Breaking the Rules to Raise: Strategies for Military Support Organizations

Let’s step away from end-of-year for a moment and pan out: While EOY is a critical time of year for all organizations, military-focused nonprofits can leverage so many additional moments outside of that seasonal push – throughout the entire calendar – that offer big opportunities to drive support for the troops.

Whether you’re messaging on a traditional military holiday like Veterans Day or tapping into the patriotism felt on July 4th, we have some key insights for growing your digital program around these important dates – and the trend is simple.

Throw out your “traditional” fundraising calendar.

When it comes to military support organizations, sticking to a traditional fundraising calendar means leaving significant revenue on the table. The cadence of military holidays is unique, and your schedule in connecting with supporters should match that. What you want to do instead is follow the moments – likely military-related holidays – that work for you, even if they don’t seem to be optimally timed.

Consider November: The Marine Corps’ birthday is the day before Veterans Day, and both are only two weeks ahead of Giving Tuesday. Working from a traditional calendar, a digital fundraiser might feel forced to choose one “tentpole” moment to mention and skip another, out of fear of burning out your list. But our military support partners have found that regardless of the pacing, if you have a compelling enough reason to send, their audiences tend to respond just as well to all three topics.

Put simply: Don’t shy away from utilizing your unique fundraising moments, even if they feel repetitive or less than optimally timed. The moments your organization can tap into are the moments when your audience will be most engaged. And remember: You can load up on volume across channels, too!

Lean into humanity to thread tricky messaging needles.

Even within an audience united around the same common mission, every organization’s community contains individuals with varying emotional connections to the work – and that’s especially true of the military support organizations we partner with. While some crave deeply personal stories from service members and their families, others prefer the flag-waving of pride in our troops. But what these audiences all have in common is a strong response to messages about sacrifice and honor.

Military support fundraising comes down to the people behind the uniforms: the shared humanity that binds us from the home front to a base thousands of miles away. And remember, the chances are high that Blue Star families are reading your messages – so when typical fundraising tactics feel like a misstep (think flashy deadlines and aggressive calls to action on Memorial Day), we’ve found the better approach is to meet the weight of the moment by leaning into that humanity, that sense of honor and sacrifice, and let that guide you.

What does this look like in action? It might mean sending a message of reflection with no CTA but a donate button in your email’s footer. It might mean a “sign the card” campaign that builds personal connections between subject and supporter. This doesn’t mean throwing out the best practices with the bathwater – you don’t have to be so sentimental that you’re not strategic. Just put the emphasis where it matters most.

Acquire early. (But don’t worry, November is not too late!)

A large part of a successful military support message is communicating with the right audience. Prioritizing acquisition between big moments will help you ensure that when an important day arrives, you’ll have the audience you need to respond.

Now, some tentpole moments are well-timed for digital conversions: Gains to your list between Memorial Day and July 4th will be primed and ready to deliver for you when Q4 comes around. But that doesn’t mean you’re too late to acquire ahead of Veterans Day or EOY! Our best suggestion? Reliable fixed-cost acquisition like our first-of-its-kind AdvantageAI digital co-op. Acquisitions of this kind will still have time to pay off during big fundraising moments in November and set you up for success during Veterans Day, Giving Tuesday, and that final December push. (Psst: You can learn more about AdvantageAI here!)