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How to Promote Your Next Giving Day During Your Event


What’s a giving day?

A giving day is a 24-hour giving event that occurs once a year. It focuses on one simple thing: reaching as many supporters and raising as much money as possible in one day. Over the years, giving days have produced many success stories and have raised millions of dollars across industries.

But don’t be fooled: just because a giving day only spans a short time frame does not mean it’s a “set it and forget it” type of event. One important factor in making a giving day successful is promotion, and that includes promotion during the event. You need to encourage donations throughout the entire day, from launch to the set up of your thank you page.

Read on to learn some key ways to promote your event during crunch time!

Have your donors post an “unselfie”

Taking the opposite idea of a selfie, self-promotion, the unselfie was born. Ask your donors to take an “unselfie” holding up a piece of paper with the hashtag #unselfie and the hashtag #givingtuesday or #givingday along with the name of your organization and initiative. An “unselfie” lets your donors use on their social capital for the good of the cause and you can reach out to different constituent groups to keep this flow going throughout the event. 

The “unselfie” is a win-win situation. Your donors will love it because they get to show family and friends what they support, especially if you let them tie it to a cause or campaign of their choice.  Plus, every share is a chance to promote your mission, vision, and impact to people it may not have reached before.


Announce the amount raised & the number of donors who have given

Track and record the amount you’ve raised every hour and the number of people who have helped you raise it on your social media sites, your email blasts, etc. Set milestones and stretch goals in advance to use as triggers for releasing pre-designed materials that reflect your progress and get your community revved up to participate!

Make sure to always reference what goals you’ve hit as well as where you’re headed. Giving donors and potential supporters a goal to move towards should help you keep momentum throughout your event.

If you have a web presence (which we highly recommend), you can show this as a rolling number on your leaderboards that can fluctuate every time a donation is received. These numbers can also be tied to individual stories or campaigns to create a gamification element and a little healthy competition between teams or departments.

Use a Countdown

Do you ever get those “deal ends in [insert certain amount of time here]” emails that stores send out? These emails make you believe that if you don’t jump up and buy something right that second, you’ll miss out forever. This is because the human brain has been trained to be motivated by deadlines.

It’s been proven that people are more likely to take action if they sense urgency or if something requires immediate action. Put this countdown on your main giving page, all your social media accounts and send out an email blast that includes a live timer. Still don’t think countdowns work? Check out some real examples here.

Feature a human interest story on a donor who gave and the reason why

Before your event, line up one or two people you know are advocates for your organization to give and share their story. Put together a short blurb with hero shots that can be shared across emails, your local news outlets or campus affiliates, social media, and any other applicable channels. Make sure you point back to their personal profiles and have set them up to be updating their own narrative as the event progresses.

These stories are a key element in making your giving day more human and personable as well as creating a social proof for giving. Make sure to pick donors that give at amounts that will inspire smaller and larger gifts alike so that you can appeal to donors with use cases that are similar to the monetary impact they’re capable of making. Especially with smaller amounts like $10-$100, it’s critical to show that every penny makes a real difference.

People are motivated by other people but more importantly, they are motivated by people they can relate to.

Make reminder or thank you calls

Picture this, you donate to an organization and soon after you get a real person calling you and genuinely thanking you. Not asking you for more money. Wouldn’t that inspire you to affiliate yourself and support this organization in the future?

Set up a small amount of volunteers to make reminder calls to long-time donors beforehand and then make thank you calls to all who have donated throughout the day. Here are some steps to let donors know you appreciate them.

This simple outreach strategy and omnichannel approach is a major key to creating long-term relationships with donors. The bottom line is: your donors want to know that you care about them as an individual and that they weren’t just a number.


Sign up for our #GivingTuesday Playbook!

Want more in-depth insight on how to plan and execute a successful giving day? The team at Community Funded has put together a killer #GivingTuesday Playbook that covers everything from assembling your team to creating a stewardship plan! The playbook has 8 parts, 3 of which are already LIVE and 5 more that we’ll be releasing through October 11th.  Below is the link to the first section: Assemble Your Team. If you sign up for the whole enchilada we’ll deliver every section right to your inbox.

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Measuring Fundraising Campaign Success

In the world of fundraising, our efforts can often times feel like trial and error.

That’s why the most critical element of success is learning from the past.

Optimizing your efforts will increase results and efficiency overall. This means analyzing your tactics after each campaign to determine what produced results and how you can duplicate that effort. Or, similarly, pinpointing actions that didn’t work or need to be tweaked so you can avoid or refine those strategies on your next go-round.

Measuring success can be especially useful when looking at two successive campaigns on the same subject or in a similar category such as athletics. The parallel nature of these affinity-based campaigns is helpful because you’re appealing to the same community, making it easy to develop targeted outreach to adjust or grow their engagement.  

Allowing the campaigns to play off of each other and measuring overall growth is also an opportunity to pin down what makes these types of targeted fundraisers successful over time.

Whether this is through analyzing overall results and gift sizes, or determining what received the most engagement on social media, measuring your progress and building in repeatability will promote growth and allow you to expand your operations to include more microsite initiatives.

While it can be tricky to know exactly what to measure and how to adjust your tactics, fear not! This blog is a resource on how to successfully grow your efforts.


How to Measure Success

Your campaign is complete and your hard work has paid off! Now comes the fun part- analytics. There are so many moving parts within a campaign that it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what were the most important factors to your success. There are several different areas that are measurable and can help you move the needle in the long-term. When analyzing what worked and what didn’t consider the following areas of your campaign:

Fundraising Success Metrics

  • Cost per dollar raised (CPDR) – Calculates whether or not your organization made gains on the investment you put towards your fundraising.
  • Gifts Secured – How many gifts your organization secured over an allotted period of time. Tracking gifts secured over time is another way of saying you’re tracking donation growth.
  • Fundraising ROI – Your fundraising ROI demonstrates whether or not you have seen value from the money invested in your fundraising efforts by calculating how much money you raised from each dollar you spent.
  • Conversion Rate – Measures how many donors took an action when prompted by your organization.
  • Donation Growth – Tracks your gift secured over a longer span of time to help you make sure you’re meeting your long-term fundraising goals.

Donor Metrics

  • Donor Retention Rate – Allows your organization to track what percentage of donors in your base have given more than once. Try also tracking this metric separately across like campaigns to see if you’re retaining your affinity audience.
  • Donor Growth – Simply tells you how much your donor base has grown (or shrunk) over a determined period.
  • Outreach Rate – Measures how often you’re getting in touch with your donors. Keep in mind the correlation between outreach and retention.

Giving Metrics:

  • Average Gift Size – Measures the percentage by which your average gift size has increased over a certain period of time.
  • Average Major Gift Size – Similar to average gift size but exclusively measures major gift size.
  • Online Giving Percentage – Tells your organization what portion of their overall donations have come from online channels, primarily their online donation page.

