Better results from your online fundraising campaigns

Better results from your online fundraising campaigns

In looking at the results of December fundraising campaigns, all the organizations that exceeded their fundraising expectations had three things in common. (More on that in one minute).

By most accounts, online donations in 2017 increased from 2016. Giving Tuesday 2017 raised 28% more than the year before. So hopefully, your organization got a piece of that pie.


The smart folks at Blackbaud are tracking the impact of Giving Tuesday. In 2017, non-profits raised 28% more than the year before.

But if your organization did not see an increase, the reason is probably simple. You did not build a relationship with your email list throughout the year. In comparing organizations that overperformed expectations (like an organization that raised nearly $50,000 from a list of 5,000 people), there are a few things that they did differently:

  1. They started early. Rather than waiting for after Thanksgiving to officially start their year-end campaigns, they started messaging as early as mid-November. On Giving Tuesday, their emails went out the night before and very early in the day.
  2. The ask was compelling and answered the question “why should I give today?” We can’t just say “it’s Giving Tuesday please give” and we can’t just say “we do good work, help us,” donors need a great reason to honor you with a gift.
  3. And most importantly, the organizations that raised more had a track record of consistently connecting with their audience throughout the year. Their email list was used to hearing from them and had seen their value throughout the year. This audience felt like they were part of the team.

In the next few weeks, we’ll post some resources that can help you do all three. To get these resources delivered right to your inbox, just sign up here.

Raising $20 Million on Facebook

Raising $20 Million on Facebook

You have probably seen the viral fundraiser called “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child.” (see the WaPo article that sums it up here).  As of this writing, this Facebook fundraiser raised about $20 million for RAICES, an organization in Texas with a $7 million operating budget.

Chances are your boss or board members are seeing it too and are asking how to replicate something like that for your organization. But this type of fundraising is less about having a strategy and more about chance. Just like in the case of natural disasters, you might not be able to predict when it’s coming, but you can be prepared if your organization happens to be doing the right work at the right time.

Key to success

Let’s get one thing straight. This campaign is successful because of the reaction to the news, not because they have a great social media strategy. Just like the ice bucket challenge took off because of individual efforts, not organizational efforts; this kind of campaign is a little out of your organization’s control.

How to replicate this fundraiser

Do work that directly impacts the issue.

Not “sort of” and not indirectly. Your organization will need to be on the front line making an impact where it’s needed most.

Make it easy for people to find you and see your connection to the issue.

Consistently demonstrate your expertise to your board, current supporters, and anyone that already knows you. Communicate your work, your history of success, and efficacy. This increases your chances of people stepping up to make a difference. When your issue is covered in the news, post articles on social media, and clearly communicate your connection and impact. Maybe you’ll have time to pitch a story to a media outlet, but the success of RAICES shows the importance of talking to your existing groups via social media, your website, and email.

Have multiple easy ways for people to make donations.

Sign up now for Facebook donate and be ready to go. Please note, I wouldn’t use Facebook donations as your main fundraising strategy because it’s harder to follow up with Facebook donors (you won’t always get their email address). But in reactionary fundraising, you’ll benefit from having this easy tool for donors to use and share. You should also have capabilities ready for peer-to-peer, text-to-give (great if you’ll be on TV or radio), and a smooth checkout process on your website.

Use all communication channels to give updates on your work.

Communicate what the funds will be used for, how that action addresses the issue and any additional help you might need. You will have millions of people waiting for instructions from you, so think of ways to keep them engaged.

Have a wonderful thank you process.

Acknowledge donations immediately with email receipts and ensure your new donors receive a heartfelt thank you email (also automated) from organization leadership within a few days. For donors that do not opt to share their contact information with you, share thank yous on social media and make frequent updates on the impact of the funds.

Move your social media followers to your email list.

Regularly communicate to your social media followers how to receive email updates by signing up for your email list. Social media interest wanes over time, but your email list is what performs in fundraising.

Update your Guidestar profile.

Make sure people feel comfortable and secure giving you funds. I checked out RAICES  Guidestar profile and think they could have had more robust information there.

Control the story.

Get ahead of any backlash by proactively talking about your impact and about how the funds will be used. I loved seeing the RAICES team on Facebook Live talking about how the donations will be used. It helped create helpful articles that make donors feel comfortable.

Stay in touch. 

Renewing donors is about engaging them. An easy way to engage them is to stay in regular contact with them. Make sure you have the ability to send regular impact emails, newsletters, touchpoints, and updates to your audience. In instances like this, chances are you’ll only retain a small percentage of these donors, so set your expectations accordingly.

So while you might not have the ability to make a viral fundraiser happen, you can be prepared if boatloads of attention come your way.

Generate Ideas for Your Non-profit Newsletter or Website

Generate Ideas for Your Non-profit Newsletter or Website

When planning content for your newsletter, website, blog, or social media it seems like there is a three-week rule.

For 21 days, the ideas just flow. Articles practically write themselves, social media posts are funny, engaging, and full of heart. And then…nothing. Maybe you’re not getting the click-throughs, donations, or sign-ups you expected. Or maybe you just get busy with another project. But content gets really hard.

If only you knew what people wanted to hear from you.

