10 Ways to Raise More Money With Your Next Fundraising Appeal

May 30, 2019
8 minutes

Raise your hand if you want to raise more money from your next appeal. Yeah, our hands are up, too! If you’ve seen The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s report, America's Favorite Charities, you know that some organizations are raising mind-boggling amounts of money. For instance, the Salvation Army raised a reported $1,467,750,000 in 2016. Yep, our eyes are poppin’ out of our head, too.

Whether you're working on a seasonal appeal like Giving Tuesday or year-end campaign, here are 10 ways you can start raising more money with your fundraising appeals.

Tip #1—Dust off your data

If you want to raise more money from your appeal, the best place to start is with your data, and this is especially true if you're using an email list to raise money. We all deal with the unavoidable problem of churn (yuck), which is when people who were once engaged donors ghost you (the nerve!).

Leading up to a big campaign, pull out people who haven't opened, clicked, or responded through email in a while and lay out a strategy to re-engage these inactive supporters. Since they're already unresponsive, now's the time get creative (heck, even wacky) and try out a new approach to turn those potential donors' frowns upside down.

Need ideas to re-engage these inactive email subscribers? Nonprofit Marketing Guide recommends testing hand-picked content, surveys, or get-more-for-your-money initiatives, like matching grants or free gifts. Above all, don't be afraid to try something you might otherwise think is risky... after all, these were already inactive anyway. 

The key is to think from the donor perspective—what will make that giving experience more satisfying, easier, or a more obvious YES?

Tip #2—Send your open rate sky high

Another way to improve email fundraising conversions is to improve your open rate. The sender name and subject line are the first things people see when your email hits their inbox and will deeply impact open rates. Email recipients respond well to "ED name at Your Org" because it's personal, yet clear where the email came from—obv personalize to fit your nonprofit, though!

Try testing new subject lines and run A/B tests to see which subject lines perform best on your email list. Campaign Monitor suggests ways to help spiff up your subject lines, including:

  • Use action verbs (our favorite verb is "funraise," naturally.)
  • Get personal (nearly everyone likes to be told they're having a good hair day.)
  • Pose a question (Beware: "Do you like wine?" may cause your open rate to explode.)
  • Create urgency (but resist the urge to write in ALL CAPS. TRUST US.)
  • Spark emotion (complimenting kids or pets always works for us.)

Need some inspiration? Check out some examples of compelling subject lines they shared for end-of-year fundraising success.

Tip #3—Put your donation page to work

Another place to get a quick win for online fundraising is your donation page. Do you know your donation page conversion rate? It's the percentage of page visitors who complete their donation. If you don't, get that info now! We'll wait.

Increasing your conversion rate is a big ol' guarantee that you'll get more money. How to do it? Test new layouts, images, or calls to action. Also, consider customizing the donation page so it features the appeal you’re currently running—this'll provide a seamless experience for donors, so they're giving before they know it. 

Or, consider bringing the donation page to your donors! Funraise's pop-up donation forms allow donors to give wherever they are on your site. (And the data proves they produce profits.)

Tip #4—Make the ask juuust right

Did you know that the ask amount in your donor appeal letters can impact the amount of money you raise? Meaning, if the ask is too low or too high, it'll affect your fundraising success.

Next time, segment donors by their last gift amount and increase your ask slightly. If you're sending emails, increase the ask by %; for physical mail, increase by specific $ amount. And test, test, test! Your reply device and online giving form will allow you to find an ask amount that’s juuust right.

Want a fool-proof way to make sure you're maximizing your donation asks? Use Funraise's Wealth Screening tool to determine a donors capacity to give before you make the ask. Think of it as fundraising fortune-telling, but without the crystal ball.

Tip #5—Make giving easy peasy

Real talk—it’s time to stop losing donations to a terrible giving experience. We already talked about testing your donation page in Tip #3, but beyond that, step into your donors' shoes and look for ways to improve the whole giving experience from start to finish.

Make it mobile friendly, easy to navigate, easy to read, and easy to use. And remember to focus solely on getting people to donate when they visit your donation pages. Often called squeeze pages, this is an opportunity to funnel donor activity into dollars. Don't ask visitors to watch a video, check out case studies, or read a long block of text. They should be focused on donating. One more time for those in the back... no newsletter sign-ups, no social media feeds, no links to your CEO's bio. Keep it simple: Donate Now.

Stacks of money with wings attached flying in the sky through the clouds.

Tip #6—Make it multi-channel

Fundraising friend, we know you put in a lot of work, so why not put that appeal to work for you and make it multi-channel? If you wrote a direct mail letter, turn that letter into an email and a few social media posts. If you have a crowdfunding campaign, be sure to tell your whole community about what’s going on; don’t wait for them to magically find your campaign. You could even take your appeal live to any of your live social streams and do it telecast-style!

Tip #7—Urgency FTW

Want in on the secret to direct response fundraising? The secret (awesome) sauce is making the ask timely and urgent. Timely in that there is some context for why this ask is important now. Don't hesitate to tie your cause to a greater social or political conversation. You know where your org stands and that your org is invested in change right now, but your supporters and the broader community need to have it repeated over and over.

Make it urgent in that there’s a reason to give today. To. day. Set a goal based on a deadline that ends in a reward—matching grant? Executive Director shenanigans? Dogs get a day at the beach? It'll give your donors a great reason to give by a specific date, and you'll get to watch that progress bar go up, up and up.

For a perfect example, take a look at what DIGDEEP did when the pandemic hit. Tying their mission, providing clean water to all Americans, to handwashing, made World Water Day 2020 a record-breaking success.

Tip #8—Tap into the power of social proof

Want to raise more money? Highlight the social proof of other people giving to your organization in your next appeal. Share the total number of donors, or better yet, share a story about one of the donors. Get an interview on paper or video and share their “why I give” story so it can inspire others in your audience.

Tip #9—Tell a story

The power of a single story is undisputed. Beyond donor stories, though, there are other awesome ways your organization can help donors understand how their gift makes a difference. Share the story of one of your org's beneficiaries and watch it light up supporters' hearts. Remind donors of the past—we see small steps being taken every day, but over time, those result in big change. Go back 10 years, 30 years, 100 years, and talk about the challenges your beneficiaries would face at that time to encourage additional growth.

Tip #10—Use a matching gift

There’s a reason why nonprofits run matching gift campaigns—they are hiiiiighly motivating for small-dollar donors. Everyone l-o-v-e-s to see their gift going twice or even three times as far because of a match. So. Find a major donor or two, or a corporate partner who's willing to sponsor a matching campaign. Now you can double down on your matching strategy by making it time sensitive, creating a sense of urgency (Tip # 7!).

There you have it! Try these tips one at a time, or combine several for even more oomph. Shorten your learning curve by asking the pros, and then become one! Increasing your fundraising revenue doesn’t have to feel like cracking the code on the Rosetta Stone. You got this. 

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