, and messaging

When it comes to developing and aligning your digital and print content strategy, you need a solid idea of what your focused goals are, who you’re trying to reach, and the messaging you want to relay.

For example, what do you want your nonprofit marketing content strategy to accomplish? Are you trying to reach a specific fundraising goal? To help you figure it out, using the SMART method is always a great place to start. Make sure your goals are:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound 

When it comes to your nonprofit efforts, it’s important to ensure your goal is measurable and achievable. Look to your past fundraising goals to see what you’ve previously accomplished and aim to go just a little bit above. Then, make sure you’re actively able to track this goal within your nonprofit database. 

For instance, let’s say your nonprofit is focused on providing more educational opportunities for children. The goal you decided on is to fundraise $100,000, a 10% increase from what you raised last year. 

Now, it’s time to consider your audience. It’s likely that your digital vs. print audiences are a little different, with your print audience consisting of your older donors along with major donors and other active supporters. On the other hand, your digital audience might consist of younger generations of supporters as well as your small and mid-range donors. 

Take a look at your existing nonprofit donor database to get a good sense of your current donors, as well as the major and active ones. You may even segment your audience further to those who donated once, recurring donors, and more.

As your team develops your messaging, keep your goal in mind and be sure to personalize each message to the audience. If you’re reaching out to both major donors and one-time donors, you’ll likely be using print for the former and digital for the latter. Within the messaging itself, be sure to include specific details leveraging your relationship with the audience, like the donor’s specific impact and so on. 

2. Map out a timeline and workflow

To ensure your digital and print content strategy goes off without a hitch, you need to figure out a timeline and workflow for how each message will be relayed.

Kanopi, a digital agency that often works closely with nonprofits, says this: “storytelling is key to a successful brand.” Similar to how corporations and businesses implement story techniques to engage with customers, you can do the same for your nonprofit content strategy. Storytelling as a nonprofit marketing strategy is best implemented over time and by releasing content at opportune moments.

Consider creating a fleshed out calendar depicting all the times you will send out various marketing material. Note that your nonprofit’s direct mail will likely need more time to develop, print out, and send to the right address. Mark the days that you’ll develop the materials as well as the days you plan to send them out. 

Similarly, you should plan when to release digital content, whether to your nonprofit website, social media profiles, or through an email newsletter. The content in your digital and print materials can be similar, but be aware of the capabilities of each medium. For instance, you can embed a video into your website, but not for your printed letters. 

Along with developing a timeline, it’s a good idea to assign specific tasks to the key players on your marketing team. Ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the goals, audiences, and messaging strategy that you initially outlined. 

3. General best practices for nonprofit marketing content strategy

You can’t have a successful content marketing campaign without involving both digital and print. In fact, GivingMail even says that “the majority of individual donations in the US come from direct mail.” 

With established goals and messaging as your foundation, and a timeline to follow, your digital and print strategy can work together to drive genuine results and engagement for your nonprofit. To further set you up for success, we’ve compiled a list of best practices that any fundraising leader can implement:

  • Invest in a content management system (CMS) that allows for scalability and customization. A large chunk of your digital content strategy will live on your nonprofit’s website. To ensure that you can easily update content as needed, incorporate additional elements like photos or videos to supplement your messaging, or expand your system with extensions or plugins to increase site functionality, you need to find the right CMS. Popular CMSs that nonprofits use include Drupal and WordPress, but it’s worth exploring their features and differences before deciding. 
  • Ensure your marketing content is as inclusive as possible. For both digital and print content, accessibility is key. Some easy ways to make your content more inclusive is to include multiple languages and to make sure the color contrast and font size are easily readable.
  • Use the same target action in your calls-to-action for both digital and print content. The target action for your marketing content is based on your core goal. If your goal is to increase fundraising revenue, you should have clear steps to how you can do that for both your digital and physical marketing recipients. For digital content, embed a link or prominent button. For print content, you might have steps listing out how to submit a gift or even include a QR code that they can scan with their phone. 
  • Thank your supporters and donors for their help. Supporter appreciation is a step that you cannot forget in any engagement strategy. If someone gives to your organization, participates in an event, or volunteers for an activity, sending a thank you is essential. Whether that is digital or print will depend on your existing relationship with them as well as their individual preferences. Fundraising Letters has specific templates for donor thank you letters that you can take advantage of.

As your content strategy evolves, it’s critical that your nonprofit tools are actively tracking its progress. From the rate of email opens, direct mail responses, online fundraising gifts, and more, you can get a better understanding of which outreach method is garnering effective and valuable results. 

Wrapping Up

Engaging and developing relationships is one of the most rewarding parts of being a nonprofit leader. And, having a dedicated content marketing strategy is an essential cog to that strategy. 

Make sure you keep the above best practices in mind and good luck!


Allison is a recovering (and award-winning) designer who applies her creative and organizational skills to marketing strategy for Kanopi.

Her diverse, multi-disciplinary background — which in addition to design includes glassblowing, publishing, podcasting, and figure skating — contributes to strong relationships to which she offers a broad perspective.

Her job is to tell the story of Kanopi by sharing information, writing, working with staff and partners, and keeping the brand cohesive across all channels.

We all remember these dreaded words from our parents after childhood birthdays: “Don’t forget to write your thank-you notes!”

As grueling as the handwritten thank-you note process was when we were little, we can all recognize that expressing gratitude for a gift is the polite thing to do.

In the world of nonprofits, expressing gratitude for your donors’ gifts is not only polite, but essential to your success. Recognizing your donors is a critical piece of the donor retention puzzle, and donor retention helps secure long-term support for your mission.

