Making the most of your year-end fundraising campaigns

AMC_YE2013-Lbox3-Calendar_FINALIt’s September, and the Year-End season still seems a long way away. Even if you aren’t quite ready to start your holiday shopping for family and friends, you should start planning your organization’s Year-End fundraising strategy today.  Nearly 30% of ALL charitable giving occurs during the last month of the year, and most of that comes within the last few days of December. So make sure you are primed and prepared to make the most of it! Many clients ask us “when is the best time to send our Year-End fundraising appeals in the mail and online? Is October too early? Is December too late?” The short answer is that there is no cut-and-dry timetable—but it seems that organizations are starting to send their Year-End appeals earlier and earlier. Just recently, one of my colleagues received what appeared to be a holiday fundraising appeal in her mail, complete with pictures of Santa Claus and snowflakes on the outer envelope. August is probably too early for your Year-End fundraising to hit households. Once you’ve looked at your organization-wide mailing schedule for the last 2-3 months of the year and decided on the best timing for your Year-End appeal and follow-up (yes, we recommend a follow-up!), then think about the fundraising goals you want to accomplish during this Year-End season and how you will achieve them. Are you aiming to increase your income by a certain percentage over last year? Or is it more important to increase the average gift or upgrade a specific number of donors? Likely it’s a combination! Once you know your goals, you will need to think of tactics that will help you reach them – such as incorporating a matching gift offer or including a premium. Next, take a look at the testing you’ve conducted throughout the year in the mail and online. Any test that successfully boosted your response rate or your average gift is probably worth rolling out in Year-End to maximize your response. Like many organizations, your main goal is probably to get as much money as possible in the door before December 31. In that case, skip the hard press for monthly sustainer sign-ups and focus on one-time gifts.  But, if recruiting new sustainers is a top priority for your organization right now and you don’t mind sacrificing some Year-End revenue for the sake of long-term income, then sustainer recruitment promotions on your website could be some of your best tools at Year-End. Your Year-End appeals are a great opportunity to upgrade your current donors to higher levels of giving, since many are generous during the season of giving. Think about which donor segments you can target for upgrade asks to your mid-level giving group. Add an aspirational gift amount on the reply ask string. Or, consider offering a back-end premium for donors when they increase their commitment to your organization. Don’t let your Year-End mailing get out the door without careful consideration for a coordinated online fundraising strategy. Your fundraising emails can mirror the message in your direct mail piece to create a cohesive campaign. For online donors who were also sent a direct mail piece, it’s a good idea to add a message at the top of the email with a note saying “we wanted to follow-up with you” or “did you get our appeal in the mail.”  Put special consideration into how you select your email audience so you can target donors with email addresses on file that recently got your appeal in the mail. For your website, there are some very simple and effective ways to drive more visitors to your donation page. Adding a Lightbox to your homepage for the month of December is a proven technique to raise money online at Year-End. On December 31 and the days leading up to it, consider redirecting all your homepage traffic to your donation page so that any visitor to the website automatically lands on your donation page. This tactic may seem a bit extreme, but if your leadership is serious about raising as much money as possible during the last days of the calendar year, then it’s worth trying, if even for just one day. A lot of our clients ask us these days about #GivingTuesday, and whether or not it’s worth participating in as part of a Year-End strategy. 2014 will mark the third annual #GivingTuesday online event to raise awareness about charitable giving through social media and online sources. While still a young program, the money raised on #GivingTuesday has steadily increased year-over-year. Compared with your other Year-End efforts, #GivingTuesday likely won’t generate nearly as much income as your direct mail or emails. But if you don’t want to leave any stone unturned, you should consider participating.  Make sure you assemble a strong group of volunteers who will be dedicated to spreading the word about your cause on #GivingTuesday. For further reading, I recommend: Sabrina Sutton Naylor is an Account Manager for Mal Warwick | Donordigital and is based in Washington, DC. She manages mail fundraising projects for Ocean Conservancy, and International Medical Corps.

Three online strategies to improve a monthly donor sustainer program

Fresh from the 2014 Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference in Washington D.C., I’d like to share a few digital strategies for improving your organization’s monthly giving program. I co-presented with Jeanne Horne, Senior Manger for Digital Communications at Share Our Strength, and I’ll share a few examples below of techniques Donordigital has implemented for Share Our Strength. Monthly donor upsell lightbox upsell-lightboxThis technique encourages single gift donors to convert their donation from a one-time gift into a monthly gift. Donors are presented with a “pop-up” lightbox while making a donation on the website, with a recommended monthly gift amount that is proportional with their intended one-time gift. If they choose to convert their donation into a monthly gift, their credit card is immediately processed with the initial sustaining gift only; if they prefer to make the one-time gift, their credit card is processed with that gift only. The process is completely secure and does not involve any additional steps for the donor—the next page is simply a thank-you page. Donordigital has tested this lightbox technique to ensure that they do not significantly increase donation form abandonment. We have found that this technique increases the number of monthly gifts collected via a website donation form above simply including a monthly giving checkbox on the form. For Share Our Strength’s current campaign, the lightbox is mobile optimized and also mentions the $100 match offered by the Arby’s Foundation for each new monthly donor. Upgrade request to current sustainers Increase your monthly gift email topIt’s important to ask current monthly donors to upgrade their gifts after they’ve participated as a monthly donor for some time. We recommend asking at least once per year—but waiting at least four months after activation to request an upgraded gift. Of course, prior to this request, you need to ensure you’ve properly stewarded your monthly donors. When requesting an upgrade, it’s best to choose a specific upgrade amount based on the current monthly gift amount. We created a special field in the database to house the requested upgrade amount so that we’re able to use it in donor communications. We also created a special form on the email landing page so that the donor would not need to re-enter their credit card information to upgrade their giving—saving hassle for the donor as well as eliminating the hassle of duplicated monthly gifts for Share Our Strength. Triggered email series to prevent attrition due to credit card issues Please come back Hunger Core triggered emailOne of the most difficult issues with a monthly giving program is involuntary attrition as a result of credit card expiration and re-issuing. Donordigital worked with Share Our Strength to create a triggered email series for monthly donors whose cards were about to expire, whose cards just expired or were not charged because of another issue, and donors whose cards lapsed several months ago. These messages are launched automatically on a rolling basis and direct people to call the donor services line or make a gift online if they prefer. Jeanne and I will present more information about these ideas in August at the DMA New York Nonprofit Conference. If you can’t make it to the conference, you can still view our slides from Play it again, Sam: Monthly giving programs for sustaining donations ‘As Time Goes By.’ Donordigital can help your organization craft a monthly donor strategy, implement that strategy, and/or complete projects like the above and more. We love giving advice and can let you know what we think would help your organization the most. photo-thumbnail-wendyWendy Marinaccio Husman is a Senior Account Executive at Donordigital, the  online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company.

Mal Warwick | Donordigital Team heads to industry conferences

We’re excited to be attending several upcoming conferences in the months ahead: March 13-15: Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, DC. Several of our team members will be in attendance, and we’re participating in several sessions focused on multi-channel fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising, online testing, web design storyboarding and wireframes, and digital marketing. bridge-conf-featureJuly 9-11: 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference in Washington, DC.  Several of our team members will be in attendance, and you can learn more about our Friday session which focuses on building monthly giving programs. — July 16-17: 2014 DMA Nonprofit Federation NY Conference in New York City. Several of our team members will be in attendance.