In my last posts, I walked through the factors that should be considered to create your year-end fundraising goal, and followed-up with a practical strategy to level-up results by expanding your army of front-line fundraisers with volunteers. Now it’s time to consider message and channel – and who is going to give and why.
For starters, an estimated 30 million people will be making gifts to the organizations that they care most about. Your message should not talk about your financial need (because, well, every nonprofit has financial need, but they don’t have your mission and programs). Even so, who are these people that you need to hear, read, or watch your mission-related content? Are they all motivated to give for the same reasons?
At the risk of being too clever, cliché, or corny, to follow I have created the behavioral donor personas of the types of people who comprise these 30 million will-be donors, all of which you need to think about when creating their giving experience, not just their appeal.
Last Minute Leslie wants to support your organization but isn’t sure how much she can afford. Use suggested donations to move her along.
Reminder-Needed Robert has committed to give in their mind but keeps forgetting. Leverage the end of the year, or the end of a campaign (but its relationship to how you help your service population), to give them a greater sense of urgency.
Clockwork Carol plans her giving every year and will give regardless of how or when your organization communicates with her. Just make sure that their preferred giving channel is convenient and accessible.
Waffling Walter is still debating about which organization to support and about how much to give. Give them a sense of the impact that their gift will have on the people that you serve and above all, make giving easy for them.
Another effective strategy is to look to identify donors who:
- Have given in the past, but have not this year (are in danger of lapsing).
- Have given in the last week or month of the year in past years (generous procrastinators).
- Have already given this year (shown that they are willing to support your organization).
As you get further on in the campaign, it is often a good strategy to start to lower the suggested donation amounts in your communications and online giving forms. This is especially true for lapsed, about to lapse, and double-lapsed donors. Make it easier for them to give.
Why should they care?
Your year-end messaging should focus on answering three questions. Why should your donor personas care about your mission? Why should they support your organization over others? And why should they give right now?
The final two days of the year offer a natural answer the question of “why right now?”. But don’t rely too heavily on it, and don’t ignore the first two questions. We saw a lot of poor messaging around GivingTuesday that amounted to “Today is GivingTuesday. Support our organization.” Leverage the end of year and use it to add a sense of urgency to your campaign but do so in a manner that sells your mission and your organization.
There are several ways to package your ask in a manner that provides your prospects and donor personas with a compelling reason to give right now:
As part of a campaign: Make the ask part of a larger campaign. Tie the gift to a capital project, the development of a new program, or a matching gifts program.
As a thank you: For current donors, couch your ask in a ‘thank you.’ Tell them how their gift impacted the people that you serve and how their continued support can further that impact.
As seed funding: If your fundraising campaign can’t fully fund a new program or capital project, then frame the campaign as providing seed funding for a project.
December 31st serves as a natural end-date and new beginning. Leverage that feeling and align it with an end-date for a campaign or matching gifts program. By doing so you increase the sense of urgency and leverage the psychology around goal proximity. Donation rates tend to increase when prospects are given a sense that a fundraising goal is close to being met.
When should you be sending your messages?
Your email and social media appeals should be focused around the 29th, 30th, and 31st. Again, the final few days of the year are a noisy time. But there are some fluctuations around message volume. Volume tends to be fairly low on the 29th, high on the 30th, and low again on the 31st.
Think about how many messages you’ve sent throughout December. If you’ve sent out a high volume of correspondences, then perhaps limit your year-end messaging to a single day. If you have been relatively silent over the last couple of weeks, then feel free to send messages on all three days.
When, in terms of time of day, should you be sending out emails? The simple answer is that it depends. Some research says that early morning is best because the email “lives” in the inbox all day. Others say that emails should be sent during the late morning lull, during the early evening when people are more likely to open personal emails, or at night when people are more likely to shop online or make purchases.
Where are people likely to give? What channels are most effective?
It probably goes without saying, but make sure that potential donors have a variety of channels through which to give. While the digital revolution has made texts an atrial channel for most any campaign, we have to animate all practical and available channels to reach our donors and prospects, including:
Mail. Many people still get a great sense of satisfaction from sending a check to their favorite organization. Make sure that your postal address is accessible, is clearly visible on your website, and is included in your email correspondences.
Website. Do everything that you can to ensure that the donation experience is painless and free of friction. If possible, especially during the end of the year, optimize your homepage for gifts. Embed the giving form on your homepage or create a banner so that people can find your giving page as easily as possible.
Phone. Again, while giving is moving more and more online, there are still people who prefer to give the old-fashioned way. Make sure that your number is available online and in your emails. Also, make sure that your phones are adequately staffed on the 30th and the 31st.
Social Media. Social media is a great fundraising tool because it allows an organization to communicate “on the fly” and in a timely manner. Use social media to reinforce and support your key messages. Also use it to update your community on the progress of your campaign. Social media is the perfect tool for leveraging the psychology around goal proximity.
Year-end fundraising is not about sending a well-written appeal and waiting for the No. 9 envelopes to be returned. It’s about knowing your behavioral donor personas and using as many channels as practice ally possible for your fundraising sprint. Don’t overcommit to new tactics and technology, but ignore them at your own fundraising peril.
How are you tailoring communications to your year-end donor personas this year?