Last Minute Tips for #GivingTuesday

I know, I know …we should have started our #GivingTuesday planning many months ago. And most of you have. But there are still a few last-second items you should consider to give your fundraising on December 1 an extra boost.

GivingTuesday Logo

The following are some quick, easy-to-implement tactics for getting the most out of #GivingTuesday:

Map out a strong email schedule

Oh, the dreaded unsubscribe. While it’s true that we don’t want to spam our donors on any channel, let alone email, too many of us are actually sending far too few emails for fear of our donors unsubscribing. But from experience, we’ve seen some of the top performing email programs sending donors, on average, one solicitation per week.

Especially on a day like #GivingTuesday, when the leading nonprofits in your region will be carpet bombing your potential donors, it’s imperative that you have a robust email strategy with several touch points across the day. That doesn’t mean you should be sloppy with your email – content still matters. So what does a good email strategy for #GivingTuesday look like? Here are a few tips:

  • Provide meaningful updates. Do you have a challenge? Keep donors apprised of your progress on a regular basis. Are you raising money for something concrete that impacts a specific person (or profile of a certain type of individual)? Send an email from that person’s personal address with a story about how a donor’s gift improves their life. Make your email about more than just the ask …while also being sure to include an ask. (It is #GivingTuesday, after all)
  • Send emails that redirect your donors and constituents to content on blogs and social media.
  • Let them know when a milestone is reached and thank them for their support in the campaign. Use this a reminder to give if they haven’t already or if they have given, remind them to share on social media and via email to encourage their friends to give.
  • Send more email than you’re comfortable sending. If a recipient is going to unsubscribe because of a #GivingTuesday ask, they probably aren’t going to become a donor anyway. Focus on an email strategy that ensures you hit every potential donor and not on the vocal minority who don’t want to see you in their inbox.

Identify at least 10 online ambassadors

If you already have 10, then find 10 more! The more individuals you have spreading buzz about your cause on #GivingTuesday, the more new donors you will connect with. Go to Twitter, search hashtags that relate to your organization’s mission, and find Twitter users who are including those mission-related hashtags in their posts. Then, analyze the Twitter users’ bios to determine if they have online influence beyond Twitter. If the answer is yes, ask them to be an ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Produce a compelling #GivingTuesday video

According to a recent Georgia Tech study on Kickstarter data, crowdfunding projects with a video perform far better than those without a video. Perhaps even more compelling, a recent Google study found that 57 percent of donors who watch a nonprofit’s video will eventually go on to make a gift to that nonprofit. 57 percent. So yeah, make sure you have a coherent and engaging video to host on your website and share via email and social networks on #GivingTuesday.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder, where clients use the ScaleFunder Crowdfunding module to launch successful #GivingTuesday campaigns.


Email v. Social Media

Email v. Social Media – which deserves more of your time and resources when trying to grow your donor base?

*Quick caveat here: I don’t believe in a one versus the other approach as they’re both crucially important. But in a cash-strapped world where digital content is a must, where should you focus more of your time if you want to expand your reach into segments of new donors? Let’s discuss…

Email versus Social MediaWhen it comes to conversions, email brings in far more fundraising donors and dollars that social media. After all, social media is rarely used as a solicitation channel. Facebook’s “Donate” button has yet to gain significant traction, for example.

But, social media is an incredible awareness tool and the only set of channels where a cause can quickly go viral. That’s probably why, according to this 2013 Georgetown/Waggener Edstrom study, the vast majority of those surveyed said social media is the #1 way they learn of a new cause to support. In fact, social media outpaced email by a rate of about 2 to 1 across all cohorts in the study.

And really, this makes sense when you consider how a person typically interacts with email. It’s two things – either you respond to email, because you have to (for your job) or because you REALLY believe in something. Email is deliberate – the decision to support has already been made in many cases. And according to the aforementioned Georgetown study, it’s likely that decision-making process started as a result of something you viewed on social media.

