Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies for Year-Round Donations

By Kathryn Hawkins.
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By building comprehensive marketing campaigns that are as robust and data-driven as any ecommerce company’s, you’ll be able to go beyond pulling on heartstrings, and focus on the science of an effective fundraising strategy.

Ecommerce businesses know all about Black Friday and Cyber Monday — but for fundraising professionals, Giving Tuesday is their time to shine.

Giving Tuesday takes place on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year. For fundraising professionals at nonprofit organizations including colleges and churches, Giving Tuesday represents an opportunity to drive sky-high donations to their causes in a single day — often with fundraising drives and matching donations to encourage their donors to give more generously.

Last year’s Giving Tuesday event was a huge success, with a record-breaking $3.1 billion donated in the United States alone.

Donors are primed to open their wallets on Giving Tuesday, but they only have so much to give — and thousands of nonprofit organizations are competing for their dollars. So how can your outreach efforts win donors over — and encourage them to keep giving regularly, even after your big fundraising event has ended?

It’s important to go beyond simply soliciting donations, and focus on an effective nonprofit marketing strategy. By building comprehensive marketing campaigns that are as robust and data-driven as any ecommerce company’s, you’ll be able to go beyond pulling on heartstrings, and focus on the science of an effective fundraising strategy.

Over my years of running a marketing agency, I’ve worked with clients in the fundraising tech space; directly with nonprofit organizations; and with hundreds of B2B tech clients; giving me a unique vantage into what each type of marketing campaign can draw from other industries.

In order to win at fundraising, nonprofit fundraisers should think less like charities and more like successful brands — ones that their donors will flock to over and over again.

Here are some marketing strategies that nonprofits can use to ramp up their fundraising donations, both on the next Giving Tuesday and throughout 2024.

Understand who your donor base is

Before launching any fundraising campaign, it’s important to understand who you’re talking to.

Who are your donors? How old are they? Where do they live? What’s their connection to your cause? How much is each type of donor likely to give, and how often are they likely to make a donation?

Just like buyer personas in for-profit marketing, it’s important to build donor personas, which can help you visualize your target audience segments so that you can easily develop campaigns that meet their unique needs. It’s also important to remember that not all of your potential supporters have excess capital to spare, but that they can support your organization in different ways.

For instance, if you’re a climate change-focused nonprofit, a few of your potential supporter types may be:

  • Sophie the Student
    She’s still buried in student debt, but she’s an intelligent and passionate advocate for your cause. Convince her of the value of the work your organization is doing, and she’ll be first in line to volunteer to raise funds and speak at rallies, and to use her powerful voice on social media to showcase the work your organization is doing.
  • David the Dad
    David is a successful attorney, but he’s worried about the world his children are growing up in and what will be left of it when they’re having children themselves. Target him with the right messaging about your fundraising campaigns, and you’ll be able to cultivate him as a regular donor who can also help your organization tap into a powerful network of his peers.
  • Corporate Carol
    Carol is a savvy executive at an outdoor apparel focused clothing company, who knows that she needs to demonstrate the brand’s commitment to sustainability in manufacturing and minimizing their impact on the earth. She’s looking for the right organizations to partner with for a new clothing line that will give back a portion of proceeds to charity. In order to win her over to your nonprofit, you’ll need to have a polished, data-driven presentation that showcases the impact you have and the ROI of every dollar donated, and she’ll need to understand how your cause aligns with her customers’ passions.

Build a comprehensive nonprofit marketing strategy

Before mapping out your plan for 2024, it’s important to take a deep look back at your past efforts, including your successes and failures. What resonated most with donors, and what campaigns failed to strike a chord? Which types of donors were most likely to donate multiple times, and what channels did they prefer to engage on?

As with for-profit brands, it can be helpful to conduct a comprehensive marketing audit to help you analyze your path to success. Make sure you’re paying attention to all of the metrics that will indicate how well you’re connecting with your target audience, such as follower growth, email subscribers, campaign clicks, etc., rather than focusing on donations alone.