Digital Campaign Metrics:

  • Email Conversion Rate – Email conversion tells you how many of your supporters acted on a certain call-to-action, specifically one included in an email
  • Email Opt Out Rate – Measures how many recipients in your list unsubscribed from your email campaign over a certain amount of time.
  • Engagement on Social Media – Measures the public shares, likes and comments for your organization’s social media efforts
  • Social Media ROI – Social media ROI is what you get back from all the time, effort, and resources you commit to social. And it’s best calculated with dollar amounts.

How To Improve

Now that you have delved into (and recorded) your campaign’s analytics, you can apply your findings to upcoming campaigns. Because you have tracked metrics you can now tailor your efforts for a similar or successive campaign. This can be made extremely simple due to the similarities in communities surrounding these two campaigns.

Set Goals:

Your organization’s success is primarily measured by previous campaigns. Your numbers are unique to your efforts. Setting goals and benchmarks for the numbers you hope to see on the metrics listed above is a great way to cater results to your organization.

Correlate Your Metrics:

Understanding how each of these measurements directly or indirectly affect each other will help you strengthen your efforts. For example, if your donor outreach rate is low and by proxy, your retention rate is not where you would like it to be, boost your outreach program.

Research Your Tactics:

Spend some time on some of these resources to dive into additional tactics that can create deeper engagement among everyone in your community:


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Fundraising Relationships & Storytelling: The PERMA Model

What do relationships have to do with storytelling?

As many of you know, we’re in the process of developing the next iteration of our platform. Each month, our entire team comes together for two days of collaboration around a specific element of the overall process (story curation, donating, sharing, competing, engaging, etc.). We bring in guests, including clients and industry experts, to articulate overall challenges and what features would make their day-to-day lives easier. We’ve invited leadership from disruptive companies to join us on-site to challenge us to look at an opportunity through myriad lenses.

We’ve also been fortunate enough to sit down and learn from incredible thought leaders, like Jeni Cross, a Community Sociologist and Associate Professor of Sociology at Colorado State University, who introduced our team to the PERMA model.

The PERMA model was designed by Martin Seligman, one of the founding fathers of positive psychology, and it outlines 5 components of happiness.

P – Positive Emotions
E – Engagement
R – Relationships
M – Meaning
A – Achievement

When these elements are met, when we’re learning, feel as though we’re making a difference, have social connections, are working towards a goal, and can focus on the positive, we are happy. The more of these factors we can check off, the better!

We also know that we feel good when we give.

In a study conducted by researches at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, brain activity was observed in a group of men and women that were given $128 and asked to gift it to a charity or keep it. For those that gave the money away, the same areas of the brain were active that are engaged when we’re eating, having sex, and forming social bonds.  Studies have also linked giving to the physiological reduction of blood pressure, making giving good for our health!

In short, not only does giving feel good, it IS good!

These warm-and-fuzzies are great, but how do we convince someone to get involved so that they reap be benefits of giving?

The answer is: we do it through fascinating storytelling. And where better to learn than from one of the greats?

Lindsay Doran is a film producer that has had her hands in a slew of household favorites: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, This Is Spinal Tap, Ghost, The Naked Gun, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World Is Not Enough, to name a few. She knows how to tell a story! She is also keenly aware of Seligman’s PERMA model and how it can be used to enchant an audience.

If you have the opportunity, watch her TED talk Saving the World Vs Kissing the Girl.

When it comes to the big blockbuster storylines we often think of romantic comedies and action flicks. The weekend box office loves to pit the likes of Mission Impossible: Fallout against Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and see who comes out the victor….action and achievement or the tug of the heart.

What’s particularly interesting is that many of the movies that we think end with a huge accomplishment are actually about relationships.

Take a moment and think: how did Jaws end? Did The Big Lebowski fade out after an epic bowling match? Did Dirty Dancing start the credits after that incredible lift?

Jaws didn’t end with a snarled “Smile you son of a bitch!” and a shower of sharkey remnants, but with Brody and Hooper swimming back to shore chatting on a glorified kickboard. Despite everyone talking about it, we actually never see the action of The Dude competing against Jesus in the semifinals in The Big Lebowski. And even though we all remember the climactic lift, afterward the focus is on Johnny, Baby, and her dad having a heart-to-heart before the credits roll.

These stories are so iconic, not because of the great accomplishments that our heroes achieve, but because of the relationships that are forged along the way.

When it all boils down, it doesn’t matter if your audience is predominantly male or female, old or young, whether you’re captivating the masses in Hollywood or reaching a niche audience for a crowdfunding opportunity. At its foundation, your story should depict a relationship.

The first step in developing a relational story is to create a character.

For some stories, this is easy. Maybe you have a person who has had a transformative experience and they’re trying to bring support or resources to others. You might be raising funds for a memorial scholarship and want to continue the legacy of the person who has passed. For other stories, this is really tricky!

How do you create a character to raise funds for seats in a theater or to combat a goliath problem like food insecurity or safety? You give it a singular voice.

Why a singular voice when a problem like hunger or assault impacts so many? Won’t people feel more motivated to act when they know that their help will be felt by many as opposed to only one?


Don’t believe me? We’re going to run a quick experiment.

I want you to visualize an amount of money equal to $1. Picture it in your mind.

**Pause until you’ve imagined it**

Were you thinking about a dollar bill, 4 quarters, 10 dimes, or 100 pennies? Most people think of the single dollar bill.  It’s easier for us to visualize, understand, and connect with a singular object than many.

We grow numb when we look at large numbers. We don’t think our contribution will make a dent in the problem. We become apathetic and decide inaction is the same as (what we believe to be) ineffective or insufficient action, and we do nothing.

Make the problem out to be too big and you’ll lose your audience to the inaction of the overwhelmed.

That’s why it’s important to tell the story from a single character (with a face and a name) with a single voice (not a group, whole club, or a team).

Now that you have a character, it’s time to choose a storyline.

Is this person on a quest to get to something special? Is there a monster that they’re trying to overcome? Did this person go through a life transformation? Is there an immediate crisis? These are some of the most time-tested storylines that your character can follow.

If your storyline starts drifting towards referencing an achievement or accomplishment, that’s okay! We see that in all of the stories we referenced earlier: the dangerous shark was thwarted, bowling balls rolled, and people danced, but these adventures were wrapped around a relationship.

Here are a couple real-life examples we’ve seen in the past:

  • When raising funds for theater seats, the story could be told from the perspective of a student who struggled finding their voice until they were able to use it on stage. Their story could also be framed by showing that the theater department is what allowed this person to find their tribe and thrive at the school.
  • When talking about food insecurity, the story can be told by someone who experienced the anxiety, isolation, loneliness, etc. that can come with the problem of not having enough to eat or to be able to join in the social aspect of having meals with others. The next step in this narrative is showing how that problem was relieved through a sponsored meal plan or access to a pantry.
  • To raise funds to support advocacy groups, awareness, and safety officers, you can tell the story from the voice of someone for whom the current system wasn’t enough. How have they been impacted? How have they been affected by the counselors, advocates, and support groups that are available?

