If you’re like me, you’re starting to think more about the dots between #GivingTuesday and year-end giving – and how fundraisers should leverage #GivingTuesday and year-end to raise more money, and certainly more than we did last year.
If you’re asking yourself questions like this, you can catapult yourself ahead of thousands of organizations that have already started to gear up for #GivingTuesday but are maybe too focused on this one, big day. The smart money, so to speak, is to leverage #GivingTuesday as the kick-off to a five-week fundraising sprint that culminates not on December 31, but January 10. The extra week is for you. After the New Year holidays, you need time to acknowledge, thank, and put your donors into a monthly content stream to keep them engaged.
Put another way, you should put a lot of thought into a #GivingTuesday campaign, but design it for the four-plus weeks after. In those 35 days, more than 70 million Generous Procrastinators will give $9 billion to nonprofit organizations in the United States.
First, let’s level-set on what we’re ultimately trying to do.
Everyone knows, “it’s that’s time of year again” and understands their gift is tax-deductible. So use words, images, and framing that cut through the clichés we’ve maybe used in the past to now sustain a four- to five-week fundraising sprint.
Donors don’t give to organizations they give through them. Existing and would-be donors are outsourcing the good they want to be done in the communities you serve. They are hiring you to do the work only you know how to do. Donors are not rewarding you because you have merely been doing an excellent job for a long time. That said, avoid or remove phrases in your communication that includes “we have a goal of $…,” “we need…,” and change it to “you will…” and “you can…”
1. Inspire your donors and followers every day – not just the one.
Don’t let your organization only engage donors when you need to fundraise. Even with limited time, staff and resources, devote the time necessary to send out thoughtful, relevant messages to your online donors and followers. They should never be confined to fundraising solicitations, no matter your urgency. The ideal would be to send one Tweet and post per day, updating them on programmatic success or ongoing work and progress. Think more in terms of being accountable to your donors. Give them the good news, honestly. Bring them inside. Donors love transparency as much as they do impact.
2. Use content to drive traffic to a giving page destination
Whether you use only one social media platform or five, always route all the accounts to your website and emails to enhance your online presence. Just as you would when someone visits your home, be sure to provide a warm, relevant welcome to your donors. It should be consistent across your website, blog, social media pages, and online giving page. Think about the experience you’re creating. Giving has to not only be easy, but still deliver on the narrative of the impact of your organization and what donors achieve when ‘giving through you.’
3. Prepare Content in Advance
Social media engagement with our personal networks is fun and entertaining. However, that sentiment does not wholly apply to our campaigns. We need more deliberate and strategic posts to ensure our branding and messaging are consistent, concise, and building a narrative. For an upcoming event or campaign, you’ll want to have multiple posts prepared in advance to optimize the outcome. The only exception should be when you are responding to comments and questions posted by your online community.
Before launching your campaign, develop content, including graphics, photos, and videos for your emails and social media posts. Create campaign updates affirming 50%, 75%, and 100% of your goal before the actual attainment of those milestones.
I am always asked, “What does a good production and deployment schedule look like for Giving Tuesday?” I want to address that item here, as it certainly requires ‘preparing content in advance.’ Organizations that raise the most on Giving Tuesday have a schedule that looks as follows:
- Two morning posts during peak hours, 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., to communicate why your mission and programs are essential to the community or target population you serve.
- One pre-lunch post to explain how many people your organization could have served last year if you had more capacity or resources.
- One afternoon post demonstrating outcomes you’ve achieved in the last year for your community, service population.
- One late afternoon post showing how your mission and programs have and continue to help individuals in your community.
- One evening post showing what donors become and mean to you when they make a gift through your organization.
Sending morning, afternoon, and evening emails strategically throughout the day gives both vibrancy and convenience to your campaign. Furthermore, adding emails with the same images (and one or two more sentences of content that expounds on your posts) reinforces your narrative in a different channel, which helps considerably.
