Community engagement, Email strategy, Fundraising, Strategic planning

The Call to Action:
Understanding Your Audience and Communicating Urgency

We can sense it coming by a slight change in the air or the return of pumpkin-spice flavored products on our coffee menus: Fall is around the corner, and with the season comes increased email volume, crowded inboxes, and end-of-year fundraising plans. Our nonprofit partners often worry that their donors may experience fatigue from the high volume of emails and appeals for donations – especially with this year’s unusually critical midterm elections. We’d like to begin with some reassurance: Your supporters follow you because they care about your mission, and in busy times of the year, they expect to receive more emails from the organizations they follow. Time and again, we see them show up to support the nonprofits they care about.

With that said, amid the high volume of year-end fundraising appeals, cutting through the noise to communicate that right now is the time to give requires that you get a sense of your program’s urgent mission across to your supporters with crystal-clear clarity to yield more opens, clicks, and donations. Here, our expert strategists break this down to a few simple, key steps.

Understand your audience’s affinity for your mission.

When donors talk about the organizations they support, they’ll often frame the conversation around the impact their donation makes toward an issue they care about: for example, they might say, “Organizations focused on health care save lives” or “Giving to conservation nonprofits protects the animals I love and the ecosystems at risk.”

To understand what resonates with your audience – to identify what sort of messaging cuts to the core of the reason supporters give – it is crucial to test ahead of big moments and campaigns. Through rigorous testing, you can discern what subjects, images, and language bring out the strongest sense of affinity in your supporters and drive a higher response.

Use your understanding of that affinity to inform fundraising.

There may be a sense within your program that among all the equally critical work your organization does, some subjects are more popular than others. Here an important distinction comes into play: educating and building affinity for less-talked-about issues versus pure fundraising.

The former is important work that is most effectively executed in formats like newsletters, engagement campaigns, and messaging to major donors. When we think about pure fundraising, however, the focus is on isolating the subjects that will raise the most money to power every aspect of your program.

So when you speak to your audience about the subjects that you’ve tested into and prioritize the material that’s proven to resonate, you’re sharpening the focus of your fundraising messaging to set your campaign up for success. Our strategists recommend leading with the most popular topics while keeping a keen eye on the question: What’s going to grab your supporters’ attention in 10 seconds or less?

Leverage strategies that communicate urgency.

Now that you’re leading your fundraising campaign with the subjects you know will grab your supporters’ attention, what are the tactics that will clearly reflect the urgency of your mission’s need for support?

    Create moments. By creating moments around the topics you know your supporters care about, you make top-performing content even more prominent. By building campaigns around “giving days,” you can create the why – an opportunity to tell your supporters why now is the time to give.
    Use equivalency buttons and matches. Equivalency buttons have value in communicating urgency because they offer supporters specific examples of what their $XX donation can provide. Similarly, matches lend a sense of timeliness to a donation, creating a window where a supporter can multiply their impact and give as a part of a larger group.
    Offer multiple deadlines. Testing has shown us repeatedly that emails sent closer to a deadline perform the best within a campaign – so why not break a four-day campaign into several deadlines, offering a 24-hour deadline to unlock a match, a window of opportunity to use that match, and then a deadline extension to power more giving in a campaign’s final days?

And of course, in the midst of all this testing and strategizing, it’s helpful to remember where this conversation started: Donors feel an emotional connection to the impact of their gift on your work and the causes they care about deeply. When your fundraising messaging holds true to your mission – allowing a donor to feel an affinity toward your world-changing work and the way their gift contributes to it – then it will create its own urgency even in the busiest of seasons.

For more on the importance of authenticity in donor communication, check out Building Compelling Stories: Fundamentals of the Narrative Email on our blog. For a peek into the images and designs that turn heads and stop scrolling at EOY, check out End-of-Year Fundraising Graphics: A Conversation with MissionWired Art Director Lauren Allen.

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