Crafting a Year-End Fundraising Communication Plan

It was great to have so many non-profit professionals join us to talk about communications leading up to year-end fundraising. As I shared during the presentation, your year-end campaign doesn’t start the day your direct mail piece drops or even on Giving Tuesday. It starts weeks in advance with the communications you are sending to your audience. This is called the cultivation phase of the campaign and this is where I see a lot of clients get incredible momentum going into their campaigns.

The cultivation phase of your campaign is where you can lay the groundwork of your campaign messaging, establish the narrative arc and begin introducing stories that will inspire people to donate.

If you weren’t able to attend Vanessa’s presentation, you can view it below!

 

We had some fantastic questions that we weren’t able to get to during the Q&A. Below are a few with my answers and some additional resources to help you prepare for year-end fundraising.

What constitutes a KEY message?

During the webinar I said that the concept of key messages and key messaging can feel a little nebulous so I’m glad this question got asked!

A key message is a focal point that you want to highlight in a fundraising or communication campaign. Most campaigns have anywhere from 1 to 5 key messages. In a fundraising campaign, key messages typically support the reasons for donors to give. You want to keep them simple (a sentence each) and targeted to your target audience.

Key messages don’t need to be used word for word in your campaign. Rather they are for your internal use to ensure that you are consistently on message.

If you want to dive into the basics of key messaging, I highly recommend this post from Nancy Schwartz.

 

How do you determine what content/message is ‘resonating’ with the audience?

This all comes down to research and testing. My mindset about fundraising and communications is that I am always testing and always learning. Everything I send and do is an opportunity to learn more about my audience and what resonates with them.

When I’m working on a pre-campaign communications plan, part of what I want to do during that time is run small tests to see what resonates with the audience. Usually I’m testing 6 to 8 weeks ahead of the campaign.

If you want to dive into audience research, this is my in-depth guide on audience research. And once you have some research and data, you can turn that data into an audience persona.

 

We only have a small group of active donors, I’m always concerned that we may be doing “too much” development communication with the donors…. How to find the balance between informative vs. burdensome?

Finding your communications and fundraising frequency is always a work in progress. One thing to consider, in addition to how frequently you communicate, is the mix of the content. I would look at the last 6 to 12 months of communications and categorize everything into the following categories: cultivation, ask, stewardship, other. See what the breakdown is in your types of communication. Seeing the facts of your communication program may provide you with reassurance or insight moving forward.

I think as development professionals who are hyper-focused on every aspect of the fundraising program, it can be easy to assume that we are over-communicating. While I think it’s good to question if we are, here are two pieces of advice I’ll give you.

1) Do you remember what was in your personal inbox this morning, or last week? We get so much content these days that most people aren’t keeping track of the frequency at which individual senders are communicating. In 11 years of fundraising, I can tell you that there has only been one non-profit sender who caught my attention for this and that was because they sent me 36 emails in the month of December.

2) Allow your donors to have some say in the matter. This is a great question to put on a donor survey. I would ask questions like, “Are you satisfied with the amount of communication you receive from us?” “True or False: I felt thanked and appreciated after my last donation?” and “Agree or Disagree: I understand the impact of my giving to XYZ organization.”

 

Is it reasonable to anticipate and/or expect giving during the pre-campaign messaging? Or is pre-campaign messaging not an appropriate place to make soft asks?

This really comes down to your organization’s preferences about making soft asks. Some are comfortable including soft asks before a campaign kicks off and others want to give donors some breathing space between asks. If you incorporate soft asks in emails or are sending people to your website more often, you may get unsolicited donations during this time. If you’re worried about the ramifications of early asks, you can test it! Include a soft donate call to action in an email or social posts and see what happens.

In my experience, if you are trying to get people engaged it’s good to give them next steps when they are ready for it and not make them wait in case they lose interest. Sure, you can try to control the experience by waiting to ask or making it easier to give (i.e. not having to search high and low for a donation page). Some people will be fired up and ready to donate.

 

Vanessa Chase Lockshin, speaker of our most recent webinar on year-end communications planning, is a consultant specializing in non-profit storytelling, fundraising, and communications She is the author of The Storytelling Non-Profit: A practical guide to telling stories that raise money and awareness, and the creator of immersive online training programs for non-profit professionals. Vanessa’s approach goes beyond strategies and tactics to empower non-profit professionals to be the expert their organization needs. Vanessa has helped clients raise millions of dollars, increase a monthly giving program to over 5,000 donors, improved donor retention rates, create donor stewardship plans, and develop winning digital strategies.

Published: September 13, 2021

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