How Nonprofits Drive Donations During a Recession

As COVID-19 impacts a variety of industries worldwide, nonprofit organizations are among the most heavily affected. The human and economic toll of this pandemic is immeasurable.

With business closures and company layoffs, businesses and community members have less money to contribute to philanthropy.

Social distancing policies and stay-at-home mandates mean in-person events like fundraiser galas and walks/runs are canceled. Nonprofits rely on these sources of contributions to keep their organizations running.

How can nonprofits drive donations during times of economic uncertainty? Campaign Monitor can help.

Communicating with donors

Nonprofits know the importance of fostering strong relationships with their donors. Economic uncertainty is the time to strengthen those ties and lean on donors for support. As you begin to re-evaluate your marketing plan to navigate these hard economic times, you’ll want to determine how your donors prefer to receive messages from you. This is a crucial time for effective communication.

According to a recent study, 41.6% of donors prefer email as their primary form of contact with nonprofits. Additionally, 17% said they want to receive an email from an organization representative.

How donors prefer to hear from nonprofits

Source: Campaign Monitor

Clearly, email is an effective marketing tool for nonprofits and should be used in your communications strategy. It’s a trusted and secure avenue, widely used across all demographics. Its combination of images and text provide an effective tool for telling a story. Whether that story focuses on your charity or the needs you’re meeting with donor funds, these emails help you connect with your audience on a personal level. That kind of connection can lead to more support for your organization.

Your emails can tell a story

Source: Campaign Monitor

Effective email messaging

Now that you know how to reach your audience, the next step is to determine the approach to your messaging. Your organization may indeed be suffering from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. But reaching out with emergency solicitations may not only keep donors from responding; it may turn them off from making future contributions.

Donors view their contributions as investments, and nobody wants to invest in an organization on the brink of financial ruin. They want to feel that their money is being used wisely to help toward long-term success. Here are ways email communications can strengthen your relationship with donors and drive donations during economic uncertainty.

Be transparent.

While you shouldn’t emphasize the ways your organization is suffering, it’s essential to be open about the challenges your nonprofit is facing. Explain to donors why your services are important, especially now, when times are hard for so many. Address strategies you have for moving forward. Outline ways their support can alleviate the vital need created by COVID-19. Thoughtfully explain the urgency involved while informing, inspiring, and finding ways to collaborate as you work toward a solution. Remind them that their funds not only help your organization but help the community you serve.

Be grateful.

Appreciation goes a long way. Research shows that the primary reason donors stopped giving to a charity was that they no longer felt connected to the organization. No matter their level of contribution, all donors need to feel that their generosity is appreciated. There are any number of other ways people could be using their money. When they choose your organization, especially in a time of financial uncertainty, they deserve to be acknowledged.

Personal thank you emails can be achieved in several ways. Highlight a specific example of how donor funds have benefited others. Consider including a brief video portraying ways the donor’s gifts are making a difference. Take a celebratory approach. Rather than simply thanking them, congratulate them for their role in helping to achieve a goal. These kinds of communications help donors feel connected to your organization and increase the likelihood that they’ll contribute in the future.

Personalize congratulatory thank-you emails

Source: Campaign Monitor

Be specific.

Studies show that 68.8% of donors are more likely to give a donation when faced with a specific, compelling need. The economic toll of today’s pandemic may indeed be impacting your organization in several ways. Assess your needs and ask for funds that could be targeted for specific uses. People seem to be more generous when they see how their donations can solve a particular issue.

Asking for a large, seemingly arbitrary amount of money can be overwhelming and off-putting to donors. Those who can’t afford such an amount may disregard the gift entirely, assuming someone with more resources will cover that cost. By assigning a specific amount of money to a certain need, donors see the donation as financially manageable. They’ll understand how far their gift will go and how it’ll help. This can lead to an increase in contributions.

Ask for donors to fill a specific need

Source: Campaign Monitor

Components of an effective email

Email messaging is extremely important. But features that entice contributors to open emails, digest them, and take action are even more important. A compelling story doesn’t do any good if it winds up in people’s trash bins. Consider these components to build a successful email campaign to drive donations to your organization.

