It’s never been more important for nonprofit professionals to be flexible and willing to pivot on the fly. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic reminded fundraisers why a digital-first fundraising strategy is so important in uncertain times.
Nonprofits are facing uncertain situations again this year as we arrive at the spring appeal season. Supply chain shortages can make it more difficult to produce an appeal package the way you have in the past. And delays with the USPS make it unclear exactly when mailers will reach donors.
So, a digital-first fundraising strategy may be your best bet for this year’s spring appeal.
If you do send a direct mail piece, it should complement your digital strategy. And it may look a bit different than appeal letters you’ve sent in the past.
The coronavirus pandemic taught us that you can see your best fundraising plans go out the window. Situations beyond your control can throw things off at any time.
So, it’s important to be flexible. And moving to a digital-first fundraising strategy this year is a great way to adjust your approach. Here’s what you need to know.
Engage donors with emails.
Your email outreach will be key for this year’s spring appeal, especially if you forgo a direct mail piece altogether.
As we mentioned, flexibility is key. Appeal emails require less work ahead time and can be adjusted right up until the moment they’re sent. And you will avoid the headache of paper supply shortages or your mailer reaching donors later than you expected.
Let your supporters know that your email appeal is in place of your usual spring appeal direct mailer. Your audience may not know about all the complications that come with mailing an appeal right now. But they know the world is still adjusting to the effects of the pandemic and that supply chains are generally less reliable.
It’s important to be transparent and let your donors know what’s going on. They may not think twice about your appeal email if they expect a direct mail piece in a few days. So let them know that your usual appeal letter is not coming this year. Then show them why giving in response to your email is the best way to support you this spring.
And of course, you will want to keep all the basics of sending a fantastic fundraising email in mind!
Social media and your spring appeal.
But sending an email or two in place of a direct mail appeal letter doesn’t mean you’ve built a successful strategy. It’s still important to go surround sound with your appeal. So, you will need to make the most of the platforms you have available.
Well, building an engaging social campaign for your spring appeal is a great way to get started!
Start by breaking down the story you planned for your spring appeal into parts. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. So, create a series of posts that introduces your audience to the problem, shows them what they can do to help, and asks them to make a difference.
And remember to be selective with the photos you share on social media. It’s important to use pictures of people, not things, that show why your work is so important and inspire your audience to make an impact.
You can also create a post that lets your followers know they should not expect a print appeal this year. Share a link to your online donation page and let your supporters know this is their chance to make a difference!
Try something new.
The fun thing about new challenges is that they often create new opportunities. Has your nonprofit ventured into text-to-give, peer-to-peer, or other mobile fundraising initiatives? These ideas are all great ways to expand on a digital-first fundraising strategy.
Have you been experimenting with A/B testing in your appeals and other communications? If not, this year’s spring appeal can be a great chance to learn more about what gets your audience engaged and excited to give.
Try sending two versions of your spring appeal email. Send the first version to a quarter of your audience and the second version to another 25 percent of donors. Then, send the version that performs better to the remaining half of your donor base!
Does your organization have a monthly giving program? If so, you can use your spring appeal to encourage donors to make their gift monthly this spring. And if you don’t have one yet, your spring appeal can be a great way to launch this program and get donors involved!
If you do send direct mail…
However, some organizations may still want to send a direct mail appeal this spring. And that’s OK! After all, every nonprofit is different and reaches out to different audiences with different preferences.
However, there are some things you will want to consider if you’re going to use a direct mail letter to compliment your digital-first fundraising strategy.
First, consider mailing to donors who only give in response to a direct mail appeal. It will likely cost more than usual to produce, print, and mail your spring appeal this year. So don’t waste money that could be used to further your mission by mailing to donors who will gladly give online.
And it’s important to be consistent when you go surround sound. Make sure your spring appeal letter ties into the emails, social media posts, and other elements of your spring appeal strategy.
This year, you might consider moving from a traditional appeal letter to a self-mailer. The supply shortages might make it difficult to secure the perfect envelope for your appeal letter. So, a piece that doesn’t rely on one may be your best bet. Consider using QR codes for easy mobile giving and campaign tracking in lieu of a traditional reply card.
And above all, make sure you leave extra time for every step along the way. It may take your printer longer than usual to track down the right paper for your appeal letter. And unless you’re sending first-class mail, your print appeals may take longer than expected to reach donors’ mailboxes.
There will be more challenges than usual for this year’s spring appeal. And shifting to a digital-first fundraising strategy may be the best way to reach donors and inspire them to make an impact.