Remember, we see deep relationships with friends, colleagues, and family members told in stories as often as we do romances. It’s the support that you want to illustrate.

The final step for a resonant story is to tell your audience how that person, or someone like them, will benefit from support.

Be specific. Tell people what a gift of $25, $50, or $100 can do to make an impact. Tell them exactly where to click to donate and how to share your story. Be clear about your plan for using the gifts and provide updates to your supporters as milestones are reached and funds are spent.

Thank your donors lavishly and keep them up to date on the project; they want to hear that there was a happy ending!

There are some stories that stand the test of time while others are easily forgotten.  In a veritable flurry of digital noise, use your authentic, personal, relatable stories to rise above the din so that you can bring your passion, compassion, and excitement to a world that needs some more happiness.

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5 Online Fundraising Trends for 2019 You Should Jump On Now

A New Generation of Donors

The next generation of donors is coming. Sure, Millennials have been a hot topic for fundraisers for years but the older members of Gen Z have recently begun entering college and the workforce. Gen Z now makes up 27% of the population and 30% have already donated to an organization. This number is expected to increase exponentially in the next few years.

The difference in outreach strategies between millennials and Gen Z-ers might not be clear at first, but there are two major differences. 

First, mobile-friendly content is more important than ever. While millennials have increased their average use of mobile devices, Gen Z is the first mobile-only generation, preferring to conduct all online activity through their phone. This means mobile optimized giving pages and forms are the only way to convert these donors.

Second, Gen Z is much more likely to undertake volunteer experiences as a way to build their resume. Over 70 percent of high schoolers are interested in volunteering. Your nonprofit can take advantage of this trend by involving Gen Z’s in your community in fundraising activities as social ambassadors or event volunteers to encourage an affinity early.

Next Steps: Make sure you’re assessing your average donor often to adjust targeting when younger populations begin entering your pipeline. Collect and analyze donor data and adjust your fundraising activity as needed. When moving into the next year, follow some of these tips to reach out to Gen Z in a way that will get results.


A Shift in Social Media Usage

People share a majority of campaigns with family and friends through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but social usage could be on the decline next year. Within the last decade, social media has been used at an obsessive rate. This has brought up many issues in mental health that have spurred a discussion within the organizations of social platform and internet providers.

Facebook and Instagram have rolled out new time-management tools to help users take breaks from social activity and disconnect. Google also recently introduced a Digital Wellbeing app designed to help users track and monitor the time they spend on specific apps and online overall to encourage healthy habits.

Next Steps: Don’t focus all your campaign efforts entirely on your social media platforms. Branch out by asking a donor to share their version of your nonprofit story through emails, in-person or even on personal pages or appeals embedded on your campaigns. Use this resource to take an omnichannel approach to your online fundraising.

An Increase in Video Engagement

Social media and digital donors are much more interested in watching content than reading it. It’s no surprise that video content is now the most popular form of online content and is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. These statistics have shown how much of an impact switching some content from text to video can have on an increase in organic traffic and overall engagement.

Studies show that viewers absorb 95% of a message when in video form compared to a low 10% when formatted as plain text.

Next Steps: Replace that paragraph you’re about to write with an embedded video and use smaller amounts of texts to keep your audience engaged. Keep your videos an average of 2 minutes long to receive the most engagement from your audience and use these free resources to help you easily develop compelling video content.


Email: It’s Baaaack

Some good news: email is not dead! Now is the time to increase your email fundraising efforts as the channel has reemerged as a trusted source of communication.

Rumors that email isn’t a practical way to gain donations have been circulating for the last few years, but statistics don’t lie. A study done by Dunham & Company revealed that email accounts for 26% of online revenue and that the number is estimated to rise in the near future. While only 6% of donors were willing to donate through email in 2012, that number rose to 28% in 2018.

In just 6 years people have begun to trust email as a part of their philanthropic endeavors, and this trust will grow moving forward.

Next Steps: Make sure you don’t focus solely on managing your email output but you take a look at response rates as well. Use these fundraising email best practices as a guide to high response rates.

A Focus on Monthly Giving

There was a dramatic increase in recurring monthly donations last year and that trend is continuing into late 2018 and 2019.

Why are monthly givers so important? When a donor gives on a monthly basis it not only increases their long-term value, but they stay on file longer allowing you to discover secondary affinities and promote more giving opportunities. Monthly donors are also more likely to give larger amounts over time because monthly payments make it more manageable compared to large one-time gifts. 

Next Steps: Feature re-curring giving options on the main donation page and create a campaign featuring individuals who are monthly givers and the impact they drive. This will help create a value proposition for those in your community who might be on the cusp of a time-focused commitment. Check out these tips for more ways to create and keep monthly donors.

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How to Build (and Keep!) Your Volunteer and Ambassador Network

It can be hard to find people who are as invested in your cause as you are. You might already have a team at your back, but good crowdfunding needs more than that—it needs a crowd.

The best way to build your network is by reaching out to other people and asking your associates to do the same. It’s not rocket science, but it does require a different strategy than asking for monetary donations. When seeking donations, you’ll likely see a boost if you ask for their time before you ask for money, but you don’t want to treat volunteering as just the next best option. The Time-Ask Effect is more than a foot-in-the-door or door-in-the-face strategy; it hinges on emotional connection and personal involvement.

Those who support your cause and organization, who have contributed in the past, stood with you, and spread the word, are your core base when it comes to building your volunteer and ambassador network. It requires less work on your part to convince existing supporters of the importance of your cause, and they can do some of the work of expansion for you, reaching out to their own people.

Asking outright is one of the easiest and most underrated ways to secure volunteers. Even tweaking your word choice from “We need volunteers” to “Will you volunteer?” can make a call to action feel more personal and have noticeable results, though you should still follow up with a direct ask if possible. The same goes for asking people to spread the word. People want to feel like you need them specifically, not just a body to fill a position.

Once you have people involved, though, how do you keep them invested? Check out these six dos and one major don’t for maintaining a strong, active, andgrowing volunteer and ambassador network.


Find the Influencers

Influencers are the makers and breakers of trends and appeal. Wouldn’t it be nice if volunteerism and philanthropy, particularly for your organization, sparked that kind of interest? An endorsement from someone with a solid following can only help you. Consider whether you have access to people like this in your network. A notable alumni, donor, or recipient of your efforts can advocate for your organization.

Keep in mind, though, that influencers aren’t limited to public figures and social media gurus. Everyone has that friend who ropes them into events and projects. Take note of charismatic people in your network and ask them to help with your recruiting efforts.