Whether you’re building your first documented strategy, or optimizing an existing one, it’s important to look at ways to build and engage your audience, including:

  • Content marketing and social media marketing
    Are you leveraging social media channels such as TikTok, X, Instagram, and Facebook? What is your strategy for engaging followers and growing your donor base among each of these platforms? What types of content are you sharing, and how is it performing? A robust content marketing strategy for a nonprofit should go where your supporters are: If you have an older donor base that still prefers reading print magazines, a quarterly or monthly newsletter may be a valuable engagement tool. For younger supporters, focusing on mediums like your blog, videos, email newsletter, in-app content, and even a podcast can help you engage your audience with relevant, insightful content that showcases the stories of where their donations go and how they help the community. Charity: water, for instance, uses its blog to showcase the background of their global water projects, such as the fight to restore clean water access in an Ethiopian war zone. Using rich media like editorial journalism, high-quality photographs, and videos in your content marketing efforts can help your nonprofit to showcase the urgency of your project, and show the faces behind the cause.
  • Omnichannel marketing
    Beyond social media, how are you directly engaging with your target audience? Are you focusing on email marketing, or are you also leveraging text message marketing, desktop push notifications, and even the old-school, yet effective, strategy of sending direct mail? Are you spending money on digital marketing campaigns, and if so, what sort of ROI are you targeting? Look at all of your metrics carefully, and pay attention to which channels are helping you drive the highest engagement rates — and more importantly, which ones are most likely to lead to recurring donors. Going forward, you can ramp up your efforts in the channels that are most successful in helping you reach your marketing goals.
  • Live events
    If your geographic base is widely spread, live events may be harder to execute — but for colleges, K-12 schools, churches, and other local groups, hosting several live events each year can be an ideal way to mobilize donors and supporters. The events can range from 5Ks to charity auctions to galas — just focus on who your supporters are and the types of events that are most likely to resonate with them. You might also consider hosting booths at various events in your local region or in your industry — nonprofit groups are often able to secure booth space for free, and such events are a great way to engage with new followers.
  • Partnerships with like-minded businesses
    To increase your organization’s reach and fundraising power, consider reaching out to for-profit businesses that align with your nonprofit’s values and mission. Your collaborators can release special product lines that donate a portion of proceeds to your organization — helping them to drive renewed interest in their brand while raising money for your organization. For example, the sportswear brand Under Armour features the Pride Collection, which supports Unmatched Athlete, WorldPride, and Rainbow Labs — nonprofit groups that all help to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ athletes. These types of partnerships can help introduce your organization to new audiences and draw in new supporters, as well as helping you raise funds through your partners’ product lines.

Create a framework for managing your marketing strategy

To keep your collaborations and fundraising initiatives running smoothly, it's crucial to develop a comprehensive marketing calendar. This calendar should spotlight all upcoming events, content requirements, preparation steps involved, and assign responsibilities to appropriate team members. Start by listing out the important dates for each scheduled event or campaign launch. Next, identify what content needs to be created for each of these milestones. This could include press releases, social media posts, email campaigns or website updates.

Once you've pinpointed these deliverables, break down every task into manageable steps. For example, if you're preparing an email campaign for a new collaboration with a business partner, the steps could include designing the email template, writing the copy, testing the email and scheduling it for delivery.

Assigning responsibility is another key component of your marketing calendar. Make sure each task has someone accountable for its completion. If multiple team members are involved, one person should be able to serve as key stakeholder, collecting all internal feedback and setting up an organized timeline for follow-up steps to ensure that the project is completed quickly.

Next comes resource assessment - ensure that you have everything necessary to support your plans. Make sure that you have the right technology and team members in place to support your marketing goals. Consider leaning on your volunteer network for additional support, knowing that you will need to appoint a staff member to train and manage the volunteer team. Alternatively, consider engaging an external agency who can provide professional assistance in executing your marketing plans efficiently while ensuring high-quality output.

Share your purpose through storytelling

Building any successful brand — whether for-profit or nonprofit — comes down to storytelling.

Create a powerful narrative that shows donors why they should care. Whether you’re sending emails, developing blog content, writing an annual report, making videos, or podcasting, your team should focus on telling the stories of where the money goes, and what impact it has. Whether you’re telling alumni how their donations are being used to build a new sports complex, or encouraging environmentalists to contribute to a campaign to save tree frogs, they should have a visceral sense of why their donation will make a difference.

By getting to the heart of why your cause matters, you’ll be able to build a deeper connection with your donors that goes beyond Giving Tuesday and helps you cultivate a passionate supporter base that’s primed to help with your mission all year long.

Want to build a best-in-class marketing strategy for your nonprofit or business? Get in touch for a free consultation with our founder. 

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.

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