After marketing your campaigns and events like a pro and driving your fundraisers to success, the last thing you’d want to do is let important follow-up work (and donors’ long-term support) fall by the wayside. Showing gratitude for your donors in the form of donor recognition safeguards their support of your organization and makes them much easier recruits for your future work.

Having a concrete strategy in place for how you thank your donors and an arsenal of recognition ideas will go a long way to strengthen support for your mission over time. Here you’ll find a list of best practices when it comes to donor recognition and some awesome donor recognition ideas—so you can not only secure donations, but keep your donors coming back again and again. Let’s get started.

Donor Recognition Best Practices

1. Make it prompt.

No one wants to generously give to an organization only to feel like they tossed their money out into the abyss. Prompt recognition of your donors’ contributions is vital to making sure they feel noticed and appreciated for their support.

The first contact—and first essential aspect of recognition—after a donation should be in the form of a confirmation or receipt. For online donations, an instantaneous receipt delivered via email is a must. The receipt should contain information about the donation, a quick thank-you, and the donation amount.

Make sure you mention the specific context of the donation, like the name of the virtual fundraiser or event the donor attended. For instance, if your donor attended a virtual auction and won an item, specifically mention the event and the item that they bid on to let them know you’re paying attention to each and every donation you receive.

Setting up automated receipts and thank-you emails could be a huge time-saver for your nonprofit and help prevent donor recognition from falling through the cracks. Still, don’t forget about snail mail—a direct-mail follow up can add a nice touch and show donors that you value every donation you receive. If you want some more tips on using direct mail to communicate with your donors, GivingMail’s direct mail guide is a great resource.

Acknowledgment letters can be combined with your receipt delivery or sent out on their own, but either way, they should also go out within a reasonable time frame. “Reasonable” will vary depending on your organization, but the same day for emails and within five business days for direct mail is a good rule of thumb. The donor wants to feel like you value their gift, and a prompt thank-you gives the impression of gratitude much more than a letter weeks later.

2. Make it personal.

We’ve all heard what a difference a handwritten note can make, but that’s not the only way to personalize your donor recognition efforts.

If you send out automated emails, make sure they include your donors’ names. “Dear friend” and “Dear supporter” aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy. You could also consider segmenting your donor base by age, gender, or location to further customize your letters and make your letters even more effective.

Consider the signature of the letter or email as well. Whose thanks would mean the most to the donor? A generic signature from your organization rather than one from a specific person won’t carry as much weight. Instead, sign the letter from a real person at your organization whose job is relevant to the donation, whether it’s your fundraising lead, major gifts officer, or other trusted staff member.

The more your donor feels like your communications are to them specifically from you specifically, the stronger a bond you’ll forge between them and your organization.

Including a video with your thank-you message could be another effective way to humanize your communication with your donors. The video could be a recorded thank-you from a member of your team, a constituent of your mission, or a combination of both. You should also weave in some information about what your donor’s gift amount allowed you to accomplish. More on this best practice next!

3. Make it powerful.

No matter what form your donor recognition takes, it’s essential to communicate the impact of your donors’ gifts.

You can achieve this in a variety of ways, but you should always try to be as specific as possible about the good things their donation enabled you to do. Being specific about the impact of the gift gives the donor something concrete to feel good about and reinforces their connection to your cause.

For example, maybe a donor’s $50 donation provided school supplies for three students for a whole semester of school. One way to make this statement more powerful could be naming the students (with permission, of course) or sending pictures of them along with your letter of gratitude. Specificity will make your cause more salient to the donor and will make them feel good, which means they’ll be more likely to contribute to your mission on an ongoing basis.

Your thank-you message is probably not the place to ask for another gift from your donor, at least not yet. Imagine if you sent a thank-you note for a gift that said “Thanks for my pink shoes! I love them. Can I have another pair?”

As well-intentioned as a request for more support is, and as important as your mission is, asking for another donation in the middle of your letter of appreciation can come across as ungrateful. Instead, encourage your donor to engage with your nonprofit in a new way, like by signing up for your email newsletters. Otherwise, keep the focus on your donor and the impact of their good deed!

Our Top Donor Recognition Ideas

Once you have the best practices down, it’s time to get creative. There are all sorts of ways to recognize your donors beyond traditional thank-you letters (though those are an excellent first step). First, consider the scale and nature of your nonprofit. Different organizations naturally have different resources and capabilities when it comes to donor recognition.

Large, national organizations conducting major undertakings like capital campaigns might have the ability to erect permanent donor recognition installations on a grand scale, while smaller-scale nonprofits and campaigns might opt for a smaller plaque or thoughtful gifts.

The scale of the donation should also be considered. Establishing giving levels will ensure that smaller tiers of donations made to a crowdfunding campaign and large endowments for a building expansion are proportionately recognized. We’ll cover both ends of the spectrum with these fun donor recognition ideas:

  1. Donor recognition walls. A donor recognition wall is a meaningful option that allows you to permanently mark your appreciation for your donors. Because they can accommodate a lot of names, donor walls are usually associated with large capital campaigns. With this option, there is plenty of room for customization—Eleven Fifty Seven’s donor wall ideas are sure to inspire you.
  2. Donor recognition plaques. If a large-scale donor wall isn’t feasible but you still want to recognize your major donors in a meaningful way, custom plaques are another solid choice. Donor plaques often appear outside the doors of a new building expansion or on landscape features like benches, but get creative to find the perfect fit for your own unique community of donors and campaigns.
  3. Branded freebies. Plaques aren’t realistic for every smaller-tier donation your nonprofit receives, but branded freebies could be. Consider sending out pens, T-shirts, mugs, and other customized swag with your organization’s name and/or logo as a token of your appreciation. This option has the added benefit of doing a little marketing work for you!
  4. Events. Nothing makes people feel special like an invitation to a party. To make your donors feel extra appreciated, invite them to an exclusive supporters-only occasion or find ways to recognize them at events that are open to the public. Making them a part of your community and your cause helps to ensure they’ll keep supporting your mission well into the future. Even casual virtual gatherings and happy hours are a meaningful (and cost-effective) way to show your appreciation.