We read reviews of movies, books, and products because we tend to trust people’s experiences more than we trust a company touting their own product or service. Similarly, a direct ask or recommendation from a trusted friend, family member, coworker, or teammate can go a long way. Besides, it’s fun to volunteer with friends. When an ambassador shares their positive experience, their friends, in turn, can become ambassadors, and the circle grows.

Have Resources Ready

Volunteers and ambassadors might be doing some of your recruitment for you, but they can’t do all of the legwork. Make sure you have a clear and simple way for people to sign up to help, and let them know what volunteering entails. Volunteers are neither obligated nor paid to work with your group, and if signing up means navigating a convoluted portal or a scavenger hunt of links and information, you risk turning people off.

When it comes to spreading the word, social media is a powerful resource in multiple ways. It’s a good idea to have boilerplate copy prepared so that people can easily share your message across their own platforms, but you can also extend your reach by posting content that people want to share. Success stories, fun pictures or graphics, and videos can generate interest on their own, and can be circulated easily and substantially. Have content available that is exciting, informative, and easy to share to ensure that each post has the greatest impact.


Provide Quick, Accurate Information

Be very clear about what purpose your organization serves. You don’t want to build a network of ambassadors only to have them spreading incorrect information. Avoid phrasing that is misleading or could be misconstrued. Present it clearly on your website, as well as on your social media if it’s concise enough for you various platforms. By providing accessible information that doesn’t require people to go digging, you’ll streamline communication with new potential donors or volunteers and reduce any possible confusion about what exactly it is they’ll support by helping your organization.

This is also true for your calls for volunteers. Be creative but direct in describing the positions you need filled. Some jobs are more fun than others, some more time-consuming, some more labor-intensive, but all are valuable and important to the success of your project. Let people know what a particular volunteer position requires of them and you’ll minimize the risk that they’ll feel duped or underutilized and back out.


Offer Options

There is no one-size-fits-all volunteer, so you shouldn’t have only one-size-fits-all volunteer positions. By listing specific needs and several options, you’ll appear focused and organized and will appeal to people who might be able to commit at different levels.

Is a volunteer interested in a longer, more invested position? Let them know if you have any committees that need assistance. Can they only help for one day? Direct them toward positions like event set-up or registration. Maybe they’re busy the day of your event, or live out of town? Ask them to make calls or write notes to thank donors.

Saying thank you can be done pretty much anywhere and make a huge difference in the continued commitment of your donors and volunteers. While you don’t necessarily have to personalize every thank you, humanizing the communication can help. A line of handwriting at the bottom of a typed letter or a phone conversation with an actual human shows that there are real people and real impacts behind the work. If you have a smaller team, volunteers can help fulfill this important step and add their own stories of positive experiences with your organization.


Keep It Coming

If the bulk of your fundraising is tied to one annual event, or even a small handful or events, don’t let your volunteers fall off the radar in the meantime. Let them know how they can help year-round and start sharing information about the next opportunity soon after one ends. If there’s another event coming up, make sure it’s on their calendars.

If you only reach out to people when you need them for something major, they know they’re being used. It doesn’t feel good to only be recognized when it’s convenient. Let your volunteers and ambassadors know that they’re appreciated and stay in touch between events through updates, planning, and other opportunities to be involved. Such communication makes them feel important and keeps you on their minds, combining morale boosts with publicity.


Encourage Creativity

You probably have a vision for your event and fundraising efforts, but that doesn’t mean your vision is the only one. While you shouldn’t sacrifice plans you’ve made, your volunteers and ambassadors can bring a lot to the table and might have a way to attract people that you hadn’t considered. You can integrate these ideas beyond your main event, as well.

Take, for example, Relay for Life, and similar fundraising models. Though volunteers and fundraisers all contribute to the same organization, each event is organized separately and by different people, leading to different activities and projects at each incarnation. Furthermore, individual teams for each event might come up with their own fundraising strategies. There have been successes in everything from bake sales to dodgeball tournaments to challenges issued between friends.

If someone approaches you with an idea for your fundraising, think about how you could integrate it. Maybe that means adding it to your existing plans, but maybe it means employing it somewhere other than the main event. Just as you might be the most invested person for your project, an enthusiastic, idea-driven volunteer will be enthusiastic about theirs, which in this case can work toward your efforts. If an idea seems ineffective or contrary to your efforts, try to at least have a conversation about why it might be a poor fit and how it could be adapted. People’s ideas can be as valuable as their time, and they deserve at least that much respect.


Don’t Shut Them Out

Like we mentioned before, volunteers and ambassadors don’t owe you anything and have devoted their time and energy to your organization out of their own goodwill. Sometimes you’ll find that people are looking for a low-level commitment, and sometimes that’s useful at the moment for an event. The most valuable people in your network, however, are more likely to be invested in your cause and your organization. These are the people who want to be involved, help your team’s leadership, and further your cause.

If they get burned enough, even the best people will stop coming back.

Keep those connections strong by being open in your communication, both by sharing progress and appreciation and by expressing a willingness to listen. Not only might they see opportunities you missed, but they might see problems as well. Your network can serve as a sounding board if you are open to the feedback, which can lead to stronger initiatives and relationships in the future.

You want to make it easy for people to get involved, but you should also want to make it pleasant to stay involved. Volunteers and ambassadors can be the backbone of your organization. Treat them as such, and you’ll ensure that they stick around.

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Student-Athletes & Giving Days: The Missing Piece

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Building a Better Narrative: Powerful Storytelling for Your Online Fundraising

People have been sharing stories since before they had words to tell them. Today, it remains one of the main ways we communicate. Whether it’s as formal as journalism or novels, or as casual as chatting with friends, the tales we tell help construct our world and our world view.

Some stories, however, have greater staying power. When it comes to telling the story of your organization or cause, you want to catch people’s attention in a way that inspires them to act, as well as in a way that makes them remember you in the future. Be deliberate in your storytelling.

For the best results, you need to be mindful of the various elements of your story and how they come together.

The Building Blocks

The Characters

Most good stories have at least one character. Sometimes plot is driven more by that character’s development than any sense of dramatic action. While you want to make sure your organization’s action is driving the plot of your story, don’t forget to spend time with the characters who create and are helped by that action.

There are three characters, or three types of characters, in this story.

Character #1 is your organization. Even though you’re a collective of people, your group functions as one entity. You have common goals and values that help define your organization and the work you do. Your group has a unique flavor to it—a personality, if you will. Make sure your organization’s personality shines in your story, as people connect with shared values and like-minded people. Highlight the actions you’ve taken and those you plan to take to continue the story, but don’t make it all about you at the expense of the other people involved.

Character #2 is your recipient. It might be helpful to have a few individuals’ stories here. People have a hard time connecting with large numbers of people, and while the members of your organization function as one entity, your recipients can all too easily become statistics. Keep these people feeling like individuals in order to best communicate the emotional experience and importance of your work.

