Holiday strategies: 3 things you need to know now

publication date: Sep 24, 2013
author/source: Taslim Somani

With one-third or more of the charitable sector’s annual revenues coming in during the last three months of the year, isn’t it time you did something radical to raise more money than ever?Taslim Somani photo

If you have a direct mail campaign and a couple of emails on your list, that’s wonderful. But if you really want to ramp up your online fundraising, a well-conceived online holiday campaign consisting of emails, e-cards and/or thank you gifts, digital advertising, a micro-site, videos, social media, and/or a catalogue, all under the banner of an attention-getting creative concept, is the way to go.

Here are the top three things you need to know when planning your online holiday fundraising campaign:

1. Brilliant creative will get you noticed

Marketers of consumer goods all start planning their Christmas promotions in July, and each year, they have to raise the ante.  With “% off” and “dollars off” campaigns sometimes starting as early as October, and with up to 40% of the year’s marketing emails sent during this time, it can be hard for charities to compete. That’s why you need attention-grabbing creative that’s not just attractive, but also translates into dollars. 

Here are a few things you should consider when developing the creative concept for your online holiday campaign:

  • Know your online donors.  Are they youthful? Urban? Boomers?  Develop creative that matches their values. A clever campaign name, bold imagery, 15-second (or shorter) video, hard-hitting copy, and humour are all components that can be incorporated into the design.
  • Make your campaign look and feel festive!  The holidays are a cheerful and festive time; your campaign should tap into all the positive energy and feelings this time of year holds with design elements that feature holiday imagery.
  • Solve a problem.  A campaign that solves a challenge your donors are facing right now, such as “easy gift ideas” or “ecard / gift with minimum donation” can help raise more money.  Online gift catalogues with real or symbolic gifts are great for this.
  • Make your ask clear and bold. A wishy-washy solicitation won’t get dollars in the door. Instead, make your ask prominent and easy to respond to, and be sure it works with the tone and manner of the creative. 
  • Integration is key. Once you’ve built the creative components of your campaign, make sure it’s integrated across all your digital properties – your homepage, Facebook page, Twitter background, emails, display advertising etc.  You want everyone who interacts with you online to see the brilliant creative you’ve developed.
2. Digital fundraising is a numbers game

With some studies showing email response rates dipping lower year after year, you’ll need to reach many more of your existing and prospective donors than ever before.  So let’s get serious about reach.  Here are a few tips:
  • Pool all the email lists from around your organization.  Now is not the time for departmental email list hoarding. Your holiday campaign email list should include signature and third-party event donors and participants, e-newsletter names, direct mail donors for whom you have email addresses, online tribute donors, online emergency donors, general online donors, friends of the organization, board members, and any others you can think of.  The bigger your list, the better your results will be.
  • Expand your reach on social media. Create a communications plan around inspiring your Facebook and Twitter audiences to give.  It’s not enough to post a link about the campaign to your fans and followers.  Encourage testimonials from donors and share them relentlessly. Include a donation page right in Facebook if you can, and use the donation thank-you page to encourage donors to share on social media.
  • Market your campaign. Google Adwords, display advertising, a Care2 campaign, a video pre-roll – all of these can help boost awareness of, and, interest in your campaign. 
  • Include a couple of emails leading up to the December 31st tax deadline – those who may not have been motivated by the campaign may be motivated by the promise of money back from the government.
3. Make everything mobile-friendly

Mobile is huge and it’s everywhere.  We’re using our cell phones and tablets more and more.  If you want your holiday fundraising campaign to succeed this year, you’ll be smart to make all your online collateral mobile-friendly. Half of all emails in Canada are opened on a mobile device. So that means we need to improve the entire mobile experience – because people rightly expect their experience to be user-friendly through all platforms. 

Here are a couple of quick things to keep in mind when designing mobile-friendly emails and websites.

  • Keep all content and images in a single column.  More than that and things get cluttered.  You want to avoid the deadly “pinch-and-zoom” action when reading on a mobile device.
  • Make your calls to action as prominent as possible, and distinguish them from the rest of your content by using coloured boxes or line separators.
  • Test a couple of different designs and optimize based on results.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly, or build a small (5-page) mobile website with mobile-friendly donation forms

Now that you know my top three things to keep in mind for online holiday fundraising campaigns, tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your plans, any favourite holiday campaigns in past years, and your questions.

Taslim Somani is Director, Digital Marketing at Stephen Thomas. Additional resources

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