Watch the Year-End Fundraising Playbook – Part 2
Welcome to part two of the Year-End Fundraising Playbook. We’ve looked at some benchmark data around when should we be planning our communication? How should we be prioritizing our plans?
Now we’re going to dive in a little bit deeper and look at some of the specific types of emails that you should be building into your campaign.
So what we’re going to do next is look at how do you actually go tell your story and articulate your value proposition. Why someone should give to you over the course of the whole season without just sending like a 100 million of the same appeal over and over, and burning out your full email file, making all your donors really annoyed, unsubscribing, and all that stuff.
How do we tell our story in a meaningful way that people actually want to hear it and ultimately respond in a positive way to give to you?
The first type of communication that we’re going to look at is what I would call priming and framing. Another word you might have in your head for this is cultivation. How do we cultivate the relationship before we send appeals?
If you think about priming in the context of painting, we do a bunch of like DIY projects in my house and I love doing that stuff, but I just hate painting. It’s so frustrating for me and I just don’t like the process. It takes so long and you put a coat on and then you have to put another coat on, then sometimes a third coat. I’m just doing the same thing over and over again. Am I ever going to be done? And it’s frustrating.
What’s worse than that part of painting is actually priming where you’re not even putting the right color on the wall, you’re just getting it ready for what’s going to come next and I know that it’s important. That doesn’t mean I like doing it, but I know it’s important because if you prime your wall before you put your main color on it’s going to make sure that you don’t have to probably do that third coat. It’s going to make what comes next, all the more effective.
The same is true in our fundraising. A more technical definition for priming is that It’s the process where a person’s exposed to a stimulus that influences how they think or how they feel about something later on. The priming work that we’re going to do in our emails is actually going to make the appeals that come later in the campaign all the more effective. So let’s look at a few examples:
We don’t have time in this training to go through every single example but we’ve got a full course that dives into that 17 email timeline. We’re just going to look at a handful of examples as to how you can cultivate and prime your donors for appeals that will come later.
The first example of a priming email is a survey. Now, this is not a survey to just go gather a bunch of new demographic details and information about your donor file. The point of the survey is actually to go build alignment with your donors. And maybe it’s not building it from scratch. Maybe you’re reminding people of the alignment that you have of shared values.
The point of this survey is to get somebody to lean in, to trust you, and to trust that you can make an impact on something that they care about by giving them a voice to speak into the work that you’re doing to solve a problem or serve your cause well.
So we want to build alignment. And we don’t want to think about asking for a donation at all in this email.
The point is to give donors a voice, not to ask them for money in the email. We’ll talk about a path towards revenue here in a moment, but we’re not asking for a gift, not even in a PS in this email.
This is an example from our friends Canadian Taxpayers and they’re a policy organization in Canada and they ran a survey where they’re trying to get their ideal donor to give them feedback on policy ideas going into the next year. So it says, “You need to make politicians listen in 2021 because taxpayers are getting squeezed hards. So, here’s the question, what do you want to say?”
Then you’ve got a link down there to a SurveyMonkey survey. You scroll further down in the email. They’re just reminding you of the call to action at the end and a PS. This is not a PS to go make a donation. It’s a PS. Hey, make sure you take the survey with another link to go to the same survey page.
It’s 24 questions and they’re all about different policy ideas, just trying to understand what donors actually care about and give them the chance to speak into what’s most important. So they’re asking questions but not about demographic info and things like that. They’re saying, how important is eliminating the federal bailout for media outlets to use? Is that a high priority, is that a low priority?
And by the end of this survey, you’ve answered 24 questions leaning into the shared values of this organization and the donor so that there’s lots of alignment that has been built and also there’s trust that’s being built up through this process.
So by the time you complete this survey, you’re trusting that this organization can make an impact on the things that matter to you. You can do the same type of thing in a survey as well. What’s really cool about this survey is then on the back end of it, instead of a traditional confirmation page that just says like, Hey, thanks for completing this survey. It says, will you go share this on Facebook or whatever? What it does is it moves directly into a donation appeal. It says, “Thank you for completing the survey,” and then it’s a long form.
You can see all the copy on the left hand side of the screen. It’s a long form donation appeal that’s leaning into all the shared values that were just expressed in the survey.
So they’ve just told you what’s important. Now you can talk about how you as an organization are making an impact on those things that the donor cares about and then down at the bottom, there’s a donation form.
So even in sending this priming email, there can still be a path towards leading to revenue even from that email itself. The goal from it is not to get donations, even though you still might get some. The goal from it is to cultivate and to prime, but there’s still a path towards some donations and revenue from it. So that’s one example of a priming email.
Here’s another one:
This doesn’t have a donation form on the backside of it, this is purely a cultivation email. It’s the Thanksgiving email. Now, you might be excited about Thanksgiving or not at all. So whether or not you celebrate it or you recognize it at your organization or not, the point of this email is to be grateful for your donors. We’re talking about expressing gratitude. So around this Thanksgiving holiday when there’s a lot of conversation about thankfulness and gratitude, thank donors and subscribers for their ongoing support.
Now, if you’re in Canada, and this has already passed you by, Thanksgiving’s already gone. Again, the point of this is not necessarily about the holiday itself, it’s about showing gratitude. So you can actually send an email like this at any point in the campaign. We’re trying to show gratitude and give credit to donors and supporters for the work that has been done without asking for money. It’s a cultivation email.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
This first one is from Americares.
As you can see, they’ve got a video there linked at the top and they’ve got some copy down below.