4. Use images to capture attention, compel emotion
Across all online and social media channels, powerful images deliver on the old maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words. Not only do potent images attract people, but they also maximize engagement and encourage sharing. When an appeal is trying to elicit an emotional response, the right pictures can achieve more in an instant than the most excellent wordsmith can in volumes. You want to make sure your visual content is relevant to both your appeal and mission, so avoid standard or stock photos.
5. Make sure all communication channels enable giving
As part of an integrated online presence, your captivating content and images should inspire people to take immediate action, including sharing your post. Strong content and a concise, mission-focused appeal should always include a link to your donation or campaign page. LinkedIn and Facebook both provide ‘give now’ buttons but get donors to move to your website where you can capture their contact information. Apps like bit.ly can shorten your link for a more streamlined appearance. Of more than 200,000 Tweets analyzed, optimal click-through rates were achieved when the giving link was strategically placed about a quarter of the way through the post.
6. Create a “Why Donate” page
Even with compelling content and inspiring graphics, donors who are unfamiliar with your organization or cause may want more information than a social media post can provide. Before you start your campaign, develop a “Why Donate” page to answer any emotional or rational questions a prospective donor may have about your cause or nonprofit. It’s also a great way to capture donations from people who visit your website out of curiosity or from an online search. Your “Why Donate” page should be an abbreviated case for giving, simple, straightforward, and very easy to visualize and navigate. Links to your donation page, financials, annual report PDF, and any endorsements should be included along with any badges such as CharityNavigator or Best Non-Profits.
7. Optimize Your Donate Page
If your appeal successfully brought someone to your donate page, then you’re obviously on the right track. Surprisingly, 98% of giving page visitors do not complete the form or the transaction. The two primary reasons: 1) Your submit form is too complicated, and 2) Inspiration of your appeal faded when presented with a giving experience that resembles and feels like a job application. To sustain their emotional response to your message, include other compelling images on your donation page. Also, link to a well-designed “Why Donate” page to address FAQs in the mind of a donor.
8. Encourage sharing with content, not just requests
Great content and imagery should inspire people to share your appeal, but you need to make it as simple as possible for them to do so. A 2017 study by Dunham & Co. and Marketing Support Network noted that 76% of nonprofits missed an opportunity to have their donors share their donation experience. They did not include directions on the submission confirmation page, asking donors to share news of their gift with friends, family, and followers. Tell your donors that they have influence, too.
9. Don’t just click ‘send’ or ‘post,’ monitor and engage
The most concerning insights from Dunham & Co. and Marketing Support Network was the inadequate response to donors and followers on social media. Social media is not a billboard or an ad. Engage and respond to the people who follow you. Using your social media as an ongoing dialogue with donors, constituents, and stakeholders is always essential, but never more so than during your year-end blitz. Thanking individual donors by tagging them can be very strategic, demonstrating that you value them as much as their dollars.
10. Test the Online Donation Process
This one should be obvious but is often overlooked. Before launching your campaign and throughout your calendar year, test your donation page to ensure it is functioning properly. Include seasonal and updated info on the submission confirmation page, too. Tell donors about an upcoming event or direct them to the programmatic section on your website. Before your campaign, test your donation page for ease of use and proper functioning. As with all your content, keep the donation page fresh and inspiring, too. Get the donor’s head and heart into the mission, not just their credit card.
11. Measure & Analyze Results
Google analytics and hashtags will enable you to monitor and track the results of not only your campaigns but also the effectiveness of particular posts and images. After #GivingTuesday, review analytics to get insights on images, messages, timing, and calls-to-action — what seems to perform best and why.
So, with all of the above in mind, it’s time to start planning and executing. When the calendar turns to November, you should be managing from a plan, if not a calendar. It might appear to be overwhelming, so your objective should be to start what you can finish. There’s a difference between optimal and essential, and the former is where you should move ahead with caution. Select items from this list that have the best chance of being implemented and can improve upon what you did last year. Make decisions that have the best chance of enhancing the experience of your donors, not just you or your team. You’re all in this together.