5 Strategies to Get Exceptional Year-End Fundraising Results - The Journey Before Year-End Part 1

(This is the first in a two-part series on laying the groundwork in September and October for better than expected year-end fundraising results.)

The pressure is on: You have to raise more money this year-end than ever before. You need some new approaches to stand out in this noisy and crowded fundraising period. You’re hitting a wall for ideas.

Does this sound familiar?

  • With 31% of donations being made in December, there’s going to be a lot of inbox fundraising requests and online ads – and you don’t want yours to be ignored.
  • GivingTuesday is November 28th and you want people to pay attention to your request first.
  • More and more organizations are pushing out their year-end fundraising asks on social and email beginning in November.

So how do you get noticed? What can you do?

Rather than compete for your donors’ attention during November and December when the space is crowded, start now engaging in a conversation with them. You will then have their focus at year-end.

Think about the journey you want to take a supporter on before year-end:

  • What is the digital conversation you can have with them that conveys they are someone special
  • What are you doing with their help that is important to them?
  • How are you communicating that you personally care that they care? 

Here are five strategies to build your organization’s journey before year-end:

1.     Convey warmth: Conveying warmth helps shape people’s understanding of your work and their role in it. Warmth can quickly connect a follower to your mission and impact. It makes your work more personal and authentic. One way to convey warmth is through stories and images that show the emotion and impact of your work. Invite people to share one word that comes to mind when they look at an image. Or ask them to share a memory of a time in their life that inspired them to support your work.

2.    Be grateful: Where would you be without your donors and supporters? Make sure they know they’re the heroes of your organization. Show what their support makes possible. Create a photo gallery filled with stories and images of your work in action. Add video to bring it all to life.

3.    Listen and adapt: Seed content on social, watch for what works and then post more like that. Use the ‘big winners’ -- what lots of people like, view and share – to inform email content and to create a “surround sound” of messages.

4.    C.O.P.E with year-end: When we say cope, we mean C.O.P.E., Create Once Publish Everywhere. As you create online content, be prepared to publish it everywhere, including email, social, advertising and through other distribution channels such as Medium and YouTube. Package your stories for each platform and be consistent with your messaging, images and Calls To Action.

5.    Cross-promote: Your people are on multiple channels, so cross-promote on email what’s happening in social and vice versa. Use September and October to get your audience connected in more than one channel so you create the opportunity to communicate with them in multiple places. When it comes time to ask them for support, they’ll see it in more than one channel.

We know the pressure of year-end fundraising firsthand. Take some of the pressure off yourself by preparing meaningful journeys for your donors now. Those connections will pay off in November and December when your donors and prospective donors will appreciate knowing the impact they’ve made and how much your organization values them.

Look out for Part Two in this series where we’ll offer a calendar full of ideas to use over the next couple months. In the meantime, reach out to Causemo if you’re ready to plan your donor’s journey!

When a Welcome Series Fails (And What To Do About It)

Does this sound familiar: You’re about to acquire a bunch of email addresses through a petition or list append but before you do, you create a 3-4 part email welcome series that introduces the new or returning supporter to your organization. You create a series that introduces that person to your organization. You cover a bunch of different program areas and topics because you have people coming in on a number of issues, but you can’t support discrete content tracks for all the sources and issues bringing in new supporters.

You get the names, send the welcome series. You thank them. You invite them to take action on a new issue.  Maybe there’s a survey in there too. Then after a few emails, you ask them to donate. You see some gifts trickle in and wonder if those new names will bring in more gifts during your upcoming match campaign or at year-end.  You then report on the ROI of this acquisition source with mixed enthusiasm.

What happened?

In short, what happened is the opportunity to engage with someone -- about something they seemingly cared about -- was missed. Some people sign up for things and then forget they did. Others signed up passionate about that one issue, but you’re sending them welcome emails on something different. They lose interest. They stop responding.

What can you do about it?

First, prepare different tracks for your first few emails aligned to the issue a supporter responded. You may need only 2-3 tracks that will align new people into relevant content groups based on the issues they respond to.

Instead of a generic welcome series that everyone else is using, think about the ‘surprise and delight’ you can deliver with targeted messages that play back the specific issue that’s important to the supporter at the time they signed up. Instead of the bland institutional ‘buffet of issues’ email, serve up a tailored 3 or 4 course email series talking specifically about their issue of concern. In the competition of the inbox, you’ll stand out, get more attention and build more loyalty by treating your supporters this way.