When it comes time to recognize your donors in concrete ways, these are all good choices. Select the option that best fits your organization and the level of the donation, and
remember to always be prompt, personal, and powerful in all of your communications with your generous supporters.

Nurturing your relationships with your current donors through effective, appropriate, and genuine recognition is not just “the polite thing to do,” but a smart long-term strategy for securing enduring support for your nonprofit. We hope you’ll take these tips and ideas and apply them to your organization. Best of luck!

Marketing is still a bad word in a lot of nonprofit circles. It’s easy to see why. 

Unfortunately, the whole field of marketing, especially for businesses, is stained with bad example after bad example. For those of us of a certain age, it can be summed up in a series of very popular 1980s Isuzu car advertisement series where actor David Leisure blatantly told over-the-top lies about the benefits of the product. Everyone felt that they met a “Joe Isuzu” at some time in their lives. He checked all of the stereotype “marketing man” boxes that still linger, reinforced by much more sophisticated “Mad Man” characters who would do anything to sell a product.

Added to the negative image, the concept of good marketing remains unknown to most people. And let’s face it, most people came to the nonprofit sector to do good work through their mission—not put precious time and money into slick advertising campaigns. After all, shouldn’t just doing a great job be enough for anyone to see?

Unfortunately, no. 

But that’s okay. You’d be surprised at how many things you never considered are actually forms of marketing, and how, when done right, they can really boost your income and visibility.

It starts with keeping one thing in mind: everything is marketing. Take a look at these examples:

  • Marketing is whether your receptionist smiles at everyone coming in the door, and sounds cheerful answering every call.
  • Marketing is whether you have fresh paint on your walls and clean furniture for your clients.
  • Marketing is being transparent with your financials, so you build trust with your donors, clients, staff, and volunteers.
  • Marketing is building pride in your staff so that they treat every client like they’re special.

These examples of solid, baseline marketing actions aren’t expensive. They show that every part of your organization has a hand in marketing, whether it’s in their title or not. It changes the role of a Marketing Director to a coordinator of the entire organization’s look, feel and image—and not just one who creates the website or places advertisements in the local newspaper. 

Perhaps the biggest mistake anyone makes when considering marketing in a nonprofit context is to first focus on the tools of marketing, rather than on the purpose and message. Consider that you can have an award-winning website, but if you’re focusing it on people who will never use or support your services, then it’s no good. 

So, before jumping in with training your nonprofit team to be exceptional marketing professionals, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

What are your goals? 

Before you get started, however, you need to know why you are marketing. Are you looking to take on new constituents who will be served by your organization? Or are you seeking to secure generous donations from individuals who support your mission and want to help fund your programming.

It’s critical to avoid the Cheshire Cat, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there,” problem. (Which, by the way, can be very expensive in marketing). Answering the following questions can help as you craft the rest of your plan. 

Who do you need to speak to?

This goes right back to your mission. Who you need to reach will make a major impact on what you will say (your message), and how you will say it (the tools and channels you will use).

Do you need more money (of course)? Where does your money come from? Donors? Government? Paying clients? Insurance companies? Are you facing a particular issue, like a zoning fight, where you need community and government support?

Are you getting the right clients for your mission? Are you focused on a specific geographic area, or a larger demographic? It should give you pause, for example, if you’re an HIV/AIDS clinic that targets a young Latino market, and you get more baby-boomers than anyone else. 

Just remember, good marketing starts at home. Perhaps the biggest, most overlooked audience for your marketing are the people who live and work with it daily: your employees and volunteers. Missing them is a major blunder. These are exactly the people who can validate everything you say, and carry your message far and wide—if they hear and see a message tailored specifically to them.

What do you want to say to them? 

What specific information do they need, and what emotions do you want them to feel? This is a good place to remind yourself that good marketing is not manipulative, and it is definitely not counterfactual. But you can tell people what’s important in ways that resonate, like stories backed with solid facts.

So how do you get this information? Interview previous constituents for stories. Collect and analyze data. Take some good pictures. It might take a bit of time, but it’ll be worth it when you see the dynamic impact that your carefully crafted messaging has on its intended audience.

What do you want them to do?

In marketing-ese, it’s called a call-to-action. It’s the action or next step you want the consumer of your message to take. Do you want them to show up for services? Volunteer? Work for you? Vote? Give? Always market with an action in mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for that action, directly. 

What tools do you want to use?

Of course, you’ll think of the traditional strategies, like print or online advertising, social media, email, direct mail, and much more. But what about the less obvious, subtle marketing means, such as consistent email signature lines, new blinds and updated bathroom fixtures? 

Blinds? Bathroom fixtures? Yes, think of the inexpensive ways you update your home. When you do, doesn’t that make you feel better about where you are? You’ve marketed the comfort and safety of your home—to yourself

It’s the same thing with your nonprofit’s marketing. Let’s say potential clients are an important group to your nonprofit. They come in and find mismatched or outdated handles on all the bathroom sinks and blinds with missing slats in a grimy conference room. When pointed out, you think “we’re being thrifty and focused on the important things.” They’re thinking, “if they don’t have enough to keep their facilities in order, do they have enough to give me quality service?”  