Enticing subject lines

Email subject lines with seven words tend to lead to higher click-through rates. With such a small number, you’ll want to choose your words carefully. Replace “donate” with “helping” and “fundraising,” as these resonate better with potential donors. Emphasize importance with words like “now” and “urgent” and reference timelines such as “tomorrow” and “midnight.” These not only give a sense of urgency, but they appeal to a reader who doesn’t want to miss out on an opportunity.

Use the subject line to ask a question. Get people thinking and considering their role and whether they’ll take action to help. Add a personal touch to your message by tailoring the subject line with a reader’s first name. Examples of effective subject lines for nonprofit emails include:

  • You can be a hero for $25
  • We can’t solve {problem} without you, {first name}
  • {First name}, will you help us reach our goal?
  • Donate by midnight to help save lives
  • Your last chance to support {cause}

Manageable content

While it’s important to share your story, people are only willing to invest so much money and time. Convey the need for donor assistance in short paragraphs that are easy to read. Overwhelming text isn’t compelling and can actually serve as a detriment to your cause. Make it personal, appealing, and concise.

Example of concise, manageable content

Source: Really Good Emails

Clear CTA

A CTA is one of the most important elements of your email, as this directs people to make a move. Use direct, simple messaging, so it’s clear what you’re asking of your readers. Appeal to your audience by evoking emotion. Give them a sense of the importance of their contribution and urge them to become involved. Call for an action that relates specifically to your cause. Take the guesswork out of donations and use a CTA that clearly defines the donor’s role. Lastly, the CTA should be prominent and easy to find in your email. Examples of effective CTA for your emails include:

  • Sign up to volunteer
  • Inspire change
  • Support a child
  • Volunteer to plant a rose garden
  • Donate $20

Example of a specific call to action

Source: Eisemann Center for Performing Arts

More ways to succeed

An effective email marketing strategy isn’t the only way to drive donations during COVID-19. Seek assistance beyond financial support. In an economic crisis, there are several ways people can help without spending any money. Ask donors for their advice and help in creating a strategy and inquire whether they can make introductions to other prospects. See how supporters can prepare matching gifts to help drive more donations and determine the strategic plans foundational donors employ when resources are limited. See what advice they can offer to help you position your cause as a priority to others.

It’s a great time to build your online presence. The internet offers a variety of benefits to nonprofits, allowing you to reach a younger target audience and provide followers with more ways to participate in your efforts. By building a social media following and creating compelling content, you’ll engage followers and increase support for your cause. Think about using online video conferencing tools to connect with your audience on a more personal level.

Wrap up

The economic impact of COVID-19 is far reaching and potentially long lasting. As a result, charitable organizations should focus on an effective email campaign to appeal to donors and connect them with your mission. Nonprofits can drive donations during times of economic uncertainty by taking the following actions:

  • Connect with donors through transparent messaging
  • Show gratitude for the offerings of your constituents
  • Be specific in your asks
  • Create emails with strong subject lines, concise content, and a compelling CTA
  • Ask for help from and collaborate with experienced individuals
  • Build an online presence

Reassess your goals, continue to foster relationships with your constituents, and stay the course. Your donors want you to succeed and, with a thoughtfully planned email campaign, they’ll help you survive an economic downturn.

For more information about how we can help your nonprofit with email marketing after COVID-19, contact our sales team today.

The post How Nonprofits Drive Donations During a Recession appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

5 Donor Retention Strategies to Maintain And Grow Your Base

This is a guest post from Adam Weinger at Double the Donation.

If you’re a nonprofit professional, you likely know that it’s more practical and cost-effective to bring back repeat donors than to be on the search for new ones.

This means that boosting your donor retention rate, or the yearly change in the number of returning donors over the previous year, is the key to running a successful and sustainable organization.

But what happens if you’re having a difficult time engaging with your supporters or noticing an increasing level of lapsed donors? How can you re-capture the hearts and gifts of your generous supporters?

Bringing your fundraising campaigns to the digital sphere is one of the most effective ways to both maintain your current donor network and expand outward. More specifically, using appropriate digital resources can provide actionable insights to start improving donor retention at your nonprofit.

So what’s the key? All fruitful donor relations boil down to effective communication processes. Strengthen your donor retention practices with these 5 digital communication strategies:

  1. Build out your email list.
  2. Grab attention from the start.
  3. Take advantage of effective templates.
  4. Implement A/B testing.
  5. Maximize your media presence.