Second, upload those new names into Facebook and other social spaces to connect with them there. Use custom audience targeting to align the content you push to them to mirror the issue that sparked them to join you in the first place. Next, look at the data on their interaction with those posts and boosted content to determine what they show interest in – listen to their clicks (or taps) to learn what to send them next. Then use that information to shape what you share next on social and in email.

The punch line is that you have to segment and tailor content to steward that new supporter to deeper commitment. And you can do that best by sending them meaningful and authentic content around what they care about. Meaningful – because it aligns to their values and their concerns, to why they signed up in the first place. Authentic – because it will be personal, show you know them, show your organization listens and responds to what they care about.

Your content should put the supporter first. The person signed up with you for a specific reason. The question that should drive your first communications to them should be, “How do we reflect back what they care about and that they made a good choice in supporting us on that issue?” What you share next – on social, in email and in offline communications - will do better if it is interest-based.

Why is this important?

Given the climate we’re in where nearly every headline provides an opportunity to act, it’s reasonable to expect that people respond to issues that resonate with them and that are most compelling to them. In that moment of caring, of being passionate enough to sign up and take a stand or join your group, you have their attention.

In that critical moment, telling them the story of how they are the hero in supporting that issue they acted upon seals the connection. Response rates are higher when you send interest-based, segmented communications. Conversion is higher when you ask for their next action based on their personal interests. Blasting out messages that tell your organization’s story, provide the laundry list of things you work on, and don’t relate to what they cared about when they took action with you is the easier path. And the path of less effectiveness.

It’s our job as fundraisers, organizers and marketers to build relationships that lead to deeper commitment. Relationships are built on shared interests and shared values. You can demonstrate you care about your supporter relationships from the first contact with them by reinventing how you do ‘the welcome series.’

Rather than thinking about these first touch points from the frame of ‘how do we welcome someone into our organization?” flip it. Ask instead, “How do we reflect back that we know what they care about and that they made a good choice in supporting us on that issue?” Make that first connection -- that you listened and value their contribution to their issue of concern. Build that trust that you care about what they cared about. Then from there you can introduce them to the other parts of your mission and expand their contributions.

We see time and time again that personalized supporter journeys based on issue relevance do better than traditional institutional methods of welcoming. We know it has been daunting, time and resource intensive for most nonprofits to create highly segmented welcome streams mapped to issue interest. That’s why we created Causemo – to put modern technology of interest-based segmentation, automation and content targeting to work for causes. If you need help adding value to the names you’ve already purchased and want your welcome series to deliver higher results, let’s talk about your program. We’d be happy to tell you more about how we’re generating results for our clients and how we can help you too.

Causemo's #Bridge17 Take-Aways

We had a great time last week at the Bridge Conference. For some of us attending, it was like a reunion: connecting with long-time colleagues and friends, sharing experiences, talk of what’s working and where the nonprofit direct response fundraising world is headed.

For others on our team, this was their Bridge conference. They brought fresh eyes and ears to the sessions they attended, soaking up ideas, case studies, data and sharing in the excitement around the possibilities sparked by the conversations.

We each got something out of the conference. We compared notes and found common threads emerging. Here are our big take-aways:


  1. New Audiences = Bold Tests. When your donor base is over 65 and the one you want is under 50, you have to be bolder in testing new concepts and new programs. We heard it in lots of places -- from Alan Clayton’s keynote to Chas Offut talking about the PBS Nerds initiative and Mike Johnston’s Journey experience session, to name a few. Traditional, incremental A/B testing won’t get you there. Go bold, take risks you may not be used to. Fail fast and succeed faster in finding the new model that works for your organization.

  2. Data’s Boring, Tell Stories. There were lots and lots of case studies shared nailing the point home that our supporters are moved most by compelling stories and pictures. Throwing impact numbers at them does not work as well. ‘The Threat’, ‘The Hope’ and ‘The Impact’ are the best combination of memes, and best told through personal stories. This is playing out in all channels and especially online. There were some really interesting examples of using email to invite people to watch a video, join a social conversation, and sharing content from other online sources that tell the story for you. This is going to be a hot area of testing and continuing evolution for causes like we’ve been doing in our own client work.