And that leads to the biggest lesson of them all: Always look at marketing from the point-of-view of the people you want to speak to. 

We can all think of times when we said something innocently that ended up offending someone. It happens, and you are never going to be perfect. It’s not that you need to tip-toe around everything and water down your message—not at all! But when you want support for your mission, you need to know your audience and speak to their concerns with empathy, understanding, and strength. Basically, keep in mind what’s in it for them when they support your cause with their presence, money, votes or whatever else you are asking them for. 

How can you train your team to be good marketers?

Now that you have an idea of what marketing is and how it can improve your overall operations, here are some powerful training resources that can give you ideas on how you can be marketing aware, and marketing effective, affordably:

  1. Marketing for Nonprofits: Get an overview of what makes effective marketing with the video, Marketing for Nonprofits. This free online webinar gives you 10 steps that every nonprofit staff member, board member, and volunteer needs to know about marketing—so you can get more money, and clients, for your important mission.
  2. CX University: An essential, but largely forgotten group when it comes to nonprofit marketing are your clients! Clients are who you serve, yes, but their experience has the power to bring you more clients or keep others away!
  3. Your Daily Dose of Nonprofit Newsletter: Think of it as a “drip marketing” course to your nonprofit brain. You’ll find content on communications, management, email, SEO, copywriting, marketing, video, storytelling, design, HR, events, social media, data security, public speaking, and more. 
  4. Smart Marketing for Small Nonprofits: How about one of the most popular podcasts on the web for nonprofit marketing: the Smart Marketing for Small Nonprofits Podcast? Each week nonprofit marketing expert Cindy May gives you marketing tips, tools, resources, and ideas that help you generate greater awareness and fundraising support for your cause. Each episode is designed to help you take immediate action on the most important marketing strategies that will move your mission forward. 
  5. Mission-Based Marketing: Let’s not forget books! This book from Peter Brinckerhoff is in its third edition, and deservedly so. It’s a great handbook on how to get your program off to the right start through strategic, mission-based marketing tactics.

Most of marketing isn’t crafting clever advertisements, designing impressive billboards, or even sending fundraising letters. It’s deciding what you want to accomplish, who you need to talk to, and what you want to say. Then, beginning with the small, barely noticed, and relatively inexpensive things. Start there, train your team effectively, and grow significantly!

Matt Hugg is the founder and CEO of Nonprofit Courses.This was a guest post contributed by Matt Hugg of Nonprofit.Courses.

Matt Hugg is an author and instructor in nonprofit management in the US and abroad. He is president and founder of Nonprofit.Courses, an on-demand, eLearning educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members, and volunteers, with thousands of courses in nearly every aspect of nonprofit work.

This guest post was written by the virtual event experts at OneCause.

The pivot to virtual events has been a major—but largely successful—change for many nonprofits. Nonprofits across the country have transitioned their in-person event program to the virtual setting, discovering best practices when it comes to audience engagement.

It’s definitely more difficult to keep attendees engaged through a screen than it is in-person at a gala or auction. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

Your virtual event’s programming schedule plays a critical role in determining fundraising success, both in terms of engagement and revenue, so we wanted to give you our virtual event program best practices.

Here are a few of our top recommendations for nonprofits planning a virtual event:

  1. Plan early and conduct several test runs.
  2. Keep your program short and sweet.
  3. Centralize the virtual event experience.
  4. Schedule your activities strategically.

Plan your virtual event early and conduct several test runs.

Plan early and conduct several test runs.

Begin planning your livestream program as early as possible to give yourself plenty of time to refine it. You aren’t ‘recreating the wheel’ when it comes to designing a new program for a virtual setting, but you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to tweak as you go.

We suggest working backwards to determine specifics. Ask yourself:

  • What’s the timeframe of your virtual campaign or event?
  • Will you need new technology to collect donations or stream video?
  • What is the live stream platform your donor demographic will connect with?
  • Will your virtual event occur alongside an in-person event?

Carefully work through the specific guidelines your virtual event must stick to in order to support your goals. Outlining these in advance is essential for keeping the planning process focused and driving the success of your live stream program.

Make sure to incorporate several test runs leading up to your event into your plan as well. To make sure everyone is on the same page, be sure to clearly define team members’ responsibilities, like:

  • Emcee
  • Speakers or presenters
  • Chat/social media lead
  • Tech support
  • Sponsorships
  • Item Procurement (if applicable)

Planning is good insurance when you’re diving into something new—it makes executing that much easier!

Keep your virtual event program short and sweet.

Keep your program short and sweet.

A virtual run-of-show looks very similar to an in-person event, but likely much shorter than your traditional face-to-face program. Donor attention spans are getting shorter online, so be sure to think about how you can keep attention vs filling time!

You, as a producer, want to ensure that the program is of a reasonable length. (This means it should not be the same timing as an in-person event). Most virtual and online events are running 45 minutes to 1 hour max.

This is probably the most important point because, unlike an in-person event, viewers can simply log off or change the channel if they don’t want to view your program anymore.

Don’t know where to start? Here is an example run-of-show for a 30-minute virtual gala.

This example schedule for a virtual fundraising event includes all the essentials in an engaging 30-minute show.

