This post originally was written for Brad Cecil and Associates.
There’s a good chance your organization has some pretty aggressive year-end fundraising goals. And while things are going well, December 31 is looming large and there’s still a ways to go to make your budget. Make sure you optimize you online presence to maximize the donor experience!
This is the most exciting season of the year for nonprofit organizations and it can make an even bigger impact on your annual budget if you employ some last-minute strategies to capture donors’ attention.
We know that online activity significantly increases in December. In a study of our clients’ 2017 Website data, we learned some pretty interesting stuff:
- Website sessions are spread evenly throughout the month of December. Be aware that people are checking you out and doing their research before they make a gift.
- Online sessions that convert to a gift are the highest on the Sunday before the last day of the year and the days following Christmas.
- In the final week of December, a third of all Website sessions turn into a gift.
- Over half of online income for the month of December occurs the week after Christmas and 20 percent occurs on the very last day of the year.
We’ve come up with five easy, last-minute ways that you can capitalize on year-end fundraising…even in the last weeks of December!
#1 Bring a strong year-end email game
Want to know the single best way to generate online gifts the last week of the year? Send email! Not just one, but a series of at least two or three. And there’s nothing like a matching gift challenge to provide extra motivation and urgency to your ask.
Even better…create a special match campaign that only runs for the last week of the year, and be sure to update donors about how close you are to the match goal with each email you send.
The gold standard for send dates is December 28, December 30 and December 31. It’s ok (even encouraged!) to send all of these emails to the same audience, unlike other times of year. And it’s also ok to send more than one email per day the last couple of days of the year.
#2 Don’t Ignore Display Ads
If you haven’t started using digital advertising to your advantage, it’s not too late! For a relatively small investment, you can achieve a significant number of impressions (i.e. eyeballs on your message). The most effective digital ads will entice prospective donors to click through to a landing page that shares a really compelling reason why they should give and why now.
Digital ads are all about becoming top of mind for prospective donors so that when they go to make their year-end charitable contributions, you’re on the list. Most will research your organization online before making their way to your donation form, so don’t panic if you’re not getting people to click straight through from your ad to make a donation.
When it comes to audience selection, you can get pretty specific. You can target in a number of ways, like serving ads to your existing donors, targeting prospects in a specific geographic area, singling out lapsed donors and more. In fact, we’ve found that digital ads are particularly effective at recapturing lapsed donors. In tests we ran comparing lapsed donors who received both direct mail and digital ad impressions vs. direct mail only, we saw a lift in response of up to 48% from the group that received the ads.
#3 Get social
For Brad Cecil & Associates’ clients, Facebook ads in particular have seen significant success in recent years. In fact, data for ads run during the recent Thanksgiving season show really encouraging results…
As an example, a 3 week long ad garnered:
- 97K Impressions
- 33K Reach
- 386 Clicks
- 18 Conversions
We tracked each audience to determine how they individually perform.
Not surprisingly, existing donors to the organization that were uploaded into Facebook performed the best. In this example, a list of 360K uploaded names produced 12K Facebook account matches. Of those, people who are current, active donors performed the best on results.
Second in performance was a list of zip codes that we targeted, which can be placed through Facebook as acquisition. And third were fans of the page – people who already like and follow the organization.
Facebook in particular makes advertising simple and affordable. You can set a budget as low as $5 a day and you can get very specific with your audience selection so you can dial into your best prospects. There are easy to follow guidelines for your creative and posting the ads is a fairly quick and simple process. Just make sure you set up a Facebook Business Manager account for your organization to get started.
#4 Optimize Search Engine Results
Don’t underestimate the power of words! Without spending a dime, you can optimize your search engine results so that when people go looking for a cause like yours…they’ll find you and not someone else.
It’s easy to create keyword-based page titles on your website, use meta tags and strategically incorporate key search phrases throughout your site. Think through any key words or phrases that people would be likely to search and make sure you repeat them frequently on multiple pages! If you have a blog, that’s a great place to incorporate the repeated use of key words…just make sure that if someone comes to your site through the blog that there’s a convenient and easy-to-find donation button in your blog posts that can be used to quickly navigate to your donation form.
#5 Use the Tools in Your (Digital) Toolbox
Is your donation form lengthy? Maybe (gasp!) it requires prospective donors to click through multiple pages before hitting the magical “submit” button? While you may not be able to completely revamp your online giving platform before the end of the year, look for any possible ways to simplify your online gift process. And if you don’t already have a mobile donation form…put it in the budget to develop for next year. It’s worth the effort!
And with so many staff members out of the office to celebrate the holidays at the end of the year, be sure you pay some attention to your gift acknowledgement process before you go. Your best bet is to automate your thank you letters for gifts below a certain size so that the process runs smoothly and donors are thanked promptly. And make sure major gift officers are getting automatic notifications when large gifts are made!
Need more help? Reach out and let’s talk!