GivingTuesday: Preparing your virtual fundraising strategy
GivingTuesday is coming soon on November 29, 2022! As this international day of generosity approaches, consider the following statistics from GivingTuesday 2021 to see how nonprofits fared last year:
- Overall dollars donated rose by 3.5%, a significant figure given the unusually high generosity of 2020.
- Retention of previously-acquired donors came in at a whopping 26%.
- The total number of individual donors who gave on GivingTuesday 2021 decreased by 5.7%, down from 2020’s burst of energy and “primarily due to charities having challenges in finding new donors and inspiring lapsed donors [to give again].”
Looking ahead, the challenges nonprofits need to overcome for GivingTuesday 2022 include:
- Retaining more year-end donors
- Expanding visibility to attract new supporters to your cause
- Honing messages to activate more donors to make a gift
A robust virtual fundraising strategy will help on all fronts.
The journeys we’ve all been on since 2020 have brought along some powerful fundraising lessons, namely the value of flexibility and innovation. If you can reach out to your audiences at the right times, with the right messages, and perhaps in new ways, they’ll meet you there.
Just look at the retention figure above—many donors are remaining loyal to their favorite missions through periods of intense change. Now’s the time to leverage your existing connections and build new ones using now-familiar virtual and hybrid environments.
Let’s break down three key strategic areas where you’ll need to prepare.
Your campaign and event plans
Start planning your year-end campaign as early as possible. Once the energy picks up in November, you’ll be glad that you gave yourself time to make plans, outline a detailed campaign, organize your launch, and test your technology.
As you begin planning, outline a campaign strategy that follows the main arch and connects several appeals/ask touchpoints, small events, and/or incentive activities that all build momentum towards the final giving day. This will give your year-end push time to create awareness and foster excitement. It will also add a sense of unity and reinforce a central message that will attract and engage supporters. There are a few elements to include as you design your launch plan:
- Campaign message and theme. What’s the main reason why someone should keep you in mind on GivingTuesday and give to your campaign? This case for support should infuse the entire campaign. An exciting, thoughtful, or emotionally compelling campaign theme can hook supporters, but make sure that it meshes well with your mission, donor base, and the case for support.
- Campaign models. How will you raise the bulk of the campaign’s revenue? You have a few choices—a standard online fundraising campaign, peer-to-peer fundraising, pledge-based fundraising, or awareness-raising with a few appeals and events mixed in, etc. Your goals for the campaign will lead you to an effective fundraising model. For instance, if increasing your online reach and acquiring more donors to engage in the coming year are top priorities, a peer-to-peer campaign might be the right choice.
- Events. A handful of events should be sprinkled throughout your campaign. In some cases, a large hybrid-style event like your annual holiday auction and gala might anchor the whole thing. Alternately, casual donor cultivation events are always a fun and engaging way to galvanize your base during year-end campaigns. For any campaign, remember that you have an unprecedented level of flexibility. Brainstorm ways to incorporate a few in-person gatherings (if safe) or virtual events into the campaign’s timeline. This will boost engagement and create more touchpoints to reach additional supporters.
What might an outline for this type of unified campaign look like? Here’s a rough example of a campaign that has a coherent shape but includes a range of ways for donors to engage and feel the year-end energy:
- September-October: Run awareness messages on social media and email to remind donors about the urgency of your mission before the campaign begins. Recruit fundraising ambassadors to help support your main event later.
- Early November: Launch the peer-to-peer portion of your campaign and set your ambassadors loose to start fundraising. Encourage other supporters to set up their DIY giving pages ahead of GivingTuesday. Begin collecting donations and amping up the energy leading to the big day.
- GivingTuesday: Drive social media engagement on the big day. Host a casual virtual event for supporters to tune into, learn about your impact and plans for the coming year, and watch your donation totals climb. Thank everyone for their support and explain the difference their gifts will make, but also frame this day as an exciting pitstop ahead of the main end-of-year celebration you have planned.
- Early December: Continue running your ambassador campaign but with a new emphasis on securing registrations for your gala. Provide ambassadors with the guidance and resources they need to shift focus and reach the right audiences. Get your broader base of supporters excited for an event full of gratitude and impact.
- Final event: Host your hybrid year-end gala. Invite high-impact donors to attend the in-person celebration and a variety of fundraising activities. Then, invite your whole community to attend the virtual experience, where you’ll make a few additional appeals but also focus on thanking those who gave on GivingTuesday.