As we walk through this helpful guide to retaining and attracting new donors with boosted donor retention skills, you’ll receive a combination of top tips and key insights that’ll bring your organization to the next level through a solid growing donor base.

Find out what donors and nonprofits said in our nonprofit survey.

1. Build out your email list.

One of the most basic foundations of a solid communication and donor relations strategy is a strong email marketing plan. Of course, the contents of a well-crafted email are essential to the success of the campaign, but the first step is always to start with building a sufficient email network.

Whether you’re building your email list from scratch or starting with a basic group of supporters, you can give a few of these network-building tactics a try. Be sure to gather donor contact information through all available avenues, including:

  • Appealing CTAs: make your CTAs clear and specific, so that users know what’s being asked of them (in this case, just an email address).
  • Event signups: when supporters register for or sign in at a fundraising event hosted by your organization, make sure to add them to your email network.
  • Donation forms: collect contact information from donation forms when a donor makes a gift, then add them to your email list for ongoing communication.
  • Downloadable resources: offer a practical resource, newsletter, report, or guide that’s made available after a user submits an email address.

Once you’ve established a solid band of email contacts, you’re ready to get started with the outreach portion of your campaign.

However, it’s important to note that you should never stop growing your network. Keep adding new contacts at every opportunity to create a dynamic base of supporters.

Explore the email benchmarks for nonprofits here.

2. Grab attention from the start.

The first few emails you send are the key to ensuring a successful email campaign. If your messages are too dry or generic, you run the risk of new supporters clicking that unsubscribe button right from the get-go.

Avoid losing followers with these tips for writing more engaging emails:

  • Send a welcome/introductory message. Don’t ask for donations in your first email. Maybe the recipient has just given recently, or maybe they’re still figuring out who you are. Either way, it’s good practice to send out a “get to know you” message to further engage supporters without soliciting a donation. Share your nonprofit’s background and current goals so supporters can get better acquainted with the organization.
  • Offer unique ways to get involved. Encourage donors to get involved in a unique way that can grab attention right from their inbox. One great way to do this is through promoting matching gift programs. Try using an intriguing subject line like, “Do you want to make your gift go twice as far?” Donors love the idea of making a bigger impact without a greater cost to them. This way, you can garner attention and increase your open rate and, ultimately, donations.
  • Don’t forget to say thank you. One of the greatest cited reasons for donor lapse is the lack of appreciation by the nonprofit. If a donor doesn’t see the impact of their gift or feel valued by the organization, they’re less than likely to ever give again. Be sure to send out a personalized thank you message to your supporters for every donation made.
  • Keep supporters up to date. On a similar note, donors want to know how their money is being used. Keep your supporters in the loop when it comes to updates on projects and programs being established with the help of donor funding. Include photos to most clearly demonstrate the impact that donors make as well.

With these donor relations tips in mind, you’ll be on the right track to growing and maintaining your donor base through a solid email network in no time. The key, of course, is making sure that your supporters understand your appreciation.

3. Take advantage of effective templates.

When crafting your well-thought-out emails, be sure to see what types of resources are available to streamline basic processes. For example, customizable templates can be one of your greatest tools out there.

Download hundreds of tried-and-true email templates from Fundraising Letters and see which ones best fit your organization’s specific fundraising needs.

These email templates include categories such as:

  • Thank you letters: again, don’t forget to thank your supporters. Include the donor’s name, gift, and date as a way to show that you recognize and value each individual donation.Donation request letters: this may be the most traditional example of a fundraising letter. These templates include suggestions on how to leverage an emotional appeal and use storytelling strategies to gather donations.
  • Sponsorship letters: sponsorships are great opportunities to boost your relationships with local businesses within your community by providing good publicity in response to a gift to your organization. Use these letter templates to bargain with potential new partners.
  • Matching gift requests: use these templates to inform donors about the potential for their gift to be matched by their employer and to encourage them to take the next step to find out.

If you find the perfect template, be sure to personalize your message before you send it out. You’ll want to address the recipient by name and cater to their own relationship with your organization. For example, thanking a donor for their specific gift is more meaningful than a blanket thank-you message.

4. Implement A/B testing.

As you begin crafting and sending emails to your valued donors, how can you find out which strategies are working and which aren’t? How do you decide which email marketing tactic is producing the greatest results? Test multiple options and track the results!