So, if you’re interested in growing your base, consider beefing up your social media presence by doing the following:

Get active on several major social media networks.

The “must list” of social networks to be active on is somewhat fluid, but Facebook is mandatory. It has, by far, the most users and the most users in the key donor demos of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Plus, despite punditry to the contrary, Millennials are still very active on Facebook, too. You’ll also want to be active on LinkedIn for the prospecting value of the professionally focused social network if nothing else. Instagram is imperative if you want younger donors and students involved.

Train your staff – especially you major gift staff. (Or hire additional staff)

Did you know that 85 percent of all millionaires use social media, text messaging, AND smartphone apps? The more money you have, the more likely it is you’re online and using social media. Be sure you have multiple staff members in every area of focus who can contribute to content production and social media conversation management.

Produce good content on a regular basis.

This doesn’t have to be overly polished content. In fact, some of our crowdfunding data at ScaleFunder suggests a highly-produced piece can actually be detrimental to the success of a fund. (More research needs to be done, but still, interesting to note…) To be effective, content needs to be coherent and connect to the emotions of the audience. Or at a minimum, fulfill a need for the audience. Do that and do it often to provide your donors with a ever-open window into your organization that keeps your mission front and center in their minds, while at the same time, extending your mission to new audiences ready to support your cause.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy with ScaleFunder. In early 2016, Justin will be helping to launch ScaleFunder’s Giving Day module and consulting services to pair with ScaleFunder’s already highly successful Crowdfunding module.

Double Your Fundraising By Asking Donors NOT to Give [STUDY]

Make 2013 the year online giving takes off for your nonprofit.Want to double your online giving results? Simple …just make it easy for your donors not to give.

As counterintuitive as that sounds, a recent study highlighted in this John Haydon blog post tells us that giving donors an option to give and NOT to give actually doubles the likelihood they will donate.

It’s called the “But You Are Free” approach to a giving ask. In other words, along with saying “Please donate by clicking here” you would also want an adjacent button that says “You are free not to give by clicking here.” (The approach worked best face-to-face, but also worked well when done via email)

So NOW what??

From an online giving standpoint, the next logical question is …if someone clicks on the “But you are free not to give” option, where does that link take them? Do you ask them to instead share some content via a social network or email? Ask them to ask their friends to support the cause? …redirect the to a homepage? …or end of story, do nothing at all? I think this makes for a great conversation, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or online at Twitter or LinkedIn.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients build online engagement and fundraising strategies.

Emails That Don’t Ask – Online Fundraising Done Right

When producing an email for donors, the following are a couple tips for grabbing your supporters’ attention:

  • Keep it short.
  • Provide engaging content (like a video or an awesome picture).
  • As often as possible, make it about the donor.
  • Avoid making an ask in every email.

As is often the case, the online team at the Humane Society of the United States provides the blueprint for online communications with this email sent to donors who gave to prevent the Canadian seal slaughter:

HSUS_SealThanksEmailIn addition to the above criteria, this email is personalized, opens nicely on mobile devices, connects easily to leading social networks for sharing, and is upbeat. The last point is not always associated with animal welfare organizations, but the HSUS understands the value in providing hope along with the more horrific reasons why a person should give to their organization. Especially when your cause is a tough one to face on a consistent basis – poverty, illness, child abuse prevention – it’s important to remind donors that their contributions are making the world a better place.

The focus on email is crucial. According to this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece on the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, the share of people who made a gift in response to a fundraising email dropped by 21 percent. The article offers a slew of reasons for the decline, none of which suggest email is dead. If anything, the lower numbers are due to a carpet bomb approach and/or a general lack of good data about the donors behind the email addresses. People do read emails and when the message’s content is done right, they respond positively. The key is being personal and offering users something via email. Make it about them, as opposed to always being about your organization, and engagement with your email audience will grow …which leads to gifts when you do make an ask.