If you’re worried you can’t trim down your program, create a rolling powerpoint to serve as a “lobby” before and after the event to maximize visibility of important points, like:

  • How your bidding tools work
  • How to ask for help
  • How to make a quick donation
  • Your mission and the event’s purpose

Centralize the virtual event experience to keep the program engaging and intuitive.

Centralize the virtual event experience.

Allow your fundraising platform to be an all-in-one experience where your supporters can register, donate, place a bid, and find the link to the live streaming program. The more platforms your supporters need to log into, the higher the chance for donor confusion and inaction.

For your first virtual fundraising event, you’ll need to invest in new software to help plan and host it. If you’ve already hosted one or more virtual events, take some time to review your toolkit and fill any gaps.

Look for tools, like the OneCause Virtual Event Center, that give you complete control and give your donors a single interface to interact with. Combined with a tight, well-timed schedule of programming, a more intuitive viewing experience will result in more engagement and revenue.

Your virtual fundraising software should allow for:

  • Flexible branding & creative campaigns
  • Versatile fundraising options
  • Social integration
  • Gamification & motivation
  • Engagement with a multimedia experience
  • Donation capability without leaving the broadcast (i.e. live stream)

Creating that sense of a giving community before, during, and after the virtual event – and delivering a delightful, online experience anytime, anywhere – is critical to fundraising success in this new virtual world.

Schedule the activities in your virtual event program strategically to boost engagement.

Schedule your activities strategically.

Let’s face it, the program may be the most important element in the virtual world. Why?

  • Nonprofits have to cut through the noise and stand out online.
  • Everyone’s attention is becoming increasingly fragmented.
  • We need to connect people to our causes virtually.
  • What we do needs to inspire giving.

This means strategically engaging your supporters during your program is of the utmost importance. Think about how you’ll schedule each of the fundraising activities during your virtual event. For example:

  • Conduct your paddle raise or live appeals before the main auction. Everyone can participate in a live appeal (but everyone might not plan to bid in your auction), so tackle it first while the energy is at its highest.
  • Keep your bidding segments rolling smoothly. Live bidding segments can be extremely exciting, but don’t let them dominate a huge portion of your event. Have your emcee/auctioneer present the items one at a time, track bids, and discuss donors’ impact for a while, but close them out one at a time in the background. This will help prevent the segment becoming too number-centric and overshadowing your mission moments.
  • Take advantage of the last-minute fundraising frenzy. Just as you would at an in-person event, send out a “last call for bids/donations” text message. Sit back and watch your numbers rise!
  • Give viewers something to stay tuned-in for. How will you conclude your event? If you want viewers to stay engaged for the entirety, give them a reason to stick around. Celebrity speakers, major announcements, raffle drawings and more can all be effective ways to wrap up.

There has to be a reason for viewers to stay tuned-in throughout the show. Think about engagement and promotion tactics that keep people watching, including:

  • Important information that’s being released
  • Fundraising updates
  • Discount codes
  • Entertainment or performances
  • Videos, photos, or mission moments
  • Giveaways

Technology is your friend, not your foe when it comes to engaging your virtual audience. Use tools that help your cause create an engaging program online:

  • Q&A / Poll / Chat. Most live stream platforms allow you to encourage communication throughout the live stream. Take advantage of these capabilities and connect with your audience!
  • Social Media. Be sure to get a social media plan in place for your event. Think about different ways you can encourage guests to participate.
    • Use creative hashtags
    • Encourage watch parties
    • Live behind the scenes on social channels
  • Text Messages. Through your fundraising platform you should be able to collect cell phone numbers of your guests through registration.
    • Send push notifications throughout the show
    • Remind viewers to bid on auction items
    • Create urgency to donate to your fund-a-need or live appeal
    • Provide updates on times, fundraising progress, and closing times

And if you have entertainment or celebrity connections, this is the time to use them. Maybe they offer a special performance or a shout out! There are endless options but, again, think about your audience and what will appeal to them.

When you’re prepping your virtual event program, be sure to incorporate these ideas and more into your event. Your donors will feel the energy through their screens, and you’ll see the benefits come through in your fundraising.

A virtual event isn’t a one-to-one translation of a classic gala or auction but rather a brand new type of experience. Best part, virtual fundraising doesn’t have to be daunting.

Just follow these simple steps to create a program and experience that keeps them tuned-in and engaged with your cause.

Virtual fundraising events will be an important part of nonprofits’ strategies going forward. Whether as full replacements for in-person events or as modern, hybrid engagement opportunities, virtual tactics give organizations an unprecedented level of flexibility.

Plus, they give donors the ability to join in from anywhere! And with smart programming, your ability to retain your attendees will help ensure you hit your fundraising goals.

Imagine your most perfectly-planned fundraiser. You’re all set with the most desirable auction items, most engaging entertainment, or the catchiest campaign slogan. With all the details squared away, you can just sit back, relax, and watch the funding come flowing in, right? 

Not so fast. In order to rake in the donations and meet your fundraising goal, you need participants and donors to contribute to your efforts.

But how can you share your fundraiser with new audiences and invite existing supporters to contribute to your latest initiatives?

With a strong donation page and a multi-channel digital marketing strategy, you can amplify the reach of your virtual fundraiser and generate critical support for your mission.

At Snowball, we help nonprofits of all sizes to fundraise more effectively with our online giving tools and other software solutions. We’ve helped countless nonprofits reach their fundraising goals, so we’ve seen firsthand how a thoughtful marketing campaign can make all the difference.

