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4+ keys to great year-round fundraising campaigns

Janet Cobb
Personal fundraising coach
March 25, 2024
A father and his adult son, both with short dark hair and in blue shirts, read together from the father’s smartphone. They are indoors at a table in a dark green office.

Year-end is traditionally a busy time for nonprofit fundraising, but many organizations need to do year-round fundraising to make sure they have the right resources to advance their mission. As a fundraiser, you always want to take the guesswork out of giving for your donors, and that begins with understanding the questions your donors ask themselves before they give. The story you tell donors in your appeal can answer these questions.

Effective storytelling might sound complex, but we’ve broken down some of our best tips in this blog. Try answering these four key donor questions, plus working in a few other best practices, and you'll be that much closer to an effective year-round nonprofit fundraising campaign that gives your supporters a great experience. Then, for more step-by-step advice about year-round fundraising, download our complete beginner's guide to fundraising.

1. “Why me?”

Your donors need to know why your cause is relevant to them and why they should care. They need to connect with you on a human level. Use conversational language, incorporate pictures, and get permission from service recipients to share anecdotes about how your organization has served them. This will help your audience relate to your organization and its mission.

2. “Why now?”

Is there urgency in your appeal? Create a sense of immediacy. Explain why a donation is needed right now. Is there a matching gift? Are you up against a seasonal deadline? Will something good not happen if they don’t act right now? Striking the right tone (which, according to research from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, is one that inspires a moral but not overly emotional response) is essential to communicating why donors should support your work right now.

3. “What for?”

Describe what their gift can accomplish and the impact it will have. Share how other donors have helped individuals in need. Remember, too, that you don't need to overwhelm donors with massive numbers or in-depth statistics. Instead, keep your description focused and brief so donors can more easily relate to your cause.

4. “Why your organization?”

Giving USA’s research has found that fewer and fewer donors have been giving to registered nonprofits over the past several years. Many factors contribute to this trend, but one thing nonprofit fundraisers should remember is that supporters tend to trust the opinions of their friends, family, and even acquaintances. This means it’s especially important for your nonprofit to use your marketing efforts to demonstrate that others are happy to give your organization their time, energy, and financial support. Ask existing supporters to share why they give to you and what it means to them. Use these testimonials in your outreach. Also consider who signs your appeal, since it may be more effective for your message to come from a volunteer, beneficiary, or a front-line staff member instead of your executive director.

Restricted vs. unrestricted giving: how to make your ask

If you’re not raising money for a specific project or fund (also known as restricted giving) you’ll need to make sure you’re taking a few extra steps to craft your appeals for unrestricted giving, or funds that can be used for any legitimate purpose. Organizations will need to create fundraising messages that meet donors’ emotional need to connect to another person through an individual's story. How can we tell an individual’s story and connect our donors to that individual while still raising money for a larger cause? Organizations will need to create fundraising messages that meet donors’ emotional needs. Remember these three best practices:

  • Tell stories that exemplify the work of your organization to advance your overall mission.
  • Incorporate these stories into your campaign assets.
  • Clearly state that a donor’s contribution isn’t specifically earmarked for a specific program (unless it is), by adding a phrase like: Your donation today will support others like (person in story) and all the important work of ABC organization.

Optimizing your donation page

By now, you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into telling your story to potential donors. Don’t lose them in the final stretch to a confusing or inefficient donation experience!

To raise more money online, you need a donation page that’s easy, quick, and intuitive for donors to use. Your donation pages should also support your busy fundraisers and staff with the built-in ability to automatically track gifts in your donor management software. This will empower you to send prompt thank-you messages and build a record of every single action a supporter takes to help you advance your mission, from donations to volunteer shifts to petition signatures and beyond. Ultimately, tracking that information in a way that’s accurate and actionable gives you the power to offer each supporter a smoother experience, which helps you keep their support over time and do even more together to make a difference.

As you’re building your donation page, remember these essentials:

  • Brand your donation page to match your campaign. Your page will perform better if it carries your nonprofit's design; worse if it does not. (Think about it this way: you want your donors to be 100% sure the form they’re about to fill out is associated with your organization and your campaign.)
  • Keep your copy short, but not too short. Try including a few sentences to remind donors about what’s at stake in this fundraising campaign and why you appreciate their support.
  • Focus on one clear call to action. This is your time to ask supporters to make a donation, so eliminate all other asks from this page.
  • Encourage recurring gifts. This is especially important if your focus for this campaign is boosting sustainer giving. Add on-brand visual cues to direct the eye to your recurring gift option.
  • Make it easy to share. Empower your supporters to easily tell someone else about your organization after they donate.

Want even more tips? Download the beginner’s guide to fundraising campaigns for in-depth, step-by-step advice to raise mission-critical funds all year round. By the end, you’ll be ready to run targeted, well-planned campaigns and make the most of your efforts with support from the right software.

Written by

Janet Cobb
Personal fundraising coach
    Guided Fundraising
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas