There it is. December 31st is in your view. To most industries, it’s just the end of a calendar or fiscal year and a time to close out the books for the year. Things are slowing down. But not you. Not the nonprofit fundraiser that you are. December 31 is a deadline frantically approaching — you’re losing sleep over it, and it’s a date that may be causing some mild anxiety within you. It’s ok, you’ve got support.
According to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report, 17% of overall giving happens in December, which is almost 2X the second-highest month out of the year. While those direct mail pieces are hitting homes and some of your digital activities are activated, let’s talk about 5 secret weapons to increase your online revenue before the calendar strikes January 1.
1. Search Marketing — I’ve partnered with several nonprofits over the years and helped execute search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns on Google and Bing. January through October I’ve witnessed inconsistency as to whether fundraising ads generate ROI or not. However, you can pretty much bank on November and December ads pouring money into your nonprofit. Though I have witnessed rare cases where nonprofits fail to break even with search ads during this time of year, the overwhelming majority of nonprofits will experience a positive ROI. As I shared in a previous post, I saw a year-end average gift of $242 across 24 different clients that I’ve worked with. I’d recommend running ads on both Google and Bing to compare your cost per click, average gift, and cost to acquire a donation. You may find that because Google is so crowded that you can gain a lower cost per keyword click on Bing. It’s worth testing.
2. Lightboxes — These have many different names, like lightboxes, pop-ups, and interstitial ads. Either way, the essential function is to pop-up on your website as soon as a new visitor hits your site. This is an ideal time to capture the visitor’s attention with your campaign image, call to action, and donate button that takes them directly to your campaign donation page. If your site is built on WordPress, there are several different plug-ins to make this possible. If you’re using other website platforms, there are still many solutions to take advantage of this feature. Just do a web search for what would work with your platform if it’s not already built-in. The advantage of a lightbox is that it is a singular call to action, removing any distractions for the donor when they first hit your site. They only have two options 1) click to donate or 2) close out the pop-up. This is an easily overlooked weapon in your digital arsenal that can generate large sums of money for year-end.
3. Dumbed-Down Email — Throughout the year, your organization should be sending a good mix of fundraising and affirmational emails to your donors. Many of these may contain graphic design elements, colors, and images. If you’re taking this same design approach for your year-end campaigns, I’d recommend switching up one of the emails in your campaigns to look like a good old-fashioned, stripped down email. No graphics, no colors, just an email that looks like it’s coming from a friend. You might even consider changing the “From” email name to a person, rather than the organization’s name. In head-to-head tests, specifically for year-end campaigns, I’ve seen the basic email win 100% of the time in terms of generating more revenue.
4. Facebook Fundraisers — There’s no more cost-effective way to gain donations than to empower your advocates to help raise money for you. It allows you to focus on your campaigns while getting a little more help from your biggest supporters. Facebook Fundraisers are still a relatively new feature, and I personally haven’t worked with nonprofits on year-end campaigns. However, it stands to be another powerful channel that can help boost revenue if you give it a little attention. I’d set expectations such that you will likely witness a lower average gift, but it’s definitely worth testing as you close out the year. Consider sending an email to your donors inviting them to help you out and start a year-end fundraiser on Facebook for you.
5. Website Banners (Hero Images) — The last tip to help boost online revenue for your year-end campaigns is to utilize one of the most important areas of real estate on your homepage, which is the top-of-page website banner (also called a hero image). Even if you are using lightboxes, it’s still recommended that you customize your hero images to coincide with your year-end campaign messaging. This helps to not only reinforce the messaging and campaign themes that your donors are seeing in direct mail and email, but it also keeps the donation messaging top-of-mind when donors visit your site. This image commands attention because it’s the first thing donors will see when they hit your home page. Put a call-to-action button on this if possible, and direct it to the year-end campaign donation page.
By not doing these 5 tips, your nonprofit is leaving money on the table. For certain. While search marketing may take a little more time to set-up, monitor, and optimize, the other tactics are relatively quick and easy to implement. If you don’t have the time or resources to implement all five, my hope would be that you start with at least one this year, then plan on how to do the other four next year.
If you’ve done any of these tactics for year-end campaigns, I’d love to hear your experience and results (if you’re comfortable sharing). This is the part where we can learn from each other and become better fundraisers. Alright, now get back to that year-end planning!
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