Character #3 is your donor. Prospective donors might not have contributed yet, but they have a lot of power in your story and can help determine your success. Make them feel like they’re a part of your story with specific impacts, not as a feel-good move, but because they actually are. By detailing what specific benefits could arise from their contribution, you offer them an entrance point to becoming part of your story, a bit like a choose your own adventure book. They can choose to act and become part of the narrative, or they can choose not to. You know which choice to encourage. 

The Setting

Every story happens somewhere, and yours takes place both where the project is as well as where the donors are. While you don’t necessarily have to write both into your narrative, they can help you move the story in different directions. Emphasizing place differently depending on your cause and donor base can actually change the path of the story itself.

The most important setting in your narrative is the location of your recipient. This is probably the same as your organization’s location unless you’re fundraising for a distant project or a national cause. Just as the characters in your story should be relatable, the setting should feel concrete.

In Penn State’s Birding Cup fundraiser, the funds specifically benefit Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. The description of the annual fundraising tournament lists several of the surrounding counties and communities that benefit from the center’s programming, as well as describing different levels of competition based on region and range. They also explain what part of the center will be receiving funds from this year’s competition; in this case, the raptor enclosures need remodeling and are shown next to a map of the center.

The setting almost is a character in this case. Whether you have humans, animals, or an organization as the characters benefiting from your efforts, the location can be just as vital for a specific project and should be valued accordingly in your storytelling.

One other factor to note in Penn State’s case is the location of its donor base. Those who physically participate in the tournament are probably locals. This is their home, so they have a vested interest in the success of the region. Similarly, many of the donors list central Pennsylvania cities as their homes. Even if they aren’t birders actively participating in the event, they are drawn in by the locality. How, then, do we explain those donors who listed cities as far as Texas, California, and Hawaii? They might have once lived near Penn State, but they might have been drawn in through other means.

While local donors are easier to reach, don’t discount more distant people. Alumni, former community members, friends, and family may be spread out, but the region your fundraising will benefit was once very important to them and probably still is. Bring them back to this space through your marketing and storytelling and remind them of the value they gained from it. They don’t have to be physically in your location to be connected to it.

The Problem

It can be hard to name conflict, but the tension that it brings drives your narrative. Traditional narrative conflicts include man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, and others, although not all conflicts or problems fit into these categories. You don’t need to have a villain in your story and you don’t need to classify your conflict, but you do need obstacles in order to create the stakes that will drive people to donate.

What is the conflict your organization faces? What problem are you trying to solve? Your fundraising might be a good solution, but you need to make it clear that a solution is in fact needed. Maybe you’re working toward new lab equipment, repairs to a building damaged in a storm, or transportation to an important event. Maybe you’re working with a more widespread or abstract problem, like health or hunger.

Whatever your obstacle and goal may be, name them and describe how you will conquer them. Include enough tension to demonstrate need, but enough optimism to keep things from feeling futile.

The Framework

Plot Arc

Also known as a plot mountain or Freytag’s pyramid, this is the basic structure you probably learned about in a high school English class. It consists of the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. 

When telling your story, frame your organization as poised at the climax, ready to take action. You’re so close to solving your conflict—you just need that little extra push! This has the effect of creating momentum, while also maintaining a sense of urgency. The story isn’t finished yet, and it’s up to the donors to contribute to the most exciting moment of action.

This could be a good place to reference previous successes and completed stories if you have projects that are episodic in nature. You’ll get to showcase a history of your organization’s accomplishments while reminding people that your work is not done. Balance the struggle with the success to keep people involved and emotionally invested.

Texas State University’s fundraiser for radiocarbon dating for the Eagle Cave archaeological site told a story that positioned the team at a critical juncture in their narrative. Exposition: they provide context about their work, progress, and process, and why it is historically important. Rising action: their description details a project with three years’ momentum and no sign of slowing when it comes to having material to analyze, but there is not enough funding to process that material. The samples they have collected are meticulously catalogued and ready to be dated as soon as they can secure the funds to do so. Climax: their goal is funded and they can move forward with the next phase of radiocarbon dating.

Because they divided the project into phases, there is a goal against which to measure their success. They’re looking to fund a defined section of a larger project with limits that make a massive effort seem more achievable. Because they have a collection of samples already prepared, they can look forward to the next phase as well, and do so by listing it as a stretch goal should they meet and exceed their original. They are at the precipice for this piece, but do not close the door on possible future fundraising for this project. Still, they make sure to follow through to the conclusion of the episode by sharing updates on their research rather than leaving their donors hanging.

If you’re unsure of how to frame the plot of your narrative, there are a number of tried and true plot archetypes that tend to work well in fundraising scenarios. One of these models, if it fits your organization or an individual recipient’s story, can be a nice base from which to build.


In today’s fast-paced, media-heavy world, there are a lot of things to pay attention to and not necessarily a lot of time to devote to any one thing. Flash prose, which generally tells a complete story in 500-1500 words, is rapidly growing in popularity for just this reason. It requires a relatively small attention span and very little time to read.

The big takeaway from these little stories is to keep things concise and interesting. Tell as much of your story as you can as briefly as you can to grab people’s attention and keep them coming back for more information. You can tell multiple stories from different individuals, but make sure that they’re focused and work well together to strengthen your broader narrative.


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The Power of Psychology: Tips for Your Fundraising

In the animal kingdom, altruism is considered a Darwinian puzzle—it makes no sense to spend your own resources to help an unrelated party. The more distantly the recipient is related to the giver, the less likely altruism is supposed to occur. However, humans have built and run numerous organizations with donated funds, time, and effort, many of which help people who the donors will never meet.

It feels good to do good, but why do people give, and how do they decide who to give to, how much, and how often?

Here are some tips on the psychology of fundraising and how to maximize your fundraising efforts:

Be Relatable

It might be cliché to say that birds of a feather flock together, but it’s true. People tend to gravitate toward their “in-group,” associating with people in whom they see themselves reflected. These connections don’t have to be major, though; the Minimal Group Paradigm explains that people actually require very little information to forge these types of connections. Similarities can include anything from gender and race to vocation and hobbies.

What does this mean for your fundraising? The more detail you can provide about who your organization benefits, the better chance you have of connecting with donors. Create a relatable narrative for your organization and beneficiaries that focuses on who you are and who it is exactly that you serve, the more specific and vivid the better. Generic details are far less likely to have real staying power—and you want to be remembered. To avoid getting overwhelmed, don’t get caught up in sharing your beneficiaries’ complete life stories; just concentrate on the connections that make them feel human.

Another way to build in-group connections is to offer ways to donate specifically to subsections of larger initiatives. Alumni, students, faculty, and staff are a built-in audience due to their close connection with your institution. Their friends and families likewise share that connection, although one step removed. The wider the circle is cast, the less connected people might be.

By breaking up funds to focus on specific initiatives like women’s leadership, study abroad, or a theater production, you might be able to draw people who are less specifically tied to your institution. Furthermore, this helps people feel secure in the knowledge that their contribution will make a specific, tangible difference. It can be more compelling to contribute to a landmark initiative, new program, or rebuilding effort than to the institution at large, where donors would be left unsure of what specifically they helped fund.

Ultimately, building in relatability and scope means building a stronger relationship with supporters.

Humanize Your Need

Building a relationship with your donors might also mean having an individual be the face, or a face, of your organization. People connect with people, not statistics. While your efforts may benefit thousands, it helps to concentrate on the stories of a few to help you avoid two common pitfalls: psychic numbing and the Identifiable Victim Effect.

In a fundraising context, psychic numbing is a phenomenon where potential donors are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of people presented as needing help, leaving them feeling emotionally uninvested and powerless to make an impact. The Identifiable Victim Effect refers to people’s tendency to offer greater aid when a specific, identifiable person or group is observed under hardship, as compared to a large, vaguely defined community with the same need.

What does this mean for your fundraising? Focusing in and following the beginning-to-end journey of a single person is a better representation of your efforts than trying to describe how many people are affected. For instance, when fundraising for students facing financial hardship, showcase a specific recipient of a scholarship you’re trying to fund and continue the story with their accomplishments after receiving aid.

Prime Your Ask

People are more likely to give to an organization they feel connected to, or when asked by someone with a personal connection to the cause, but they are also more likely to give when asked in a way that makes them think emotionally rather than analytically.

What does this mean for your fundraising? If you have a volunteer program, consider asking for time before asking for monetary donations. While volunteers may not further fundraising goals in the monetary sense, people are more likely to give when primed to think about time, which recalls emotional responses tied to experiences, rather than money, which brings out the analytical side of the brain.

Remember, cultivating an emotional response over an analytical one results in greater generosity. By asking for someone’s time, you’re telling them that your cause has an emotional resonance. You also trigger thoughts of personal emotional wellness and happiness. On the other hand, asking for money creates a utilitarian, rational mindset. While giving has been linked to increased happiness, people don’t often think in those terms when thinking analytically.

It’s best to make the ask quickly after provoking an emotional response, as fresher emotions register as more significant. Moreover, saying yes to one ask makes them more likely to say yes again in the future. Volunteer work can be recurring, just as giving can, and may result in volunteers donating and fundraising for your organization as well. Even signing up for an email list can be the first step toward building a strong sense of commitment to an organization or cause.

Interestingly enough, people also tend to engage more when an ask calls for them to be active or even in pain. This is called the Martyrdom Effect. The popularity of races, endurance tasks, and trends like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge demonstrate people’s desire for activity or even self-sacrifice. People who do something rather than just donating also tend to give more, suggesting that they want to have a more active role. It feels more engaging and satisfying to have to expend effort beyond writing a check or swiping a card, boosting that feeling of meaningful personal investment and involvement.

What does this mean for your fundraising? Hosting large events like races or relays can be costly, but can also result in substantially higher donations. If such an event isn’t feasible for your organization, you can also involve people and satisfy their desire to play an active role by allowing them to help determine how funds are allocated. Offering a subset of funds to choose from might be one way to do this.

Focus on a Single Message

Everyone comes to a cause with different motivations. Although we can generalize that people are more likely to connect to stories, some people prefer statistics. Some might give purely because they believe in your cause, while others might give for more incentivized reasons. Knowing what we do about how people connect to in-groups and are motivated differently, it might be tempting to present many tailored stories and describe a variety of benefits in an attempt to draw in a wider range of people.

Don’t fall into that trap.

With too many variations you’ll send mixed signals. It can be good to incorporate stories and statistics together, but too many messages framed in different ways can come across as unfocused. Conversely, using the same pieces over and over again to market your fundraising can make people tune out.

What does this mean for your fundraising? For the best results, pull together a variety of pieces that tell a single narrative about your cause, even if it constructs that narrative using stories from several individuals. Most importantly, keep your values consistent. Specifically, consider whether you want to emphasize egoistic or altruistic values when framing your ask. If you emphasize the benefits for donors, focus only on an egoistic rationale. If emphasizing benefits for the organization, focus on an altruistic rationale.

People want to identify with individuals, but they also want to share values with your organization. A conflict of interest or conflicting message on this point could lead to fewer or lower donations. Moreover, when people receive messages about how wonderful and deserving your organization is but also about how donating to you will make them look and feel good, they know they are being manipulated and are more likely to withdraw. You could instead reach more people by distributing a focused campaign through a variety of channels that appeal to different demographics.

Motivate the Final Countdown

People love to be part of a winning effort. With the end in sight, success feels more tangible. More likely than not, you’ll have an easier time attracting donors when your goal is close to being reached. This is known as the goal proximity effect.

What does this mean for your fundraising? You need to build momentum to get close enough to your goal for the goal proximity effect to kick in. In the very early stages of your fundraising campaign, seek donors who you know will contribute and advocate for your organization. If they’ve been devoted to your cause in the past, odds are that they still will be. They can help with the early lead that will demonstrate to less devoted donors or people who have never previously donated that this effort is worthwhile and will be successful.

Furthermore, smaller benchmark goals can have a similar effect in energizing people. Set tiers of goals to capitalize on momentum again and again, rather than leaving opportunities on the table. If you have larger donors lined up, consider adding goal levels to unlock those contributions, perhaps in the form of matching contributions or a bonus gift.

You might also have two sets of goals running concurrently, emphasizing funds raised in one series and the number of donors in the other. This can be tricky to balance, as you don’t necessarily want a high volume of lower level donors, but every donation does push you closer to your goal. By focusing at least in part on participation, you emphasize that every contribution makes a difference. You might even draw a wider circle as participants reach out to their own networks for your cause to ensure that a goal they contributed to is met.

No matter how many tiered goals you set leading up to your ultimate goal, make sure that you have a reachable goal, or several, in mind. The goal proximity effect only helps build momentum until that end is reached, but why shouldn’t you exceed expectations? Contributing when the goal has already been accomplished feels less imperative, so try to keep pushing forward.

Be careful to frame these new goals in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re moving the finish line. No one wants to have successes taken away, and a donor who feels slighted or cheated may be less likely to come back. Instead, detail the ways your reach goal will have an effect beyond your core fundraising efforts. Maybe meeting a particular reach will enable a new scholarship, building, or program, or perhaps it will let you add an important service to the work you’re already doing.

Be specific to motivate these benchmarks just as you would be specific in explaining the benefit of helping early on.

End on a Personal Note

Thanking contributors is one of the simplest, most effective ways to express appreciation, and can encourage donors to come back for future campaigns or projects. This can build confidence and momentum toward the next project, but it has also been shown to actually boost donations. Being able to point to something specific that their contribution helped accomplish raises confidence and satisfaction among contributors. That donor satisfaction is incredibly important; it’s a personal benefit for the donor that will likely result in higher or repeated donations for your organization.