This strategy is known as A/B testing and is one of the most effective marketing tactics you can use. A/B testing is almost like a miniature science experiment, but it’s easier than it sounds. With the right tools, you can easily send one variation of a message to one group of supporters, and another variation to a different group.

This way, you can record and analyze email metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to clearly see which variation of a message resonated better with its audience.

For example, maybe you decide to test for the most effective subject line. You can send out two identical emails that vary only by subject. Whichever email has the higher open rate, you can assume has a more effective subject line.

As you collect this data, be sure to recognize effective practices to implement in additional messages as you move forward.

5. Maximize your media presence.

In addition to personalized communication, you can boost donor retention rates with an overall increase in your media presence. Media, both digital and traditional, is essential to getting the word out about your organization and its fundraising efforts on a larger scale.

All media platforms can be divided among the categories of paid, owned, and earned media, although the lines between the three have become increasingly blurred. Be sure to leverage a combination of these mediums for the most successful relations strategies:

  • Paid media involves payment to execute, such as digital advertisements, magazine spreads, billboards, and sponsored social media posts. Because the organization pays to get their specific message out, these are often deemed the least trustworthy.
  • Owned media is the platforms that your organization runs for yourself, such as your social media pages, email campaigns, and your website.
  • Earned media is often deemed the most reliable by audience standards, as they’re the least controlled by the organization in question. This includes word of mouth, public relations efforts, and free publicity.

As you work to make the most of your media platforms, be sure that you have a well-thought-out plan to follow to ensure the greatest results. Click here for a comprehensive guide to crafting an effective nonprofit digital strategy.

Wrap up

Boosting donor retention can be a difficult task, but one that’s so important to running an effective and long-lasting nonprofit organization. Donor retention in the modern age is a heavily digital task, so be sure that you have the right tools for the job to get the best results.

With a solid email network, attention-grabbing messaging tactics, templates, and tools, you’ll be seeing steady growth in your donor network in no time.


Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift tools to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Adam created Double the Donation in order to help nonprofits increase their annual revenue through corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn.

The post 5 Donor Retention Strategies to Maintain And Grow Your Base appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

Giving Tuesday is Almost Here—Is Your Nonprofit Ready?

This guest post is written by Abby Jarvis from Qgiv.

For-profit businesses everywhere are stocking up for Black Friday, but nonprofits are preparing for a different day of spending: Giving Tuesday.

If you work for a nonprofit, you know just how important Giving Tuesday can be, and just how many donations it can generate. In fact, Giving Tuesday hit the billion dollar mark just last year.

This generosity-based holiday falls on December 3rd this year, meaning the time to prepare your nonprofit’s messaging and marketing materials is coming to a close.

Is your organization ready for Giving Tuesday?

If not, you can easily begin informing your donors and followers of your Giving Tuesday plans through email. While this generous holiday may seem top-of-mind for nonprofit employees and volunteers, many members of the general public are still somewhat uninformed.

In fact, significantly less people know about Giving Tuesday when compared to those who are familiar with Black Friday.

That’s why we’re going over four steps you can take to improve your current Giving Tuesday campaign (or plan it last-minute).

Read on to learn how you can give more to Giving Tuesday.

Get ready for Giving Tuesday with these four steps.

1. Introduce donors to your upcoming Giving Tuesday campaign.

If you have an upcoming goal, why not tell your subscribers about it? The more knowledge you equip your donors with regarding your Giving Tuesday campaign, the more likely they are to donate.

In a recent study, we teamed up with Campaign Monitor and surveyed 1,000+ donors; this survey found that a specific, urgent goal with a personal touch can inspire donors to give.

In other words, give your subscribers all the information they need:

  • Tell them about Giving Tuesday: what it is and why it matters
  • Send an urgent campaign with a Giving Tuesday deadline
  • Make it personal by sending from a specific person and telling donors where the money is going

How do you make it urgent, though? Send emails at a consistent (but not annoying) cadence, reminding donors of your upcoming campaign.

Additionally, consider adding a countdown timer or a donation meter to your emails to track the campaign, like North Shore Animal League America does in the email below.

Be ready for Giving Tuesday like North Shore Animal League America.

And don’t forget to use urgent language paired with a compelling CTA.