Consider the following tips to promote your upcoming fundraiser:

  1. Start with an optimized website and donation page.
  2. Incorporate a multi-channel approach.
  3. Take advantage of available digital marketing tools.
  4. Simplify the donor conversion process.

A fundraiser is only effective if you can invite enough support. These tips will help you attract potential donors and secure their donations once they arrive. Let’s get started.  

1. Start with an optimized website and donation page.

In order to successfully market your online fundraiser, you should first confirm that your foundation is in tip-top shape. This means optimizing the user experience of your nonprofit’s website—particularly your donation page.

If your donation page is confusing, hard to find, or poorly formatted, you run the risk of losing potential supporters. Plus, problems with general web accessibility or mobile-friendliness may mean your donation form is completely unusable to some audiences!

To avoid these challenges, make sure your donation page is:

  • Easy to find. Your website should have intuitive and user-friendly navigation. Supporters need to have quick access to key details about your organization and mission. You’ll want to prominently link your donation page from the navigation menu and in calls to action throughout your website content.
  • Simple. Pare down your donation form to include only the essential elements. While it can be tempting to gather as much information as possible, stick to only necessary fields like contact details and payment information. We’ll dive deeper into why this is important later in this article, but for now, keep in mind that a streamlined form is convenient and easy for donors.
  • Mobile responsive. Mobile devices make up more than 51% of global web traffic, so it’s likely that many potential supporters will be reaching your site from their smartphones. Provide a positive experience for these users by implementing a mobile-responsive layout and ensuring images and text appear at an appropriate size.
  • Accessible. Your website should be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations in order to ensure access for all supporters. While the full list of requirements is extensive, adding accessibility elements like alt text to images is a great start.

If you’re using a well-designed CMS or donation page provider, it’s probable that these considerations are already built into the system. Still, it’s wise to double-check that there aren’t any pain points for potential donors before moving forward with your marketing efforts.

2. Incorporate a multi-channel approach.

Multi-channel marketing refers to executing a single campaign across a variety of platforms. It allows you to reach a wider audience and create a comprehensive campaign with multiple touchpoints. 

You’ll also increase the likelihood that supporters will see at least one of your messages. Due to strict spam filters and complex social media algorithms, it can be difficult to get your content in front of the right audience, even if they’ve expressed interest by following and subscribing.

Throughout each prong of your multi-channel campaign, you should rely on emotionally resonant imagery, storytelling, and calls to action. Distributing your appeal through different platforms will amplify its strength, but it won’t transform an ineffective message. 

Once you have a strong foundation for your campaign, consider incorporating a few (or all!) of the following nonprofit marketing channels:

  • Your nonprofit’s website. Your website is the hub of your digital marketing strategy. Like we discussed earlier in the article, make sure it’s well-designed and intuitive to navigate. 
  • Email. Implementing segmentation and personalization will help you to increase your open and click-through rates.
  • Direct mail. Physical letters may feel outdated, but it’s still an effective way to connect with potential donors.
  • Social media. Meet your supporters where they’re already spending their time. Share content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whichever platform is most relevant to your audience.
  • Call and text. These methods allow for a compelling one-on-one conversation.
  • Online advertising. Consider promoting your social media posts or placing paid ads on search engines. 

Throughout the various media you choose to incorporate, strike a balance between unifying a central message and tailoring your content to the context of each platform. It should be clear that everything is part of the same fundraising campaign, but you won’t want to replicate the exact text of an email appeal on Twitter. 

Additionally, make sure each platform supports and drives traffic to the others. For instance, you might write compelling blog posts on your website then share this content with your Facebook followers. 

3. Take advantage of available digital marketing tools.

Outside of the more common marketing options that we discussed in the previous section, consider branching out to new digital opportunities. Are there any up-and-coming trends to consider experimenting with?

The huge success of crowdfunding campaigns in recent years is a great indicator of how innovations in digital technology and social media can be leveraged for fundraising success. Generally speaking, crowdfunding campaigns rely entirely on the power of social sharing to raise needed funds. 

As you explore the latest options, remember that many fundraising software providers have built-in marketing features that allow you to promote your campaign from within a unified system. Determine whether your online fundraising platform offers any of these features for an easy way to level-up your marketing strategy.

Additionally, look to marketing resources that are made available to nonprofits for free or a reduced cost. One of the best examples of this is the Google Ad Grant program. Through this grant, nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 a month in in-kind search advertising from Google. 

This program can help your fundraising campaign receive much more search visibility than would otherwise be feasible, allowing you to get your mission in front of more potential supporters. For more information, this guide to Google Grant management walks through the basics of acquiring, launching, and maintaining the grant.  

4. Simplify the donor conversion process.

You want to make it as easy and convenient as possible for donors to give. By streamlining your donation process, you’ll increase your donation page conversion rate and ultimately raise more for your mission.

According to these nonprofit fundraising statistics from Double the Donation, this is especially important for mobile giving. Although conversion rates on mobile devices tend to be lower, more and more people are accessing donation pages through smartphones. 

Take a close look at your donation page to find opportunities to streamline the process. As you evaluate the form, consider the following questions:

  • How many fields do supporters need to fill in? Can any of these be eliminated?
  • On average, how long does it take to submit a donation?
  • Is the form a single page or multiple pages?
  • How many clicks are required to submit a donation?

One useful strategy for simplifying the donation process is incorporating text-to-give. Text-to-give reduces the number of steps a prospect must take between deciding to support your cause and actually making a donation. With fewer steps, it’s more likely that they’ll complete the transaction immediately, without abandoning the page or getting distracted.

