Today’s article covers raising awareness for nonprofit funding campaigns from the inception of the drive to after the donations have been received. As Head of Marketing and Analytics at GivingMail, a direct mail platform for nonprofits, Grant Cobb weighs in with advice to help nonprofits make the most of their funding efforts.
Fundraisers keep your nonprofit running and require meticulous planning and forethought to ensure they find success. However, no matter how well designed and optimized the fundraiser itself is, you’ll only get results if you’re able to get the word out effectively.
While there is a plethora of useful fundraising advice for finding the perfect idea and tools to help run your event, nonprofits are often left in the dark regarding how to market their fundraiser. You may be able to easily identify common communication channels, but how to use them to create a full-fledged marketing campaign is a more challenging task.
Our team of professionals at GivingMail has helped nonprofits craft strategic fundraising appeals for over 70 years, meaning we’ve seen and overcome nearly every hurdle nonprofit marketing has to offer. Marketing and outreach have evolved over the years, and our tactics have adapted to find new processes for overcoming each challenge. To help launch your next fundraising campaign, here are five steps every nonprofit should take when marketing their fundraisers:
- Assemble a Team
- Craft Your Message
- Set Marketing Goals
- Spread the Word
- Follow-up After the Fundraiser
Each of these steps aims to encourage your marketing team to think deeper about who your supporters are and how your nonprofit can reach them on a personal level. Nonprofits of every size can take these steps, whether you have a dedicated marketing department or a team of one. No matter your cause or your size, the principles of marketing remain the same; it’s just a matter of incorporating them into your next fundraiser to suit your unique needs.
1. Assemble a Team
As mentioned, marketing teams vary in size and are often one of the first things to be cut for small nonprofits. Assembling a team also requires knowledge you might not have of how effective marketing campaigns are run, especially if your nonprofit has limited resources for finding the right candidates.
However, instead of asking who you need on your marketing team, determine what responsibilities you need to complete and how many people it will take to meet those commitments. Doing so can help you boil down your marketing campaign as a whole into a few essential tasks rather than nebulous roles that might not fit with your nonprofit’s operating budget.
To help your nonprofit then put a name to your list of responsibilities, here are a few common marketing team members and the tasks they usually complete:
- Project manager. Project managers oversee your marketing team by making schedules to keep everyone on track, coordinating launches of outreach material, and providing direction for the entire team. Project managers not only determine the direction of your marketing campaign, but they are also able to step back and look at each step in the marketing process as a whole. This lets them identify problems and opportunities that team members who are focused on individual tasks might not see.
- Content creators. Writers and graphic designers create your marketing materials. While your nonprofit’s leadership likely has great ideas about your mission, they are not necessarily writers or artists. Provide your content creators with your fundraiser’s purpose, theme, and other necessary details to give them direction for creating materials that capture your nonprofit’s unique voice.
- Outreach experts. Regular outreach and marketing through social media, email, and direct mail is a full-time job. Your outreach team is responsible for taking the materials created by your content team and adapting them for each platform. By doing so, they spread the word about your fundraiser and interact with supporters who want to connect with your nonprofit.
- Analysts. Throughout your entire marketing campaign, someone should be assessing the data coming in. Give your analysts access to your donor database or CRM software and mailing services to let them determine the success of each social media post, email blast, and direct mail campaign.
Based on your nonprofit’s resources, you may need to combine some of these roles with other positions. For example, you might assign a writer to oversee your project or have your outreach team analyze incoming data. However, remember that each of these roles can also be a full-time job, so plan your schedule accordingly so as not to overwhelm your team, no matter their size.
2. Craft Your Message
Your fundraiser supports a good cause, but your message needs to do more than just relay your nonprofit’s mission. For example, your marketing team may want to try and attract a corporate sponsor for your fundraiser. Doing so can give your team more funds to build out your fundraiser, create a more comprehensive marketing strategy, or even host kick off events to generate excitement.
The benefits your organization receives from corporate partnerships are clear, but now you need to consider why your corporate sponsor would want to work with your nonprofit. To do so, answer the following questions:
- Who is your audience? In this case, your audience is a corporate sponsor, and you wouldn’t address them the same way you would your supporters on social media. Research previous fundraisers they’ve supported, their mission statement, and their services. Sponsors whose goals and products align with your nonprofit and your fundraiser are more likely to support you, but it’s always a good idea to create a list of potential sponsors in the event you receive a no.
- Why would they support you? Craft your message to answer this question for your sponsors. Use the research you conducted on your sponsors to explain why their support is mutually beneficial. For example, some sponsors might want to receive a shoutout during your fundraiser for an advertising boost or the positive publicity that comes with supporting a nonprofit.
