Digital strategy, Strategic planning, Fundraising

Election Year Strategies for Nonprofit Fundraisers: Don’t Panic (And Four More Helpful Tips)

Abe Krieger

Senior Vice President, Strategic Services

Tajana Graham

Vice President

As the 2024 election news cycle heats up, we’re living in the reality of a familiar presidential race, on the precipice of what we can only imagine will be, at the very least, an eventful eight-month rollercoaster. For nonprofit leaders planning fundraising campaigns, the prospect of looking ahead and calendaring out content can feel uncertain – and understandably so.

As an integrated direct marketing firm working closely with world-changing nonprofits and political candidates, we’re in a unique position to speak to this 2024 fundraising landscape.

And we’ll be the first to admit: The last time nonprofits were fundraising alongside a presidential election, the year was 2020 – when there were many factors influencing fundraising results. Election years can negatively impact nonprofit fundraising results, but many nonprofits are still able to drive revenue growth through even and odd years, including presidential election cycles. That’s exactly why we’re encouraging our partners to take neither a panicked nor a doom-and-gloom approach to their 2024 planning: The election will be one factor in your results this year, but it will not be the only factor. You have opportunities to mitigate risk and set your program up for success.

Leaning on the experience we’ve gained from both the nonprofit and political fields of fundraising, we’re sharing five tips for nonprofit fundraising in an election year. We hope you’ll find something here to give you energy and inspiration, not just to get past November, but to lean into the opportunities the next few months present for testing, innovation, and growth.


#1: Don’t panic – run your best program.

When we look at the broader patterns in political fundraising alongside nonprofit results, we’re not seeing vast differences in results between odd and even years – so most importantly, we’re encouraging nonprofit partners to remember that there’s no call for panic.

Whatever cause your mission serves, your supporters are motivated to give because they care about the work your organization is doing, and a presidential election won’t change that.

Historically, we’ve seen our partners achieve year-over-year growth by consistently employing smart strategies, regardless of whether it is or is not an election year – so the most effective way to a successful year is to continue to run your best program.

#2: A smart calendar can go a long way.

A strong content calendar is built by looking at the year ahead through a variety of different lenses – and this year, the election timeline should be one of them. If your email volume for the year tends to depend on a campaign you send in October, it’s likely you’ll want to make some adjustments this year. Your campaign will have an increased likelihood of response when it has space to stand out. In the weeks running up to the election, political outreach will add up, lessening the opportunity for a nonprofit campaign to stand out in that time. Over digital channels, it’s also helpful to remember that political content is also going to saturate end-of-quarter and end-of-month periods leading up to November – so look for opportunities to make your moments land early in the quarter and early in the month.

When it comes to direct mail, calendaring is less about avoiding those short end-of-month windows and more about moving important fundraising campaigns earlier in the year. Some of our partners’ direct mail programs are front-loading Q1 and Q2 campaigns to avoid the competition for attention in October and early November.

#3: Keep an eye on innovative political campaigns.

By its very nature, political fundraising is fast paced and high scale – which means that campaigns are in a position to be constantly trying new strategies, getting quick results on what works, and innovating across fundraising channels.

With this knowledge in mind, election years can be more than just a source of challenges for nonprofit fundraisers. By leveraging the insights gained from observing political fundraisers, you can tap into a wealth of opportunities that might benefit your program’s strategy. Watch closely at what campaigns are trying, with an eye for the creative tactics and approaches that might work for your unique audience and mission.

#4: This is the year to try new channels.

If you’ve been thinking about breaking into SMS fundraising, now is a great time to start. Yes, SMS volume will scale up ahead of Election Day, but this also means it will become more familiar to users as a fundraising channel.

When thinking about your SMS fundraising strategy, consider the end user experience – long code texts will get more competitive and saturated during an election year, and members of your audiences will receive a lot of messages, especially if they also engage with political campaigns or live in swing states or states with high-profile state-wide or local elections. As a result, you’ll want to carefully consider volume during peak political giving moments. And if a supporter does not engage over SMS during the height of the election cycle, you should not write them off as inactive in the channel. You might consider testing such an audience again when things slow down after Election Day.

A thoughtful content calendar will go a long way over SMS, too. Be intentional with testing to gain an understanding of when your text messages might get drowned out versus when they break through. Here’s a channel where you’ll want to be especially thoughtful about EOQ and EOM appeals. Such tactics will likely work for a range of nonprofits, but you should carefully track performance in case the data indicates that other SMS strategies will perform better.

With postage and physical production costs to consider, direct mail programs are also looking for opportunities to integrate messaging across channels to drive overall growth. By including URLs and QR codes in mail packages, programs are encouraging supporters to engage with their mission across channels, opening up more opportunities for stewardship, response, and deeper, long-lasting connections with their mission.

#5: Lean into creative opportunities.

Here’s one strategy that we’ll posit can be the solution to many nonprofit fundraising challenges out there: When you’re telling the compelling story of your program’s mission and work, and you’re doing it in a way that is creative and engaging, then your messages will reach supporters and resonate.

Putting your very best content out during high volume moments also means thinking about unique user experiences. We’ve worked with our partners to build custom engagement experiences through Sign For Good, our proprietary tool for building custom user flows that allow organizations to fundraise and engage at the same time. From surveys to photo serieses to interactive impact-sharing and sustainer upsells, these user journeys offer a great platform for really creative content.

As we work alongside our partners to build their strongest 2024 fundraising strategies, we’re always eager to talk more about the challenges and opportunities of the current nonprofit giving landscape. You can reach out to us at [email protected] to continue the conversation or check out more of the strategies and innovations we’re taking into this year’s fundraising in our 2023 End-of-Year Digital Report.

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