What does this mean for your fundraising? As with the other stages, the key here is details. The more you can personalize your recognition—even just sending a note instead of a mass email—the better. Show people the tangible results of their contributions. Just as people like to know the story behind your cause and those helped by it, they want to be part of that story, too.

There are a number of ways to include people in the process of your organization and fundraising, to make them feel personally connected to your goals and the recipients of your efforts. Try linking donations to what they are ultimately used for and what they accomplish. Even a small shift in the way you frame your work can go a long way toward building a successful relationship.

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How to Gamify Your Annual Giving Initiatives


verb (used with object), gamified, gamifying.
1. to turn (an activity or task) into a game or something resembling a game:


Let’s start with rule number 1: fundraising doesn’t have to be boring.

There are far too many things in life that are taken too seriously. And while you should speak to the cause you’re fundraising for with sincerity, that doesn’t exclude playfulness! Adding a gamelike, and even a competitive, element to how you manage donor motivations can improve engagement and boost gift size.

After all, who doesn’t love a little healthy competition for a good cause?

When thinking of ways to gamify your giving initiatives it’s important to ask yourself “why will my donors play?” If you can offer incentives and drive home the ROI of support, you can create an intriguing opportunity for potential supporters.



Initiating organization-wide giving challenges can add an air of fun and competition within your community. Not only can these challenges be created to seem gamelike, but they diversify your strategy and are beneficial in re-engaging donors who haven’t contributed recently and may be spurred by peer group activity.

There are a several different approaches to take with the structure of your challenges. Take the liberty to get creative when conceptualizing the possibilities, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Time-centered: Setting challenges throughout the day can prompt you to increase funds in an area of the donor’s choice. Each hourly challenge should correspond with a time, donation match, and requirements to get the match. For example, from 10-11AM the student organization that gets the most gifts this hour will receive $1,000.  
  • Amount-centered: This can be along the lines of the story with the most $100 donations gets a gift, or similarly the story with most $10 donations gets a $1,000 gift. Again, this can be centered in a certain time frame.  
  • Department Competition:  Try creating friendly competition among departments that have multiple stories by incentivizing whichever raises more or has more donors overall. You can also create departmental challenges that can only be earned by stories within that department.
  • Unlocking gifts: if you have a major donor already prepared to give, consider having that gift unlocked when you receive a certain amount of other donations or donors. It can be worded something like this “After the first 75 donors support   organization, a gift of $10,000 from name of donor will be unlocked to support the cause”

Crucial to all challenges is the follow-up after the reward is achieved. Be sure to thank any supporters who participated as well as providing them with continuous updates on outcomes to create an ongoing story.



You should also make sure to incorporate leaderboards as a way to reflect the challenges you’ve created. These elements work in concert to build exposure by creating an engagement point that is front-facing and updated live. Maximize the effect of your leaderboards by adding some of the following features:

  • Purchasing a place: Whenever anybody clicks on your leaderboard to donate, they should always be presented with the option to move an individual story up into a certain standing (ex. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, up one place, etc.). This should include a quick button with the amount they would need to donate. This can be beneficial for the donors as well, as it can be tied to providing them with positive publicity as a gift leader on a donor wall or in a mention in an update on the story itself.
  • Interactive data: Spruce up the visuals on your leaderboard. Try including appeal videos to provide a multimedia experience. Other features of interactive leaderboards can include a toggle for multiple leaderboards that have the data cross-sectioned in different ways (i.e. most donors, most dollars, most shares, etc.).
  • Tracing impact: If the donor shares a link to a cause through social, email, or other media offer the ability to trace the impact of that share. For example, if a donor shares the link to a story on Facebook, you should track how many donations, impressiona, and re-shares were inspired by their activity. This can be helpful in that it provides supporters a non-monetary way to engage with your fundraising. A great way to incentivize this activity is to create a donor-centric leaderboard that tracks this activity. You can even tie sharing results to incentives by allowing these supporter to participate in challenges and matches by qualifying the amount they raise as their personal contribution.


Matching Gifts

Use matching gifts to fuel your challenges and leaderboards. These elements can all supplement each other. Matching gifts are a type of giving program that essentially doubles an initial donation to an eligible nonprofit organization by incentivizing small gifts that equate to and “unlock” a major gift.

All matching gift programs are equally great! Institutions doubling the contributions of their constituents shows they are invested in their values, and it means you’re doubling the impact on the initiative itself. Keep in mind matching doesn’t have to be dollar to dollar. Matches can also be unlocked by reaching participation goals.

Another form of matching gifts is employer matching. When fundraising, always include a form that allows employees to reach out their employer about matching their contribution. There are some great resources through Double the Donation if you’re curious about starting an employee match program.

While all matching gift programs are a strong addition to your online fundraising, it’s important to provide incentives that will encourage your community to participate. Here are a couple ideas to get you thinking of ways to add some fun to your matching gift program!

  • Faculty and staff funds: Allocate each faculty/staff member a certain amount of money to give to their cause of choice each year. Make this more enjoyable by hosting an event celebrating the causes employees contributed to.
  • A raffle: Have your community pay an entry fee to submit their name into a raffle (online or in conjunction with an event advertising your online initative). The winner of the raffle will be able to donate the money to the cause of their choosing, along with other prizes if applicable.
  • Time-centered: Include a matching gift challenge in your hourly giving challenges.
  • Sharing incentives: Matching gifts don’t have to simply be the amount an individual personally contributes. Consider implementing a shared media feature. If the individual shares information about a fundraising initiative, any money donated from that share could be included as the individual’s personal donation.



Rewards are a great way to increase ROI for your donors. When developing a rewards program, the most crucial element is incorporating both tangible and intangible rewards. They don’t have to be exclusive of one another, simply deem what type of rewards should be given at different involvement levels.

Tangible rewards: These can be as simple as rewarding a donor who gave to specific story at a certain level with something like a T-shirt. In this case, consider creating a sponsored rewards program where businesses within your community can donate rewards, such as gift cards, that can be leveraged to attract donors. It’s a win-win for you both: you receive the donated funds for someone who selects a gift card as a reward, and businesses gain patrons who use the gift cards and can be encouraged to conduct repeat purchases.

Tangible rewards can also be used in a marketplace setting to put the emphasis on a donor being able to receive something of value for their contribution. For example, a donor could go to a page of all available rewards with a listed donation price. They could then select rewards that appealed to them and the funds could either already be tied to particular stories and funneled to them automatically, or a donor could then choose which stories their donations would be applied to.

The point is, this is a great area for creativity!

Intangible rewards: The beauty of intangible awards is their simplicity. From handwritten thank you notes to a tour of something newly built with raised funds, the only limit is your imagination!

