Nonprofits make a huge chunk of their revenue during the last few weeks of the year - from Thanksgiving until December 31st at 11:59pm. So the fundraising strategies you employ during year-end should be rock solid. Careful and thoughtful planning is the key to seizing year-end opportunities.

Here are three e-mail tactics that are relatively painless to implement:

1. Engage subscribers before asking for money

The Jane Goodall Institute asked me to vote for their nonprofit in Animal Planet's 2014 Matching Campaign (see image below). They invited me to show my support without pulling out my credit card. In fact, all they asked for was "just one click."

They've engaged me for two reasons:

  • The barrier to entry is low (just one click).
  • The reward from that one click is high (the good feeling from supporting JGI).

By engaging me emotionally first, they increase the likelihood that I'll donate (which I did).

Opens and clicks are gold

This information (opens and clicks) identifies me as someone who's more engaged than, say, subscribers who delete their emails.

JGI can also segment and tag my contact record in their donor database, CRM and e-mail marketing software. Segmenting their e-mails allows them to send the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

2. Turn New Donors Into Salespeople

The best time to ask donors to share your campaign with their friends is right after they make a donation. The good feeling of giving won't last forever, and neither will their attention.

NOT asking is leaving money on the table.

The solution is to ask during and after the donation process:

  1. Create a "thank you" page for new donors. Include call-to-actions for social sharing. You can create a Facebook share with these instructions, and create a Twitter share using Click To Tweet.
  2. Create an e-mail auto-responder that gets sent to new donors, thanking them for their donation (of course) and asking them to share the campaign with their friends.
  3. Reply and respond to comments and tweets about your campaign. Supporting and encouraging these new donors will help retain them.

Again, this strategy kills two birds with one stone: It creates an easy way for you to engage with new donors who are passionate, and also encourages new donors to share your campaign with their friends.

3. Split testing ALL fundraising messages

Imagine if you could get feedback from your subscribers about an e-mail message BEFORE you sent it? What if they could tell you which subject line they prefer, or which call-to-action they'd click?

Well, with split-testing you can.

Split testing (aka A/B testing) is the practice of experimenting with different subject lines, copy, images, etc. The goal of these experiments is to increase open rates and click rates.

For example, consider these two subject lines:

  • "Register for our awesome walkathon"
  • "Don't miss out on the action, John!"

Which one do you think would get more opens? Your choice, no matter how strong your argument, is really just based on your gut. However, split-testing these two subject lines will tell you, based on actual responses, which one is the better subject line.

Split-tests generally follow four steps:

  1. Select 2-3 variations of an element to test, like a subject line.
  2. Use your email software to randomly send test these subject lines with a small percent of your email list, maybe 5-10%.
  3. Send the winning subject line to the rest of your e-mail list.
  4. Check your results (opens, clicks).

Split-testing is the surest ways to increase subscriber engagement over the long haul. It's active listening, but with your e-mail list.

JOHN HAYDON, one of the most sought-after nonprofit digital marketing experts, has a sincere passion for changing the world. He has made presentations for the Nonprofit Technology Conference, New England Federation of Human Societies, Blackbaud's BBCon, Social Media for Nonprofits, AFP New Jersey, and others.

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