2. Tell a story donors will care about.

Donors often contribute, either financially or through in-kind donations, without seeing anything in return. This process can be difficult for donors if they don’t know where their money is going.

Because of this, it’s important to make your Giving Tuesday campaign as personal as possible. Not only can you do this through segmenting emails on the backend, but you can also achieve personal campaigns by sharing the story of someone your organization has helped.

When we teamed up with Campaign Monitor and surveyed donors, over 61% wanted to receive stories about how their chosen nonprofits affected real people for the better.

You can see how Amazon Frontlines does this in the email below, showing images of real people and information about how donations are used.

This is a Giving Tuesday email example from Amazon Frontlines. This is part of the Nonprofit email benchmarks guide from Campaign Monitor.

Here are a few ways you can make it personal:

  • Show photos and videos of the people your nonprofit impacted (video increases open rates by up to 13% and conversions by 21%).
  • Share their names, creating an even deeper connection.
  • Tell their stories: where they were before and where they are thanks to donations.
  • If possible, share how your subscribers’ donations specifically impacted the people in the email.

3. Communicate through real members of your organization.

To collect donations on Giving Tuesday, consider sending a letter from nonprofit employees or volunteers. Even better, consider sending a communication directly from the director of the organization.

Our study found donors enjoy hearing from someone specific at the organization, so send a heartfelt plea from a real person. This encourages connection among your subscribers and nonprofit members.

By reaching out through an individual, your nonprofit is no longer an organization looking for donations, but it instead becomes a collection of real people trying to make a real difference.

Notice how the Red Cross email below is sent from Lauri, a real Red Cross advocate who cares deeply about the organization’s mission.

American Red Cross email showing an example of a Giving Tuesday letter from someone important

Here are some ideas of how you might reach out:

  • Include a personalized from name, like “Sam at Nonprofit Today.”
  • Introduce the person and what they do within the first few lines of copy.
  • Explain why the nonprofit is important to them.
  • Include a personal signoff.

4. Show gratitude and include updates.

As with any transaction, send a thank you email immediately to anyone who donated. Additionally, send another email thanking everyone who donated once Giving Tuesday ends.

But that’s not all. Your email should do more than thank donors: It should also explain how much money was raised and what the proceeds will accomplish. If possible, consider including how much money will go to specific steps in the nonprofit project.

Here are the steps you can follow to show gratitude:

  • Send a triggered thank you email any time someone donates.
  • Send a Giving Tuesday gratitude email to all donors once the holiday ends.
  • Tell donors how much money was raised and where the proceeds are going.

Giving Tuesday tips (bonus round)

Want to make this Giving Tuesday a success no matter what? If so, there are a few things you can do.

First, create a marketing calendar that includes each email, social post, webinar, and any other piece of promotional content you plan to publish in preparation for Giving Tuesday.

Qgiv’s 2019 #GivingTuesday Ultimate Guide has a calendar and templates you can use to make Giving Tuesday communication and scheduling a breeze.

Secondly, combine all your content efforts to create a cohesive campaign. This includes social media posts, newsletters, emails, and blog posts. Make sure all your content is working in tandem.

Finally, make sure you’re sending the best emails you can at the right time. To send emails that are best suited to each of your subscribers, make sure you’re personalizing your content, segmenting your campaigns, maintaining healthy list hygiene, and utilizing automation.

To send emails at the right time, familiarize yourself with the best days to send emails. This changes depending on whether you’re looking for high opens, click-throughs, or click-to-open rates.

Learn about nonprofit benchmarks by reading Campaign Monitor’s guide here.

Wrap up

Giving Tuesday is more than just a day for giving: It’s a day of driving awareness, promoting generosity, and uniting behind a singular cause.

If you haven’t started getting ready for Giving Tuesday, it’s not too late. There are plenty of urgent efforts that need your nonprofit and your subscribers.

So, tell your donors about Giving Tuesday and the specific cause you want to support with their help. Get personal, share life-changing stories, and show gratitude every step of the way.

Want to know the secret to getting donations from donors who care? Sign up for the Campaign Monitor + Qgiv webinar here.


Abby Jarvis is the Nonprofit Education Manager at Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

The post Giving Tuesday is Almost Here—Is Your Nonprofit Ready? appeared first on Campaign Monitor.