That’s where some Google research can be helpful. Here are the steps we use to build content for our clients:

  1. Use Google auto-fill to see common search terms. Start by typing into Google ways people might discover your organization. Note what Google auto-fills for you. These are common phrases that have been searched in your area. If you are a food bank, you might see something like this: So you may want to think about posting additional content about volunteering or how to donate food (or why you should give money instead). This is obvious, so we might look a little deeper and discover more specific things. In this case, we find out that feeding the homeless and children is of special concern, so you might want to feature your work there. We can also see feeding the hungry on holidays pops up, so you might want to write about why it’s important to feed the hungry year-round and not just on Christmas. _
  2. Enter search terms into Google Keyword Planner to see what kind of volume each search gets per month. For this tool, you’ll need to sign up for a free Google AdWords account and then navigate to Tools>Keyword Planner. Here you have a bunch of options for generating ideas based on what people are actually searching. We like to try a few different tactics: looking at keywords by industry and category. So for the food bank example, we would input “food bank” and “feed the hungry” press search and get a bunch of new keywords and their monthly search volume. Here we might get a few ideas like writing an article about “how to host a food drive” or using the phrase “food pantry” more often. 
  3. Use Keyword Planner to multiply different search terms to get new combinations. For a food bank we might try different combinations of words like this:
    From there we can see new combinations of words that people might be searching for: So we might want to use the term “food for kids” in our next campaign, use that phrase to reach out to community members in need, and write an article about the work we do with getting food to kids.

To help your social media strategy, we posted some tips for Facebook. To get these resources delivered right to your inbox, just sign up here.

Non-Profits Can Win Facebook With Groups

Non-Profits Can Win Facebook With Groups

Yes, Facebook is changing again. For non-profit organizations, your organization’s Facebook page is probably going to be seen less by your fans and followers. You can expect that:

  1. Fewer of your fans will see your page posts (organic reach will drop)
  2. Posts that inspire conversation will get priority

We’ve posted some tips especially for non-profits looking to adapt to Facebook’s new rules. But there is another Facebook tool that gets some of the highest engagement on Facebook – Groups.

A Facebook Group is like creating a Facebook Page but is more focused on creating a community. While you might have a Facebook Page for your organization calling it “Great Lakes Food Bank,” your Facebook group should focus more on the people in the group like, “Friends of the Great Lakes Food Bank.”

Groups can be public, closed, or secret. Public groups are fully visible to members and non-members and posts appear in Facebook search. Anyone can join, and anyone can add members to a public group. In a closed group, only members can see the group posts, only members can post, and joining the group is subject to approval – people must request permission to join. Secret groups are like private groups in that posts are hidden from non-members and membership approved, but only current and former members can even see the group’s name, location. See? It’s secret!

The best part of groups is that when someone is a member of a group, unlike just liking a page, they will receive notifications of new posts. So, non-profits would be wise to consider how they can start or increase the use of Groups.

Six ways non-profits can use Facebook Groups:

  • Action or advocacy groups of people that have an interest in your cause. Creating small groups with goals such as “Parents for Poughkeepsie Public Education.” Engage these groups by providing information that is useful to them and making sure you have frequent calls to action.
  • Alumni groups. Not just for schools! Your organization could have alumni groups for former and current AmeriCorps members, volunteers, and staff. You could create a group of program alumni, graduates, and anyone that has benefited from your program in the past.
  • Build a Coalition. Work together with other non-profits to build a group to educate, engage, and encourage action around a bigger issue. “Save the arts,” “Save the whales,” or even “Support Mississippi teachers” could all develop a following.
  • Interest areas. From opera lovers to people seeking support for health issues Facebook Groups can provide a valuable service and community. Think about how your organization can join one, start one, and be of value.

Private or closed groups:

  • Event planning committees. Coordinating everyone in one space to share ideas is one benefit of a private group. Additionally, an event planning committee group gives people the ability to easily invite their friends to help and build a community with each other without having to meet. (Plus, it’s easy to get people to promote your event to their friends if they are already on Facebook).
  • A Facebook group for Board members and/or Advisory Board members. This group can be useful for collaborating, sharing ideas, and alerting board members to action items such as posts to share, upcoming fundraisers, and discussing topics.


  1. Post engaging content. First and foremost, provide value to your groups.
  2. Be responsive to your group’s questions and requests.
  3. Find volunteer moderators that will help you manage your community.
  4. Encourage engagement from your group. Encourage them to ask questions and share their experiences.
  5. Don’t focus on group size, focus on group action.

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Non-Profits should embrace Facebook changes

Non-Profits should embrace Facebook changes

Changes are coming to Facebook. According to a recent announcement, in the near future, Facebook will favor posts from friends and family and individuals over posts from business pages and non-profit pages. I think these changes are actually a good thing for the non-profit organizations and here’s why:

  1. Employees will have to embrace social media. Executive Directors, Board Chairs, Volunteer Coordinators, Development Directors – everyone will have to become a spokesperson for the organization. And this is a good thing! Every non-profit should train their staff in social media usage, encourage sharing, and be creating content for staff and volunteers to share. Leadership should consider themselves public figures and use their pages as such.
  2. We’ll rely more on our core supporters. We will have to have volunteers, donors, and board members talking about our organizations, our impact, and our need for support. We will need to give them content to share and use our pages to tag them, highlight their good work, and communicate with them.
  3. We will have to WOW our donors and volunteers. We are going to have to think harder about how to get people talking about us beyond just asking people to participate in fundraisers. How can we make thank yous, volunteer experiences, and events “share-worthy?”
  4. We can stop the constant stream of announcements. These changes will force us to think before we post. Rather than getting our reach up by posting frequently, we can think more about engagement. These changes will force non-profits to be more interactive, more conversational, and talk more about and to individuals.
  5. More boosted posts. These changes will make non-profits very strategic about buying ads and very focused on the return on investment of these ads. I’ve seen too many non-profits post content with no call-to-action because social media is “free.” If we need to pay to reach people, we will get very clear on what we want people to do.
  6. We’ll move more people to our email lists. Since social media is becoming an unreliable way to reach people, non-profits will have to find creative ways to get people to sign up for email lists. This is a good thing because email is still the best place to ask for a donation. This will also force non-profits to create better regular communication (ie get rid of that newsletter!).

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