Last week, I had the ear of a brilliant nonprofit guru and jumped on the chance to ask her for some advice.
Me: I know our readers are up to their eyeballs in work from now until January. What can I write about to help them through this crazy time besides end-of-year fundraising?
Brilliant Nonprofit Guru: End-of-year fundraising.
Message received. This time of year, the only thing nonprofit pros need more than fundraising ideas is more time and money to implement them.
While I can't offer you more hours in the day or mail you a check, here are eight ways to "hack" EOY fundraising and save the precious resources you already have.
1. Start fundraising for #GivingTuesday early
Sure, #GivingTuesday itself is huge - but don’t limit yourself to one 24-hour period. Inboxes will be completely saturated on the big day, so you’ll have a hard time cutting through the noise.
The inbox struggle is real.
Huge amounts of money are spent and donated over the whole Thanksgiving holiday, and there’s no rule that says you only get the airwaves on #GivingTuesday.
Hack: Consider sending your fundraising emails on #CyberMonday or Black Friday - that way you can take advantage of all the people sifting through their inboxes for the best deals and discounts.
2. Use Chrome’s DevTools to test your donation pages
Did you know that Chrome can show you how any web page looks and loads on most devices? We’re starting to sound like a broken record, but with in excess of 50% web traffic originating from mobile devices, it’s time to make sure your website is mobile friendly.
Hack: Chrome’s DevTools are a great (and free!) way to check that your donation experience is up to spec for your EOY fundraising push. Here's how:
1. Head on over to one of your donation pages and right click anywhere on the page. When the drop down appears, select “Inspect Element."
2. A window will appear which displays all of the code for that page. Don't panic! Just click the mobile icon in the top left corner.
3. From there, Chrome will simulate viewing the page on a mobile device, touch screen and all! Just use the drop down menus to see how your page looks on a a whole bunch of different devices. Note: you may need to refresh the page in order to see the simulations.
You can also check to see that your page loads in reasonable time by emulating slower internet connections (like you might have when you’re out and about away from wifi) using the blue network dropdown. Neat, huh?
3. Activate your influencers
We’ve already been through why going viral is a terrible, terrible strategy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try and create some helpful buzz in the right circles - if you get started early.
Identify and create relationships with key influencers in your community ahead of time. That way they won’t be scratching their heads and wondering what you’re talking about when you ask for their help promoting your campaign, and you won’t be frantically emailing and tweeting at everyone you can think of to get your campaign rolling.
Hack: We love the Followerwonk tool from Moz for influencer research. Simply connect your org's Twitter account, navigate over to the Sort Followers section, change the drop down menu selection to "follows," and sort your list by social influence. From there, you can easily (and strategically) connect with influencers in your network and hopefully amplify the reach of your campaign.
4. Empower your board to make the ask
Your nonprofit board can be a powerful fundraising tool, but if you're spending half your time managing board members, it may seem like more of a hassle than you're prepared to deal with.
The goal should be to give board members everything they need to be effective and confident in their fundraising tasks. Doing so will allow you and your team more time to handle the rest of the campaign.
Hack: Put together a comprehensive campaign kit of graphics, emails, sample social media posts, and messaging guidelines and share it early. It might even be a good idea to ask the board directly for the items they would find most valuable. House this kit online on a site like Dropbox and keep board members updated on new additions or changes.
5. Make those emails responsive
‘Tis the season to make sure those emails look picture-perfect on mobile devices. Depending on your email list, more than half of your supporters could be opening up your fundraising emails on a mobile device of some kind.
EOY is already a critical time, and you don’t want to run the race with weights around your ankles in the form of clunky, unreadable emails. Make sure your emails read well and look great on all devices and in all email clients, and you should see real improvements in your fundraising metrics.
Hack: Most vendors will gladly help you implement pre-built email templates into their system, free of cost. Don't have time to research email templates? We curated a list. Bonus: they're free.
6. Create multiple calls-to-action and TEST
Drafting more variations on your calls-to-action (CTAs) before starting your campaign offers a big, time-saving advantage. Rather than reacting if your conversions are slow (or slowing), proactively develop a few versions of your CTAs and test to see which are most popular with audiences.
Varying and optimizing your CTAs will not only help you avoid scrambling to come up with new ones mid-campaign, it can help guide your strategy moving forward. That means making smarter choices in the planning process and reducing the “fires” you’ll have to fight later. (note: there will always be fires to put out - this is EOY fundraising we’re talking about!)
Hack: No design experience? No problem. Design tools like Canva are user-friendly, intuitive, and mostly-free and can help you create seriously gorgeous graphics. It’s one of favorite tools to recommend because it makes creating CTAs a breeze.
7. Take advantage of the thank-you email
Transactional emails like donation receipts are often opened at higher rates than marketing messages. How much higher? The average open rate for receipt messages is over 110% (Yep, over 100% because these messages are often opened multiple times.)
Don’t wait until late in the game to start sending follow up emails to your donors. Strike while the iron is hot.
Hack: put another ask in a donor’s inbox by strategically incorporating it into donation receipt emails right now. Even simply adding sharing buttons to your receipt emails so donors can spread the words about your campaign (and their generosity) will go a long way to helping you get more donations.
8. Trim the fat on your email list
This EOY fundraising season, you may want to send fewer emails.
Sounds crazy, right? Not when you consider what email pitfalls like poor deliverability cost nonprofits every year. Studies have shown that nonprofits with an average email list size lose an incredible $1,400 on #GivingTuesday alone thanks to their emails ending up in spam folders.
Trimming down your email lists could help your nonprofit avoid racking up costs and keep more of its fundraising dollars.
Hack: Your email tool should be able to produce reports on subscribers that have been ignoring you (e.g. haven’t opened a message in over six months). Deliverability experts recommend sending those donors one last attempt at getting through to them, cutting loose those that don’t reciprocate. You could find that your emails perform better (and make you more money) when they’re getting to the right people.
Have more time- and money-saving tips to help nonprofits get through the final fundraising sprint? Tweet us your favorite ideas!