- How can you reach them? This can take a bit of research, especially for corporations where you don’t already have a point of contact. Some may have formal applications for corporate sponsorships while others such as small businesses might respond better to cold outreach through a phone call, email, or mailed invitation.
Your message should be based on your audience, but remember to also maintain consistent brand identity and voice across all marketing materials. Doing so helps create a clear image for all supporters about your nonprofit’s values and can improve brand recognition in the long run.
3. Set Marketing Goals
Begin your marketing campaign with a set purpose in mind. Obviously, your goal is to attract support to your fundraiser, but how much support and from who? Establishing initial goals for these questions can help shape your campaign, and after your fundraiser, your nonprofit can use these metrics to determine whether your marketing was successful.
Many nonprofit marketing guides like this one suggest making data-driven decisions. However, you’ll need to know what data is useful to collect and examine before making decisions based on it. A few helpful metrics for fundraisers to measure are:
- Supporter retention. While your fundraisers should always attract some new supporters, how many people who contributed to a previous campaign donate during the following fundraiser? It’s almost always more cost effective to retain the supporters you do have than attract new ones. If you see a dip in retention, take the time to investigate it by identifying supporter engagement trends or asking directly by sending supporter feedback surveys.
- Response rates. Which of your outreach methods receives the most responses? For example, you might compare your direct mail outreach with your social media campaign. You might find that one has a higher response rate overall or captures the attention of a specific audience, such as attracting a demographic the other has trouble engaging with.
- Average donation amount. How much does each supporter, on average, contribute to your fundraiser? Sometimes this data can tell you the average giving potential of your supporters in general, whereas other times it might reveal that your suggested giving amounts are too low or too high for your base.
Of course, your data only matters if you do something with it. Use one of these or any other pertinent metrics to create a measurable, attainable goal for your campaign. For instance, you might set a goal of increasing your marketing emails’ clickthrough rate by 20% or raise your average donation amount by $10. For some nonprofits, these are modest proposals, but remember that setting an unattainable goal does not contribute to future growth.
4. Spread the Word
Online fundraisers and nonprofit digital campaigns have risen in popularity due to their relatively low start up costs. However, taking a multi-channel approach to reach supporters on several platforms has the potential to widen your audience more than a dedicated campaign on one platform can.
In addition to social media and email, consider using the following methods to reach supporters:
- Direct mail. The rise of digital marketing has caused traditional mail, especially invitations to attend fundraisers, to feel more personal. High quality materials such as thank you cards, postcards, and calendars can also encourage supporters to hold on to them, serving as a physical reminder to attend your fundraiser.
- Text. Text messages are one of the fastest ways to get in touch with supporters. With improvements in text-to-give platforms, you can send texts during your fundraiser to drive additional donations without interruption.
- Your website. Your nonprofit’s website is one of your most effective marketing tools. Digital outreach is often restricted by character limits or third-party platform rules, but you can tell your story and market your fundraiser to your nonprofit’s exact specifications on your website.
A comprehensive outreach campaign through one channel is a big job for one person, and diversifying your marketing can cause your team to prioritize quantity over quality. To combat this, consider reaching out for help from a web consultant, text-to-donate platform provider, or even a direct mail service provider.
5. Follow-up After the Fundraiser
Your marketing campaign isn’t finished until you’ve completed your follow-up. As mentioned, effective follow-up can improve key metrics such as supporter retention between fundraisers while helping to build long-term relationships.
Thank everyone who participated in your fundraiser, whether they donated or not. While you should be sure to show special appreciation to your donors, forming relationships with attendees at your fundraising events who didn’t contribute can still help your nonprofit in the long run. These supporters may contribute the next time they attend a fundraiser, and your thank you can sometimes serve as a reminder to donate to your nonprofit if they didn’t during your event.
You can also improve donor relationships by thanking different supporters in different ways. For example, you wouldn’t send your corporate sponsors the same thank you letter your would to new supporters. Online resources like Fundraising Letters’ donor thank letter templates can give your marketing team a starting point. If you do use templates, before sure to customize them to reflect your nonprofit’s unique voice and mention key details relevant to your fundraiser to avoid sounding generic.
By taking these steps, your nonprofit can examine how and why your fundraisers are successful, making sure your marketing campaign and your fundraiser accompany one another rather than being separate endeavors. If you find yourself in need of extra help, don’t be afraid to consult marketing and outreach services for everything from setting initial goals to designing effective direct mail campaigns.