OK, now that you’ve made it through my brief tips/rant on nonprofit emails, here’s a video of cute seal pups:

Justin Ware is a fundraising consultant who specializes in online and social media engagement at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To contact Justin, click here.

3 Tips for Email Fundraising

It might not be the most sexy tool in your online arsenal, but recent success stories suggest email is still a very powerful component of any online fundraising strategy. So how do you take the standard email and turn it into an extraordinary tool for online philanthropy? Below are three tips to consider when building your email solicitation strategy.

  1. A stripped down online giving form makes it easy for donors to support your organization from their smart phones.

    Make it Easy: The same is true for any aspect of online giving – to generate gifts electronically, you have to make the process easy to navigate for your supporters. The general rule of thumb for online giving is to set up a process that requires no more than two steps (clicks) to get to your online giving information form where the donor enters their name, address, credit card info, etc. Is the same true of your email solicitations?

    Also, don’t forget about mobile – do you have an stripped down mobile giving site that makes it easy to make a gift from a smart phone? A lot of your donors will be reading your email from their mobile phone. If you don’t have an easy-to-use mobile giving process set up, you could be losing gifts.

  2. Give Them Something for Opening Your Email: An over-arching theme for your online/social media strategy should be the attempt at delivering value to your supporters through everything you post/share/send. All too often, that focus on value can be lost when an email is sent out. This doesn’t mean you should overcrowd an email with too much content, but make your supporters happy they opened you message by giving them something interesting or “valuable” for their time.
    When we talk about “value,” we’re not necessarily saying you need to give something away (tickets or merchandise, for example). Instead, “value” means something your supporters would find interesting, funny, or moving that relates to your organization. As is often the case, the Humane Society of the United States gives us a great example of providing value in an email with this message containinig a link to their clever infographic on the Canadian seal slaughter…The Humane Society of the United States gives supporters "value" via email with clever infographicsGood content is “valuable” because it reinforces a donor’s decision to support your organization. Can you embed a video into your emails that details how past gifts have helped your further your cause? How about a thank you from your CEO? Every ask online is also an opportunity to share your message about why giving matters. The same is true of your email solicitations.
  3. Build Smart Lists: During a campaign, your email supporters can become your biggest fundraisers either through their own email accounts or on social networks. When developing email lists, separate one for “most frequent donors” or, better yet, “highest Klout scores” (Klout is a method of measuring a person’s influence online). Then, during the campaign, send pre-written text, email, and social network messages to those lists, asking them to copy and paste the messages into texts, emails, and social network updates to their friends. It’s an easy way to build a grassroots campaign, because it takes little effort on your supporters’ parts (they don’t even have to give to boost your fundraising!).

For more tips on email fundraising, check out Blackbaud’s “Raise more money by avoiding “one-size-fits-all” email appeals” and “Click-through rates, compelling links and your end-of-year fundraising appeal“.

And for info on how BWF can help you build a strategy for online fundraising, visit

Florida State Wins Big with 36-hour Online Fundraising Campaign

LogoIn August 2011, BWF had the good fortune of being invited to conduct a social media strategy workshop at The Florida State University. After the workshop, Chad Warren – Director of Annual Giving, set to work applying the principles we established during the workshop. Within a few months, plans were in a place for an online-only giving campaign that would take place over a short period of time – 36 hours, to be exact. Chad and his small team of three, with a budget of less than $10,000, worked hard using social media, email, traditional media (TV, print, radio), and direct mail to promote the 36-hour campaign in the days leading up to and during the event.

The results speak for themselves – $186,000 given by 1,100 different donors during the 36-hour period. Of those 1,100 donors, 380 had never given to FSU before and nearly 90 percent of them had never given online. Chad talks more about how the FSU “Great Give” was conducted in the video below… And about how the successful promotion of the Great Give through digital channels could translate into big savings thanks to no longer having to rely as heavily on traditional, more expensive annual fund tactics like direct mail.