  3. Real Hunger for “Next Level Digital Solutions.” There were lots of great sessions showing that core digital tactics have “turned the corner” and are producing reliable results for all sizes of organizations. Email campaigns and targeting on Facebook were the most prevalent tactics showing impact. What we heard was that folks are ‘stuck’ getting to the next level. They know they could be doing more … but time and people to manage the program is holding them back. Knowing where to invest next was a big need. It was encouraging to hear good feedback from Bridge Conference attendees on how what we’re doing with digital journeys at Causemo fits with the opportunity to take their programs to the next level.

  4. One Channel Is Not Enough. It takes repetition to get to conversion and that requires you to stay in front of your supporters. Sanky Communications shared their analysis that it can take as many as 70+ omni-channel impressions to get to a gift. So sending a series of emails is not the best strategy. Building a program that adds in targeted remarketing, multiple social channels with coordinated email, mail and phoning are what’s going to be required to get to “yes, I’ll donate.”

  5. Big Data – The Time Is Now to Get Out of the 90s. From the vendor hall to the sessions, our data science team saw how much opportunity there is for using modern Big Data sets to make a huge impact on targeting and ROI. Co-op databases and demographic data overlays that have dominated strategy for 20 years are still the ‘go to.’ They do work AND there’s cutting-edge innovations in data strategies from the commercial sector that are ripe to be cost-effectively brought to the nonprofit section. Data leaders are tapping into the rich data sources that are out there for enhanced targeting by digital interests, cause participation, social channel presence, geo-location, and more to optimize segmentation and improve ROI. Even more powerful is the interest-based and behavioral machine learning that power hyper-targeting and dynamic content messaging. There were lots of innovations with practical applications that our data science folks were excited to take back to the office to continue building out in Causemo.

The Bridge Conference has always been on the leading front of high quality knowledge sharing for direct response fundraisers. This year’s conference was no exception. Looking forward to #Bridge18!

How ‘Sets of Things’ Psychology Can Boost Your Fundraising

We’re fascinated by a recent article on the psychology of “sets of tasks”. You know...that urge we all have to complete that list of “to-dos” for a sense of accomplishment?

You wouldn’t think this urge can have an impact on fundraising, but it does.

Researchers at the Harvard Business School have found that grouping tasks increases the likelihood that someone will complete them all, instead of abandoning them midway through. The article states:

“New research reveals that people are irrationally but effectively motivated by the idea of completing a set, even if it means working harder or spending more money—with no additional reward other than the satisfaction of completion and the relief of avoiding an incomplete set.”

The Canadian Red Cross used the research to test sets of offers on donation pages and came up with stunning results.

In short, asking prospective donors to “complete” a survival kit by adding more items based on their donation increases their overall gift. One test had a standard list of items akin to your basic shopping cart. Another test image showed the donor’s progress toward completing the kit using a graphic circle.

Here’s that “set of things” test image:

The circle test, this simple visual completion image, resulted in 4 times the number of people filling the kit. In other words, the “set of things” test delivered a 21% completion rate, compared to 5%. Check out the article for more details.

So, it got us thinking. How can the psychology of “sets of things” go beyond donation pages? How could we inspire supporters to take on a “set of things” for a cause? The cool thing about supporter journeys is that the sequential and triggered mechanics are perfect for a “set of things” experience.

Here are a couple of ideas we’re looking to test soon:


Example #1: The Live Good Challenge™

Sample Copy:

“Would you like to feel good doing good for the next four days?

Then, take the Live Good Challenge.

Each day, we’ll send you one thing to do that’s good for [insert here: the planet, your community, improving your health, etc.].”


  • Send out each day’s challenge on email and social.

  • Ask supporters to commit with a click, email reply, text or comment that they did it.

  • Track that response and trigger the next journey step.

  • On the next day, send the next task with their personal progress bar.

  • And repeat on Day 3.

  • On the last day, at that “75% Done!” bar, invite them to ”Help a friend feel good too. Challenge them.”  Who doesn’t want to help a friend feel good and get 100% done?

That’s deploying “set of things” science to grow your list and social community through a journey experience.


Example #2: The “Micro-Matching Journey”

So you’ve got your annual matching gift campaign coming up and you can’t convert your social folks to donors? Try something different that plays into both “set of things” science and the giving habits of under-30 donors. Set-up a 3-step sequence of digital messages and landing pages to move through this “set of things”.

Sample Copy:

“Want to raise $15 for your cause? Here’s how in 3 easy steps.” [click]

Journey Step 1 of 3: “Share this shareable, get $1”


“You’ve earned $1 out of $15 for your cause!”

