Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a nonprofit decides to get into online fundraising. They put together a great video and launch a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to raise tens of thousands of dollars.
And then…nothing happens. Crickets.
Maybe a few people make a donation, but it comes nowhere close to the goal.
What happened? There are several things that can cause a fundraising campaign to fail, but one major cause is simply that no one, even your most ardent supporters, knew about your campaign.
In today’s busy world, it’s hard to get your message heard. The most-impactful fundraising project in the world still won’t raise money if no one sees it. Unfortunately, too many nonprofits blast out one email for their campaign, a few tweets, and a Facebook post, then call it a day.
I’m here to tell you that’s not enough.
In order to make sure your message is heard, your audience will likely need to hear it multiple times. However, you’ve got to strike a delicate balance between being heard and burning out your audience.
So how much should you be tweeting/posting/emailing/snapping/whatever? Unfortunately, there’s not a clean cut answer on that, but we can get some insights.
(Side note: if you’d like some help with planning, check out this 30-Day Campaign Calendar planning tool)
Let’s start with Twitter.
Twitter is an odd beast. At the moment, unlike Facebook, every tweet your organization sends can theoretically show up on the timeline of someone who follows you, provided they are logging on and reading their timeline at the time it was sent.
However, the odds of that happening are fairly low. In fact, there are about 6,000 tweets going out around the world every second. This makes the shelf life of any one single tweet pretty short.
So one tweet is not likely to make a big impact for your campaign. Rather, you need a broad effort from your own account and the accounts of your supporters. Tweeting about a campaign five or more times a day isn’t unheard of. However, even this might fall flat if done ineffectively.
Consider these tips when tweeting about your campaign:
Bad news: getting any kind of organic (unpaid) reach on Facebook nowadays is tough. Unlike Twitter, Facebook users do not see everything their friends or “liked” pages post. Rather, Facebook uses an algorithm to decide what users are most interested in seeing. For business/nonprofit pages, they’ve also reduced the number of people who will see a post in order to push these pages to pay to “boost” a post (get it in front of more people).
If you have the budget, boosting a post can be effective. However, you can do a few things to increase the visibility of a post without forking over money to Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook typically accounts for 25% of campaign page traffic. But the dirty, little, nonprofit secret about this traffic is: it doesn’t come from the posts you so faithfully put out on your organization’s page. It comes from other people sharing your campaign!
Again, this is another time to engage your promoters and ask them to help spread the word about your campaign.
You can also get your posts to have further reach just by having them shared by people who like your page. As individuals share the post, their friends will see it and the reach will grow. The trick here is to create posts that people want to share.
Here’s how Rory Green, who runs the very popular fundraising Tumblr and Facebook page “FundraiserGrrl”, gets her posts to be shared far and wide:
“The best way I have found to get organic reach on Facebook is to know your audience and create content that serves THEM not YOU. Be relevant. Be interesting. Be funny. But do it with your audience, not your needs in mind.”
This means that a post that says “Help support our campaign!” is not likely to be very effective, but a video showing your organizations’ beneficiaries being impacted by your work (with a link to the campaign included), could be very effective.
Email is far and away the number one driver of traffic to campaign pages. People on your email list already have an existing relationship with you and are far more likely to support a fundraising campaign as a result.
However, email is one of those communications channels that can quickly be abused if you’re not careful. Get careless and you could not only see people unsubscribe from your list, but your emails could have their deliverability hurt if you get marked as spam.
During a 30-day campaign, an email once a week should suffice, with two or more messages during the launch and closing weeks being appropriate to put more pressure on reaching your goal.
While you should be careful about peppering your list too frequently, studies show that most of us could stand to email our lists more frequently. Unsubscribe and open lists typically plateau after 4 to 5 messages a month, so anything beyond that is not likely to hurt your stats too bad.
The key here is to use variety to avoid burning your list out. Don’t just send the same boring “Support our campaign!” message everytime. Tell a story about your members or beneficiaries. Share a quote from an actual donor. Include a fun video. Give people a reason to open every single message from you.
In the end, it all comes down to this. It doesn’t really matter how frequently or infrequently you email, tweet, or post if the updates are boring and not worth interacted with. Before launching your campaign, plan out your updates. Write them out for each day, then review and see if they’re interesting to your audience, or just self-serving. Scratch those self-serving ones and serve up something your audience will look forward to seeing instead!
Andrew Littlefield runs fundraising education and resources for WeDidIt, a software company that helps nonprofits raise money online with fundraising and donor research tools.