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Ask Us Anything About Year-End Fundraising

Published by Nathan Hill

Questions from NextAfter Institute Members

In this ask me anything post, I’ll answer a few questions submitted by members of the NextAfter Institute about year-end fundraising.

Let’s get going…

Question #1 – How should I use a video in my year-end fundraising?

We have a video appeal coming in from the cast of an A-list television show. How do we best use this in our year-end digital marketing?

Marc

Whoah. Super cool!

I don’t have a definitive answer here for the absolute best way to position this video. But I can tell you what we’ve learned about video and share a few ideas that come to mind on ways you might leverage it.

First off…here’s what we’ve learned about videos in fundraising.

In all of our experimentation testing videos in emails, donation pages, and landing pages – we have never seen a video lead to an increase in giving. In fact, one recent video experiment found that replacing the video with text actually led to a 527% increase in conversions.

I’d use caution if thinking about placing this video directly on a donation page.

But that raises a new question…if not on a donation page, how do you use the video?

Ideas for utilizing video

We’re now venturing away from what we know based on testing into what I think based on experience.

Using it in an email

You might consider using the video in an email this season without a direct donation appeal – or at least without the expectation of people giving directly from that email.

Tell some of the story of the video in the copy of your email and invite subscribers to watch the video on a landing page. You might even post the video within a blog where readers can get more context to how your organization is making an impact and why this TV show cast cares so much about it.

And then send a follow-up email a couple days later with a direct donation appeal. You might test using a text-quote from some of the cast on the donation page as a reminder to visitors about the video they had watched.

But make sure that text quote sits in the right column next to the form. You can see our recommended campaign donation page layout here.

Using it on social

I’m no social media expert. But this certainly seems like a video that would be worth creating a dedicated social media plan for.

We don’t typically see organic social media as a primary driver of conversions and donations. But it may serve as a cultivation and primer for your followers – and increase the likelihood of them giving to a direct appeal later in the season.

Consider putting this video in a blog post as mentioned above, putting some ad spend behind it to ensure that it reaches the right people, and track (as best as is possible) the impact that these ads have on someone’s likelihood of giving later.

We’ve seen this type of branded ad strategy be highly effective. In one case, showing branded ads about the impact of giving increased donations by 196%.

Question #2 – Should we send a year-end postcard?

Have other stations incorporated postcards into their year-end fundraising, and, if so, did their results differ from using letters for year-end?

Susan

I don’t have a direct postcard example from a broadcast organization – but we have seen highly personalized postcards be incredibly helpful in priming donors to give later on.

Here’s an example from a higher-ed organization who has utilized a postcard in their year-end fundraising.

In this experiment, they wondered if a hyper-personalized thanksgiving post card could increase giving. The goal was not to get a bunch of donations from the post card itself, but rather to express gratitude for donors in a personal way and prime them for a donation appeal coming later in the season.

They split their donor file in half. The first half received the normal flow of year-end communications without a postcard. The other half received the same communication, but also got a personalized post card around thanksgiving.

The post card had their name on the front, and thanksgiving message inside, and a URL to watch a video from the organization’s president talking about thanksgiving and expressing gratitude for donors.

At the end of the year-end season, they saw that people who received the post card were 204% more likely to donate to the year-end campaign because they had been primed and cultivated.

Year-End Postcard Experiment

So to directly answer your question: a postcard like this can be incredibly effective. But in this case, it did not replace any other forms of donation appeals. It was an additional cultivation message on top of their other direct mail and email appeals.

Question #3 – How do I get the most out of a year-end homepage takeover?

What are best practices for the front-page takeover donation form?

Dan

Thanks for the question, Dan. We might get a little technical here, so get ready!

Homepage takeover strategy

Time Frame

The main idea here is to “take over” your homepage with a donation appeal and donation form for the last couple days of the year.

You’ll want to run this on December 31st. The motivation and urgency around giving is highest on that day, and the takeover makes it even easier to see the opportunity to give. And if you can run it longer than just one day, even better.

Creative

There are three things to keep in mind for your creative…

First – don’t mistake the urgency around giving for a full understanding of why someone should give. You’ll need to make a clear donation appeal on this page, using enough copy to articulate the impact a donor can make with their gift.

Communicate your value proposition effectively, answering the questions if “Why should I give to you, rather than to any other organization asking for money at the end of the year, or at all?”

Second – Make sure your donation form is on the page. This takeover is not just a giant pop-up ad that directs you to a donation page. Your homepage is being replaced with an entire donation page.

Keep your copy at the top (and maybe include a countdown clock to increase urgency) and add your donation form below the copy after you’ve articulated why someone should give.

Third – give people the option to bypass the donation page and continue on to the homepage. Urgency to give may be high, but you don’t want to hold your visitor hostage until they give.

Add a sticky-bar at the top with a clear option to continue to the homepage. It might look something like this:

Homepage Takeover Bypass Link

Homepage takeover implementation

The creative and strategy is relatively straight forward. The magic is in the implementation. So how do you make it work?

For us at NextAfter, the answer is 2 developers named Dan and Suha. But I can pass on the tools we use and some of the code behind the scenes that makes this work. You’ll need 3 main ingredients: a dedicated “takeover” donation page, Google Optimize installed on your site, and a fancy little script to keep make sure visitors see your takeover only once.

If you’re new to Google Optimize, the installation instructions are here.

First, create the page you want people to see instead of your homepage. You might be creating this within WordPress, another CMS, your donation page tool, Unbounce, or something else. The creation of this page will depend on the tech stack you’re currently using. Remember, you’ll need copy, a donation form, and a “bypass” link at the top.

Once you have your takeover page created, head over to Google Optimize.

Use Google Optimize to create a “personalization”. This is where the magic happens. We typically create a “personalization” targeting the homepage. And within Optimize, the one edit you’ll make to the page is adding this script:

(function() {
    if(!localStorage.getItem('cye-2021-redirect')) {
        localStorage.setItem('cye-2021-redirect','yes');
      
        location.href="http://www.your-takeover-page-url.org";
    }
})();

This script (as I understand it as a non-developer) should redirect your page visitor to the URL you define after “location.href”. And it will also set a local storage value of “cye-2021-redirect”.

This way, when your visitor returns to your homepage later, the script will see that they’ve already seen the takeover and will refrain from redirecting them again.

Google Optimize homepage takeover script example

From there, you can schedule out your takeover for December 31st.

*Pro tip – make sure you throughly test this. You can run a takeover on another test page to make sure it functions as you intend. The duplicate your Optimize personalization, point it at your homepage, and get it scheduled.

Best of luck with your campaigns!

Thanks for sending in some questions. Hopefully these answers help give you some extra direction and insights that lead to bigger and better results this season.

Best of luck in the weeks to come. We’re rooting for you!

Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President of Marketing at NextAfter.