Journey Step 2 of 3: “Watch this funny Facebook live out-take, get $4”


“You’ve earned $5 out of $15 for your cause!”

Journey Step 3 of 3: “Give $5, we’ll match $5 and you’ll get all $15 for your cause”

[tap PayPal]

“100% complete. $15 of $15.”

At Causemo, we have fun thinking about how to bring data science, brain science and technology together to help causes raise more, do more and make change. If you want to kick around a “set of things” idea, reach us at info@causemo.com. We’d love to collaborate!

A More Effective Way to Reactivate Lapsed Donors

Have you taken a look at your donor reactivation strategy and content lately? If you’re sending donors the same thing over and over — acquisition package, reinstatement message, campaign email, newsletters — and they aren’t responding, it’s time to revisit your strategy.

Unlike direct mail, innovations in online journey-based marketing — and the immediacy of performance metrics — allow for organizations to test bold concepts and tactics to deliver big results. It’s a game changing model.

According to Bloomerang and based on research by Adrian Sargeant, 67% of donors leave because they were never thanked, had no recollection of donating to your organization and then gave to an organization they felt was more deserving. Ouch...All indicators of poor relationship development.

The commercial sector is leveraging data and new technologies to deliver high-results and game changing programs:

  • Through ads and emails, Ann Taylor, the women’s clothing retailer, reminds website shoppers of items left in their abandoned cart. Delivering ads with the items left in the cart (that yellow dress is difficult to ignore!) and emails reminding the customer that “the dress you want is waiting for you”, the potential customer is reminded to complete the transaction.
  • Starbucks is able to deliver push notifications on mobile based on your geolocation, making sure you know you’re close to one of their stores. Their advertising efforts are even able to register when you’re within close proximity of one of their competitors. The technique, known as geo-fencing, allows you to customize offers, creative and more based on data from your mobile device.  

These technologies can — and are — being used to produce high-results for nonprofits as well.

With a combination of Facebook ads and emails, Causemo helped Cradles to Crayons with their 2016 Year End campaign, including their lapsed donors, and drove results by testing creative that was continuously optimized for performance and giving. The result? 108% increase in giving from this often overlooked audience.

So what’s at play here and what steps can you follow to improve your program?

Step #1: Plan the journey.

Your old way of communicating isn’t working, so you need to plan out the new journey to rebuild trust and motivate giving. The infographic above compares the roadmap for a Causemo produced journey-based reinstatement program to the increasingly less productive traditional method.

Step #2: Find What Your Supporters Care About

Learn what your supporters care about using digital interest data available from an ever increasing number of sources, as well as your own click data. Tracking this valuable information back to the messages being delivered across platforms to the constituent will lead to engagement and conversions. Then, explore where your supporters are spending time online: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and media sites. Done right, this research can reveal where to align both your ad spend and email outreach to get your message through.

Step #3: Re-build Trust

Provide these donors with content that is meaningful to them. Is it providing supplies for kids to go back to school? Is it contacting Congress about an upcoming vote? Build trust by engaging your lapsed donors in an action that demonstrates the value of their involvement. Once they’re engaged, follow-up with a series of emails to share the impact of the donor’s actions. For example, an effective impact statement could be: “Thanks to you, we were able to provide 100 kids with backpacks filled with school supplies,” or “With your help, our volunteers delivered 500 letters to Senator Smith, yours included!”.

Step #4: Make the Ask Relevant

Now that the lapsed donor is engaged once again and you know what they’re interested in, tailor a future fundraising ask that addresses what you’re able to do with the donor’s support. No more generic prospecting packages. Instead, implement personalized and meaningful asks to support what they care about.

Step #5: Thank, Thank, and Follow up.

Digital channels allow you to personalize the Thank You stream. So, use them. Follow-up on the donor's gift with a series of tailored messages to reinforce their impact. Differentiate their experience with you by showing them you know they expressed their values through a donation to you. Prove that you “get them” and value them.

As part of the journey, it’s valuable to schedule stewardship emails within a month of when the donor made a gift to let them know how their gift has been used and what you’ve been able to accomplish thanks to their generosity.

And, if a donor clicks on a video, schedule an email or post that includes a video — the donor is indicating how they are accessing information. Use it to drive the journey. And don’t let up. Remind donors consistently of the impact they’ve helped make thanks to their gift.