So just in very basic, very simple copy they’re giving the recipient and the donor credit for the good work that has gone on during the year. They’re giving them credit for the impact and then showing them a video that shows the impact and tells some stories of impact. They’re reinforcing that your donation and your support has done really meaningful work without asking for a donation.
At the same time, it’s purely cultivation. So that’s one approach you might take.
Here’s another one from Food for the Hungry. They sent out an impact report around the Thanksgiving holiday, and here’s what it said.
It says, “Hi Nathan, Even though your holiday may have looked a bit different this year, I hope that you and your family still enjoyed Happy Thanksgiving.” Then down below it starts to talk about giving me credit for the work that’s going on. It says, “Because of your partnership with Food for the Hungry, you help save our children for malnutrition.”
Again, they’re giving me credit for the impact that’s going on, expressing gratitude. There’s an opportunity for me to click through, not to give, but to read more about the impact I was able to make with a donation.
The whole point of this is to express gratitude, give credit for the work, and not ask for a donation. You’re just bringing someone in to the story, cultivating them, and priming them for an appeal that will come later in the campaign.
Here’s how impactful this can be:
This is actually not an email experiment, it’s a postcard experiment where the same principles apply.
So this organization split their donor file in half and version A received the same normal cadence of year end communication that was in their plans.
Version B, the other half of their donor file, all that changed was that they received a cultivation postcard that just said, Thank you. It’s a Thanksgiving message for you that inserted the first name and you open up the card and on the inside they were expressing gratitude for the donor.
There was actually a link that you could go type in. You could go watch a video from the president of the organization expressing gratitude for the donor. This was not specifically a donation appeal, it was a postcard that was intended to cultivate and express gratitude, but here’s how it impacted donations.
By the end of the season, they look at this version A versus version B, these two different groups. People who received a postcard were 204% more likely to actually give during the year end season just because they said thank you, they expressed gratitude, and they cultivated. They’re not getting a ton of direct revenue from this postcard, but it’s making the appeals that come later all the more effective.
Let’s look at one more example of a priming email.
This is the free offer email. It’s going to use that same instant donation page that we talked about earlier on when we talked about the survey, but you can really insert any kind of free offer like an ebook or an online course or a video series or something like that into the process.
Here’s what it looks like:
The goal of this is to give your donors something of value for free, like an ebook and this is not free with the donation. It’s not like you have to go give a gift and then this is like the thank you gift that you get. This is just giving them something for free in the inbox before you actually go ask them for money. You’ll send an email talking about the free gift, the free offer.
In this case with the Texas State Historical Association, they were giving away the Portable Handbook of Texas on Giving Tuesday. This is a great strategy to use for Giving Tuesday, because you get to exemplify what it looks like to give before you actually ask for a donation.
So you’re participating in the giving on Giving Tuesday. When you send the email, it’s going to link them to a landing page once they click through where they can read even more about the free offer that you’re presenting. They can fill out a form where they give their first name, last name, and email address. They’ve got to click a button to go say, “Yes, I want this offer”, then they go to an instant donation page.
So an email gets sent out with a link to a PDF of the ebook, or if it’s an online course, video series, or more information about how you can go get the actual offer itself now and you land on an instant donation page. Which it certainly confirms that you’re done with the work, you’re going to get the free offer, but then it moves directly towards this donation appeal, in this case around Giving Tuesday. Why should you give in support on Giving Tuesday and have a form right there on the page?
Now, a really important part of this process that you may question and we certainly have too, is if I send this email with a link to offer a free gift, why not just give it to them right away and then send them right to a donation page? Why do I have to go ask them for their email address again in some kind of landing page form?
Well, we’ve put this to the test because we’ve wandered the same type of question. Might it actually just be an extra step of friction in the process?
So we ran an experiment where version A was this normal email to landing page to instant donation page. Version B was sending an email, and when you clicked on the link, you got sent straight to the donation page and it says, “Thanks, your free copy of the handbook was just sent to your email address”, and then it moves into the same donation appeal with a form below. It’s just cutting out a step in the process.
We wondered, can reducing friction in this process by reducing the amount of steps, does that actually improve things?
Here’s what we found:
Removing that step led to a 41% decrease in donations and it led to a 31 almost 32% decrease in average gift size.
There’s probably a variety of things going on, but really the primary driver here is that if I click this link in an email to go get this book and I land straight on a donation page, I probably haven’t felt as much of the value of the free gift that you’re giving me.
If I have to go read more about it on a landing page and actually have some sort of value exchange where I’m giving you my information in order to receive this book, I’m going to feel that it’s more valuable. If I feel that it’s more valuable, then I’m going to actually have more gratitude for this free gift that I got. Which might lead me to expressing that gratitude through a donation and being generous back to your organization.
So we can’t remove the step in the process! We’ve got to send this email to a landing page to an instant donation page. That’s just another way to use cultivation content as a mechanism to lead towards a donation just down the road.
Here’s the main principle that I want you to take away from this type of an email, this priming and framing email is that donors are relational people just like you are, just like me. Therefore, we need to invest in the relationship with someone before we actually ask them for money.
We often say that people give to people, not to email marketing machines. They give to people that they know and trust. So we have to lean into the relationship before we actually ask for donations.
In the next part, we’re going to dive into the second category of emails that you should build into your campaign.
We’ve talked about priming, framing, cultivation. There’s certainly a whole lot more that we unpack in our full course of different options of cultivation and priming that you can build in.
But next we’re going to talk about appeals and one specific type of an appeal that you can build into your campaign in a personal way in order to activate donors during this season. So that’s what’s coming up next!
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