This Snowball graphic explaining text-to-give highlights just how streamlined the process can be: 

Text-to-give helps streamline the donor conversion process.

  • Text the number. An individual sends a quick text message with a campaign keyword (for example, #FundFosterCare2020) to a designated phone number.
  • Follow the link. The individual gets an automatic response with a link to a donation page, then chooses how much to donate.
  • Submit the donation. The donor fills out a short online donation form and provides their payment and contact information (that can be saved for next time!). Once the individual hits “send,” the donation is complete.

Whether you choose to implement a new text-to-give system or improve your existing donation page, making the effort to streamline the donation process will pay dividends in your conversion rate. 

After all, at this point you’ve dedicated ample time and energy into marketing your campaign well enough for supporters to find it. You don’t want to lose them once they’ve gotten this far!

Your fundraiser needs to reach supporters in order to be successful. By creating a compelling multi-channel campaign that drives prospects back to a streamlined donation page, you’ll be well-positioned to increase the number of site visitors and completed donations.

As you execute your campaign, be sure to track relevant engagement metrics so you can see which tactics were the most effective. Then, when you launch your next fundraiser, you can focus your attention on the platforms that will make the biggest impact.

Guest Author: John Killoran, Clover Leaf Solutions

John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. 

Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.

Fundraising letters are the backbone of any nonprofit’s direct mail fundraising strategy. Having the most effective fundraising letter possible maximizes the impact of your organization’s marketing spend and helps drive the most donations to ensure you can do what you do best—serve your cause. To help you make the most out of your fundraising letters, here are 5 easy-to-do best practices to think about when setting up your next campaign.

1. Segment your audience.

Segmenting your audience is critical to improving your fundraising results. If your donor list is small, this can be as simple as mailing different appeals to existing, lapsed (those who haven’t given in a few years), and prospective donors (those who have never given). 

For organizations with larger constituent lists, segmentation can get incredibly complex as it’s driven by a number of variables—recency or size of the last gift, total contribution amounts, donor age or gender, type of appeal, etc. 

Here's an example of segmenting your effective fundraising letters.

The takeaway here is that regardless of your network of support, some sort of segmentation can have huge benefits to the results of your appeals.

2. Personalize your letters.

Personalization is also incredibly important. This might be the single easiest step a nonprofit can take to improving the response to a fundraising letter. There are levels of complexity that you can use when personalizing a letter—from including the donor’s name in the salutation (i.e. “Dear Jane,”) to referencing the state/county that the recipient lives in throughout the letter (i.e. “your contributions have supported so many impoverished students in the Atlanta area.”

The more the donor feels personally connected to the letter that they’re reading, the more likely they are to respond to the call to action in that letter. People enjoy seeing things addressed to them much more than they do to “dear donor.” Keep this in mind next time you write your fundraising appeal.

3. Incorporate a multi-channel strategy.

Fundraising letters drive the vast majority of individual donations to nonprofits in the US every year. It’s important to know, however, that using a multi-channel approach not only gets you donations from other channels (online donations, text-to-give, etc.) but improves the results from your direct mail campaigns too.

Here's an example of a multi-channel approach to run alongside your effective fundraising letters.

The more channels used for fundraising the better, as long as there is coordination between them. Consistent branding, messaging, and calls-to-action are key.

4. Partner with a fundraising platform.

Choosing a top-tier fundraising partner can help you get the most from your fundraising campaigns. You put in the time and effort to help your cause, so you’ll want to make sure that you use a dedicated direct mail fundraising partner that is easy to work with, affordable, and attentive. GivingMail is our suggested fundraising partner for local and regional nonprofits because they help to save you time and money, letting you focus on what you do best – serve your cause.

5. Thank donors for every contribution.

The fundraising campaign shouldn’t end when you receive a donation. In every other situation where you receive a gift, a thank you is appreciated. Donations are no different!

Thanking your donor for their contributions helps them build a stronger connection to your cause, lets them know that they are appreciated, and makes them more likely to give again in the future.

To get started, check out our arsenal of free donor thank-you letters! And when you need to get those letters produced and mailed, GivingMail can help.

Did you know that the first known example of a successful crowdfunding campaign took place in 1997 when a British rock band called Marillon raised more than $60,000 online to fund their reunion tour? That was a huge milestone for online fundraising. In the 20+ years since crowdfunding’s inception, individuals, teams, and organizations have continued to utilize a similar approach. Today, crowdfunding practices continue to develop in increasingly convenient and effective ways, leveraging modern technology and fundraising strategies.

In the midst of a global pandemic, requesting donations can seem more daunting than ever. Yet if you’re looking to get started with a powerful virtual fundraiser for practically any cause, crowdfunding is your answer.

If you’re looking to raise money in 2020, whether as an individual or as part of a larger fundraising organization, we’ve compiled a list of crowdfunding best practices to help:

  1. Compare top crowdfunding platforms.
  2. Send out targeted donation appeals.
  3. Set suggested giving levels.
  4. Encourage matching gifts.
  5. Thank your donors.

Ready to learn more about maximizing your crowdfunding potential? Let’s get started.

Make sure to choose the right crowdfunding platform for your upcoming fundraiser.1. Compare top crowdfunding platforms.