Journey-based marketing makes better use of data and automation to drive a more productive reinstatement strategy for valuable audiences. Utilizing new innovations in technology and leveraging user behaviors helps reduce the “churn and burn” many organizations suffer when they try to apply a “one size fits all” strategy to valuable donors. To learn how you can reactivate your donors with journeys, contact a Causemo expert.

Your Donors Aren’t All the Same, So Stop Treating Them That Way

It’s hard work to get a new donor. It takes time, money, and attention to detail to get someone in the door. What’s more difficult? Keeping them.  

According to Blackbaud, the retention rate for first-year donors is 27.3%.

What if you could improve your retention rate of donors by 10%, just by tailoring your communications to what your donors care about most?

Donors don’t make a second gift for a variety of reasons: They may not feel valued, may be unable to afford another gift, or may find an organization that feels more deserving.

Furthermore, donors invariably stop giving because your communications simply don’t interest them. Adrian Sargeant put it very succinctly in his report, “Managing Donor Defection”:

“Many nonprofits, for example, still continue to send every communication to every donor on the database. No attempt is made to segment the database by donor interests, level of gift, or something else. The majority of donors may not care, but a significant number may become disenchanted over time and elect to divert their funds elsewhere.”

At Causemo, we’re tackling the “disenchantment” problem by using data-driven journeys that tailor multi-channel communications based on a supporter’s demonstrated interests.

For example, Causemo’s platform will send a group of lapsed donors an initial sequence of emails, each including different topics. At the same time, the system will coordinate targeted digital ads on those same topics. Different people will be interested in different topics you’re communicating about.

Let’s say Jane Donor clicks on topic A, showing her interest in nutrition. Alex Donor clicks on topic B, showing his interest in sports programs. And Jack Donor clicks on topic C, revealing his interest in after-school tutoring.  
What happens next for most organizations is that Jane, Alex, and Jack are all sent the next communication scheduled in the content calendar: an article about summer programs. Clearly, none of the three donors have demonstrated any interest in this topic. If you execute this non-personalized messaging multiple times, the donor is sure to be turned off, and perhaps not donate again.

Journey-based marketing solves this “disenchantment” problem by listening to the signals your donors are sending you. The next content and offers in the individual’s journey to donate are automatically personalized.

In Causemo’s case, our machine learning technology captures the unique interests of these three donors. The system automatically triggers the next email and delivers ads with topic A for Jane, topic B for Alex, and topic C for Jack. The landing pages and donation forms that are delivered dynamically populate with images and copy that align with their interests. Using this data-driven personalization across channels results in increased retention rates of donors that are significantly better than mass blast, non-personalized communications.

Why does this work? Because journey-marketing addresses donors’ core needs and wants. Specifically, the programs:

1. Deliver value: Demonstrate what your organization has been able to accomplish in the program area of most interest to the donor.

2. Rebuild trust: You have shown care in getting to know the donor by communicating to them about what they value. You can take the time to rebuild trust because technology allows you to automate an entire series of content based on what donors care about before you make the ask.

3. Facilitate a personalized ask: The ask you make is directly related to what they told you they care about. In this way, you don’t send multiple non-relevant communications that will turn donors off from you.

We’ve heard countless times that retention and recapturing donors is difficult. At the same time, it is a major priority for many organizations. However, there are barriers around time, staff capacity, and the ROI when trying to deliver personalized communications to re-engage lapsed donors.

Causemo’s Journey Platform for nonprofits leverages data and technology to produce what you’ve always wanted: a highly personal, interest-based message stream that will build trust, deliver value, and generate better results than your traditional mass marketing program. After all, it’s that blast, mass, non-personalized marketing program that turned your donors off in the first place. So, why wouldn’t you want to change the game and show your donors that you listen and are worthy of their support?

Where Do I Find New Donors and Advocates That Look Like the Best Ones I Have?

Where Do I Find New Donors and Advocates That Look Like the Best Ones I Have?

Every group I talk to tells me, “I need to grow my donors and advocates through my digital program.” That’s almost always followed by:


“I just can’t cost effectively find people who look like my active people.”


The good news is you can find these new people through look-a-like targeting

Every group I talk to tells me, “I need to grow my donors and advocates through my digital program.” That’s almost always followed by: “I just can’t cost effectively find people who look like my active people.” The good news is you can find these new people through look-a-like targeting