September 21, 2017

Five Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign

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Across the country, the strategy is set, and plans have been made for the philanthropy phenomenon known as Giving Tuesday. What's your plan?

countdown to giving tuesday advice by Aespire Communications

Don’t worry. As we’ve stated before, it’s going to be okay. The strategy you have crafted is flawless; you have been nurturing audience relationships, your email lists are segmented, and have an automated online fundraising and donor retention platform in place.

The countdown is on. What if you have not yet begun to plan a campaign?

I do have a question to ask you. Why is your organization focusing on fundraising at the same time everyone else is trying to? Have you become so reliant on year-end giving, that you neglect your donors and your ability to fundraise year-round?

What if you consider Giving Tuesday the beginning of your fundraising year, not the end?

According to Neon CRM, one-third of annual giving occurs in December. It’s also true that over 50% of nonprofits begin their year-end appeal in October — which means for a November fundraising event, your planning should begin in July or August. Neon CRM also reports that nearly 1/3 of nonprofits raise 26 to 50% of their annual funding in their year end ask.

That means if you’re anticipating a Giving Tuesday campaign, you are behind in your planning! If you are, we recommend these five steps to ensure success this year:

1. Begin with a Design Thinking Approach

A design thinking approach means you start with strategy. Strategy always precedes implementation and will help you remain focused and meaningful (to the donor) — ensuring that your values and actions are aligned with the reasons that motivate your followers.

Every giving appeal or campaign is made up of two strategies: the appeal strategy and the gratitude strategy.

Not only must you plan your appeal strategy, but you must also plan your gratitude strategy. How are you going to thank your donors? How many touches will you have? What is the schedule for the thank you campaign?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Giving Tuesday (or any fundraising campaign) is about your organization or your cause. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for you to align opportunities with impact with the generosity of donors who believe in your cause.

Begin early by understanding what motivates your supporters, and how you can appeal to those motivations.

2. Create a Comprehensive Marketing Plan for your Campaign

The first experience a potential donor has with your cause will often be a fundraising appeal. If you begin with this premise — that all communications are donor communications — you must ensure that you have mapped out a comprehensive and coherent strategy for the motive, message, market, mediums, means, and methods by which you’ll share and thank your donors.

Expressing gratitude for the gift is just as critical as making the ask. Be clear on what you are asking, be explicit and the impact it will make, and be timely in your expression of thanks.

It’s important to remember that with any fundraising activities you are asking for more than money — you are asking for the donor’s trust. Every communication and every action that you take must demonstrate that your organization is trustworthy and that the cause is meaningful.

If you are not confident in how to create and execute a comprehensive campaign to support Giving Tuesday, the Six Elements of Modern Marketing Plan Webinar or Modern Marketing Plan White Paper provide practical case studies and worksheets to guide you.

3. Implement a User-Friendly Donor-retention and Online Giving Platform

if you are still using a PayPal donate button and a spreadsheet to track donors and gifts, your donors are most likely not experiencing the best you have to offer.

An online donor retention platform with features for giving online will ensure a memorable experience at every step — from outreach and gift making—to your expression of gratitude and acknowledgment of the donor’s generosity

When your online giving forms integrate with the donor retention platform, it helps you in many ways:

  • Online donations will flow automatically into a donor profile.
  • The donor profile will allow you to monitor donor engagement.
  • Acknowledgments and email thank you notes can be automated; sent to the donor within minutes of the donation.
  • Your Giving Tuesday campaign can be set on a unique campaign page, with the ask and the impact of the gift described in the appeal.
  • Integrating your online donations with a platform such as or will ensure that your donor's names are correctly spelled—and that there is no re-keying of donor names (minimizing the risk of typographic errors).

4. Nurture A Year-Round Culture of Philanthropy in your Fundraising Practicing

The thrill (and bragging rights) of a successful Giving Tuesday campaign is appealing.

What you learn and how you implement this campaign should inform and guide your future fundraising campaigns. Year-end appeals should be opportunities for special giving, for abundance giving, and for major opportunities of impact for your donor.

How are you nurturing generosity in appealing to the motivations of your donor's year-around? Are you using resources such as marketing automation to share stories of the impact that their gifts make?

Acknowledge that your donors make a difference and that you appreciate their advocacy and how they share your stories. Help them understand that they are part of your story. Help them believe they have made a difference.

This type of relationship nurturing takes place year-round. Your year-end appeal is an opportunity to extend this practice.

5. Implement your Gratitude Strategy

The gratitude you express and how you express it is what will become the most meaningful to your donors.

As Guidestar wisely notes, planning a gratitude strategy after your campaign launches is the wrong time.

Expressing gratitude, day in and day out, in every donor communication nurtures trust, creates loyalty, and reminds both volunteers and donors they are appreciated.

If you’re not certain how to express gratitude in a way that touches the heart, simply write a love letter to your donor. Personalize the expression — write it as if you are addressing one person, not many. You'll make someone’s day through your thoughtfulness.

Choose a donor management platform that supports marketing automation to make your gratitude strategy and donor nurturing plan meaningful for your donor.

Learn the best practices for expressing your gratitude to your supporters, acknowledging their gifts are meaningful, and their generosity makes a difference. Download the free excerpt, "Be Grateful," from the top-rated fundraising and communications guide, “Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto.”

Even if you’re not ready (again) this year, you can complete the steps outlined above in a day. (Unless you’re going to set up a platform such as or

Don’t you think one day of planning is a wise investment for year-end giving? Think of the returns!

Learn how Aespire can help you connect with donors and develop successful fundraising campaigns.


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