Not all fundraising platforms were created equal. It’s a good idea to do your research and shop around a bit before settling on a crowdfunding platform for your upcoming campaign. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you explore various options:

  • Pricing: Since you want to retain as much of your donations as possible, it’s important to look for a platform with reasonable and relatively low fees. However, even “free” platforms likely come with platform and payment processing fees, so it’s a good idea to look out for those.
  • User experience: Make sure your crowdfunding platform is easy to use, both for the team setting it up and for their donors. Donors should be able to make their gifts in just a few seconds with a streamlined giving process, and fundraisers should set up and maintain campaigns with ease.
  • Integrations: Software integrations have the power to bring any solution up a few levels. For example, a crowdfunding platform that integrates with your CRM automatically captures donor information, making it easier to do everything from send thank you letters to targeting past donors for future events and appeals.

To get started finding the right solution, we recommend checking out resources such as Fundly’s comparison of 35+ top crowdfunding sites, complete with pros and cons of each. Keep the above considerations in mind, and you’re sure to find one that suits your needs!

Send out your targeted donation appeals to raise traction for your crowdfunding campaign.2. Send out targeted donation appeals.

Creating targeted and individualized donation appeals is a fantastic way to personalize your crowdfunding campaign.

For example, this cheat sheet is a valuable resource for getting started with donor segmentation. Be sure to look at the following characteristics of your supporter base and ask yourself questions like these:

  • Engagement history: Has this individual given to your cause before? Have they attended an event or signed up for a newsletter?
  • Previous gifts: What is this donor’s average gift size? Have they given to your cause on several occasions—and if so, how much time elapsed between gifts?
  • Communication preferences: How does this individual typically communicate with your team? Do they seem to respond best to direct mail, email, text, phone calls, social media, etc.?

Then, by answering these questions, you’ll be able to adjust your fundraising appeals to account for each supporter’s unique characteristics. Understanding how much your donors usually give can even help you set giving tiers in your crowdfunding campaign (which we’ll discuss in more detail later).

For example, if you launch an email campaign soliciting donations, you might adjust each email for an appropriate amount. If you’re creating a crowdfunding campaign, however, you can still send that appeal letter. And by knowing that your donors usually give between $50-200, you can set the giving tiers on your campaign to $50, $100, and $200.

As a fundraising organization, the best way to keep up with this data is typically with a CRM for nonprofits, otherwise known as a constituent relationship management system.

If you’re raising money as an individual, however, targeted appeals can be completed manually by simply adjusting your fundraising letters and other outreach strategies to the intended recipient.

It's a good idea to set suggested giving levels for your crowdfunding campaign.3. Set suggested giving levels.

One of the main assets of crowdfunding is the ability to collect small donations from a wide audience in a way that can add up very quickly. A key way that this type of fundraising campaign is able to do so is by strategically demonstrating the impact that each donation has on the overall cause. This idea is often implemented through giving levels or suggested donations that correspond to a specific impact or incentive.

For example, imagine you’re fundraising for a nonprofit that provides school supplies for impoverished children. You might include the following giving levels in your crowdfunding campaign:

  • $25 provides a child with school supplies for a year.
  • $100 provides a child with a tablet for virtual learning.
  • $500 provides an entire classroom with school supplies.

By including these suggested giving levels on your crowdfunding page, you make sure each prospective donor knows exactly how their gift will be used and the type of impact they’ll make. That way, they’ll be more likely to support your campaign, and they may even make a larger contribution than they might have otherwise.

For a more concrete example, take a look at this case study where a California nonprofit raised more than $75,000 in a week for their COVID-19 related food drive by rallying their community around a crowdfunding campaign quickly and effectively. Be sure to note what worked about their campaign and emulate these best practices in your own!

Make sure to encourage your crowdfunding donors to look into matching gifts.4. Encourage matching gifts.

If you’re raising money for a nonprofit, many of your donors’ gifts are likely eligible to be matched by their employers through widespread corporate giving programs. The problem is, however, that many eligible donors are unaware of these programs!

According to Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics, 84% of survey respondents reported a higher likelihood to give if they knew their donation was being matched by their employer, and 1 in 3 donors reported a propensity to make a larger gift if a match will be applied.

That being said, it’s a good idea to inform your donors and prospects about matching gifts, while reiterating the availability and power of these programs. You can even include a reminder about matching gifts (and encourage your donors to research their own eligibility) in your follow-up messaging to ensure everyone is aware.

The more donors are aware of this fantastic opportunity to make their gifts go further, the more likely you are to receive this bonus funding for your organization. After all, who wouldn’t want to further their impact without reaching back into their own pockets?

Don't forget to thank the donors who contributed to your crowdfunding campaign!5. Thank your donors.

Once your crowdfunding campaign has concluded, that doesn’t mean your job is over. In fact, one of the most important aspects of any fundraising campaign is the follow-up.

Hopefully, your crowdfunding platform allows you to automate donation receipts so that each supporter receives a digital confirmation of their transaction and a quick thank-you note (yet another reminder to choose your crowdfunding software wisely!). However, it’s a good idea to take that donor appreciation a bit further by thanking your donors in a more personal and meaningful way.

For example, sending out thank-you letters to donors who contribute to your crowdfunding campaign can be a nice touch. Alternatively, you might choose to make a personal phone call to each individual who supported your campaign.

Regardless of your choice in donor appreciation method, the important part is that you effectively communicate with your supporters the significant impact that they had on your campaign and overall cause. After all, you couldn’t have reached your goals without them!

Crowdfunding is a fantastic way to raise funds for virtually any cause—from individuals with medical bills to nonprofit organizations looking to deepen their impact on their missions. However, a less-than-carefully-prepared campaign tends to bring in significantly less funding than the organizers desire.

Avoid that pitfall by implementing these fundraising best practices in each of your upcoming crowdfunding campaigns, and you’ll be reaching (or surpassing!) your goals in no time. Best of luck!