There are so many variations you can use to structure your year-end campaign. The main idea is to have the bigger picture in mind, to build towards your goals and outcomes intentionally. Remember, everything culminates into your final event where your audiences are engaged in person and online—celebrating your mission, creating impact, and engaging your donor base beyond GivingTuesday, hopefully far into the new year.
Start by determining your core goals for this year-end season, then map out the different ways you could get there. The sky’s the limit!
Your Tech Toolkit
Of course, we can’t talk about virtual and hybrid fundraising without discussing technology. Here’s a checklist of the main tools you’ll need to pull off a comprehensive virtual year-end strategy:
- A central CRM (Constituent Relationship Management system), ideally integrated with all of your most important other platforms (especially those that directly facilitate donor engagement)
- A fundraising microsite or dedicated page to make it easy and offer a centralized, seamless giving experience
- Online donation software and peer-to-peer fundraising software, if applicable and may be included in your CRM
- Virtual event software (or other ways to livestream) and event planning tools
- Mobile bidding and auction management tools, if applicable
- Various marketing tools, like email, social media, and text messaging managers
Take stock early to identify any updates or gaps that need addressing before the campaign’s in full swing. The range of tools you’ll need will also naturally vary based on your plans and the scope of your campaign.
If you’ll be hosting a large hybrid-style event, the value of using virtual fundraising software that’s part of a broader suite of tools can’t be understated. This will make it much easier to offer supporters a streamlined, polished experience, and it greatly reduces the logistical complexities of working across multiple platforms to run a livestream, auction, chat, and more. A centralized tech platform simplifies data reporting, which will be important for analyzing results and planning next year’s campaign.
Your communication playbook
Another critical component of any successful campaign is your communication strategy. Especially during a busy time of the year, having an organized playbook to rely on makes promoting the campaign easier for your team. Plus, it ensures that supporters are receiving consistent, effective messaging that supports the bigger picture of the campaign.
Keep these communication best practices in mind as your campaign comes together:
- Take a multichannel approach. Reaching your audiences through several channels not only expands your presence but also allows you to more strategically funnel supporters towards taking specific target actions like donating, registering for events, signing up for emails, volunteering as a peer-to-peer fundraiser, and more. Understanding your organization’s ideal donor profile is a good place to start if you’re feeling stuck. Think through the different journeys or flows you could create between email, social media, direct mail, phone calls, and your website to maximize engagement with both current and prospective donors.
- Emphasize impact and stories. It’s a well-known nonprofit maxim that impact should be the foundation of your communications. Supporters care about results, and sharing your outcomes helps engage donors and prospects. While the year-end season is a time of celebration, don’t let your campaign messages lose sight of your core purpose and a case for support—the impact that donations will have on your constituents and community. Illustrate this impact with real stories and compelling narratives.
- Use integrated software. Your marketing engagement data is worth its weight in gold. It allows you to see where your strategies are driving the most interactions and conversions, which tells you a lot about what you’re doing well and what you can improve. Ensuring that this data reports automatically to your CRM simplifies this process and can also give you real-time marketing insights during the campaign.
- Clearly explain your virtual events. If you’re hosting and promoting virtual and hybrid events, you need to clearly explain how they’ll work and how attendees can engage. Use your campaign messages and materials to briefly explain these processes. Then, point them back to a dedicated page on your website that lays everything out in greater detail.
- Encourage engagement early and often. Your messages can do more than just tell supporters that a campaign is happening or an event is coming up. Use your multichannel approach to encourage your audience to engage in all kinds of ways, such as signing up for your newsletter, reading your blog and constituent or donor stories, previewing your gala’s auction item catalog, or sharing your social media posts with friends and family.
Incorporate these best practices as you put together your year-end campaign. Having a clear sense of what you’ll be saying, when, and where is immensely valuable—and a proven framework for year-end fundraising success!
As we round the curve on another busy year, it’s time to double down on preparation. The year-end season has always been an important time for nonprofits, and this year is no exception. If anything, preparedness is more important than ever.
By laying out as comprehensive a campaign plan as possible in advance, including communication plans, and improving your tech stack where needed, you’ll set up your organization for another successful GivingTuesday and year-end season.
About the author:
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their cause.