Some intangible rewards can include

  • Shoutouts and update mentions of major donors or participants
  • Handwritten thank you notes
  • Early access to information on the next campaign or project
  • Regular updates in the weeks following the story
  • The ability to “sponsor” an individual in a team or group
  • Free performance or a backstage pass


This guide is simply meant to help you start ideating. The most important part of gamifying your giving program is that you develop a program that best suits your organization and your community. Have fun with developing your giving initiatives and really consider what program will best encourage those in your organization to engage in the long term!

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How to Take an Omnichannel Approach to Your Online Fundraising

Online community engagement has caused many fundraisers to question the long-term impact on “the ways of old” such as direct mail, events, phone, and volunteers/ambassadors. Will it cause attrition? How do we continue to reach a generational range?

The reality is these channels are needed more than ever today and will only become more relevant as online giving evolves.

The real question that we should ask is how we can leverage these channels in a digital-first strategy? “Digital-first” is just the acknowledgment that individuals will continue to transition their transactions online, but that awareness and information gathering are still influenced by a holistic marketing experience.

Offline channels of fundraising that have been used for the past 30+ years need to be repurposed to work in concert with online initiatives. The goal should be to pull a golden thread through everything and leverage a collaborative toolset that consistently analyzes cross-channel data.

Essentially, organizations must stop thinking through the lens of multi-channel and begin thinking in terms of omnichannel.

Although there is no formal distinction between multichannel and omnichannel, there is a perceived difference and there seems to be a growing need to distinguish. Multi-channel, a more traditional term, centers around connecting with donors via independent channels. Omni-channel means supporting a range of channels for a single donor experience and providing a feedback loop for individuals to dictate how they want to engage.

Unlike multichannel, omnichannel interactions are not siloed but integrated to provide media-rich donor experiences.

Donors, like consumers, benefit when they are well connected to the product or service. So the challenge in the fundraising industry is to track and tailor that experience across all the channels from information gathering to stewardship – direct mail, web, mobile, text, phone.

When it comes to leveraging offline channels for a giving event of any kind, follow these 3 rules:

  1. Develop a comprehensive plan that incorporates all available (and sustainable) channels of communication. Map out a donor journey against this strategy. Use a buyer’s journey model as a place to start.
  2. Ensure that each communication is customized and consistent to each individual no matter how they transition from one channel to the next.
  3. Stay authentic. Targeted will always convert more than blanket messaging. Show donors you care by taking the extra time to ensure a more personalized experience with the resources you have.  

In addition, use the below strategies as idea starters to cohesively tie in offline channels with your online efforts:



It’s important to leverage word-of-mouth when it comes to increasing donations and overall engagement for your giving event. Utilizing volunteers and ambassadors is one of the most effective strategies you can incorporate into your omnichannel strategy.

The benefit of using people to spread awareness and create outreach is that it’s human, people like giving/talking/dealing with other people! Make the experience personal for your potential donors by leveraging those that already love and care about your organization or effort.

Individuals that have previously donated will be the best advocates for getting others to participate. When rounding up volunteers and ambassadors, make sure you clearly highlight the overall goal of your giving initiative.

Put together a volunteer and ambassador toolkit to outline how they will help at each stage and with each channel of the strategy. From posting on social networks to working physical events, volunteers and ambassadors will be huge players in every aspect of the omnichannel strategy. Some ideas include:

  • An email campaign with templates that introduce volunteers/ambassadors on a personal level to potential donors.
  • A social toolkit to share updates and stories before, during, and after your initiative.
  • Progress updates that are written throughout your event and posted on individual story pages or your overall site.
  • A text-to-give campaign that leverages messages from your volunteers.
  • Management of a Facebook event that is run in conjunction with your initiative.

Outside of their outreach, you should also use a variety of channels to keep your volunteers updated and informed as the event approaches. Create a facebook group or email segmentation list to easily communicate with all volunteers in a timely manner and keep everyone organized.

Finally, make sure you let your volunteers know you are grateful for them. A simple thank you note or a celebratory team lunch after the close of your initiative is a great way to keep them engaged and active for future events!


Physical Events

Creating a physical event that coincides with an online initiative is a great way to engage your community and create buzz around your fundraising. If your donors are excited to attend, they’ll invite their affinity networks and, all of the sudden, your potential donor pool has doubled!

To tie your event back to your omnichannel marketing effort, try creating a Facebook event to invite potential donors and include links to your giving page in the event description. Just make sure you adjust the settings to allow them to comment and invite their peers!

You can also update your profile pictures and banners on your website with the date, time, and location of your event so your digital followers won’t miss it. While you should always send out an email invite to your community, you can also include the vent details in email signatures across your development department to spread awareness outside of mass outreach.

During your event, document the happenings on the Facebook event message board with live updates that are media rich (photos, videos, live stream, etc.) to allow those that are not physically there to feel included. This is a good opportunity to use your volunteer base to do the legwork.

Consider setting up a station for online donations with tablets and/or educating event coordinators and creating handouts for attendees informing them of your online efforts. You can even use text-to-give technology and coordinate an announcement that asks attendees to pull out their phones and rewards whoever gives first or anyone who gives at a certain level.

To inspire further engagement, try collecting emails and/or phone numbers for attendees to loop them into your ongoing messaging surrounding your initiative.

For event-inspiration, here is a full list of ideas for your next giving day event.


Direct Mail

Direct mail is expensive, and this means you want to be thoughtful with how you integrate online channels. There are two items you should always include: a URL to your giving page and a link to the social channel(s) you will be consistent with storytelling from beginning to end. These links will help save cost by transitioning the story to a channel you can update continuously without overburdening your audience or your budget.

The key when including these links is to track the percentage of your direct mail audience you are able to transition. You should tie in unique tracking codes (UTMs) and use these instructions to properly integrate them with your analytics tracking on your site.

Another emerging technology you can leverage is Quick Response (QR) codes. Instead of having to type in a URL, this allows direct mail recipients to simply use their smartphone to scan the code and take them right to your page.

Consider using links and QR codes during the stewardship phase, too, when you can bring mail recipients to pages with updates from those who benefitted from their donations.



Consider using your phonathon as a word-of-mouth tool to both get people online and get the correct information for digital follow-up. When asking for an on-the-spot donation, make sure your script is tied to an ongoing story that is reflected online.

Your goal should be to obtain or verify every recipient’s email address and affinity and establish a feedback loop with your CRM. There are two scenarios that explain why this is important: First, if they donate you can send them the URL and updates from the story that tracks the impact of their gift. You can tie this in with follow-up calls to express appreciation and give verbal updates that mirror those online to spur continued engagement with the ongoing story.

Second, if they don’t donate, you can enroll them in email messaging about the impact they can make and where they can see the funding progress of relevant initiatives in real-time. If you structure your call to identify affinity (i.e. establishing that someone typically gives to the arts), you can tailor your giving opportunities to them in your digital messaging and cross-channel for any offline methods.