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When you’re marketing your nonprofit, there’s more at stake than just branding. You have a purpose. And the people behind that purpose depend on you to get your message across in a way that compels your audience to act.

That can seem overwhelming and intimidating, especially when you’re competing for space in crowded inboxes and social feeds with finite resources.

But your marketing and fundraising budget doesn’t need millions of dollars to be effective. In fact, with the right data-backed strategy, your marketing can go further, drive more donations, and enact greater change without an increase in resources.

Marketing efficiently comes down to spending the resources you do have well—at the right place, targeting the right audience at the right time.

Campaign Monitor and our friends at Qgiv went straight to the source to discover the data-backed evidence you need to create such a strategy. We surveyed over a thousand donors and more than 500 nonprofit professionals to find out the truth behind what works in nonprofit marketing and why.

We bring you not only data, but also interpretations and evaluations of the data and how those relate to you and the current nonprofit landscape. With this guide, you’ll have everything you need to create your strongest fundraising strategy yet.

Who this guide is for

This guide is for nonprofits that want to feel confident that their marketing efforts are based around hard data. After reading this guide, you can know you’re doing everything you can to retain donors and reconnect with lapsed ones while attracting loyal followers who will support your cause.

This guide is also for nonprofits that don’t yet have a marketing strategy. Learn where to focus your efforts to see the greatest impact and return.

What you’ll learn from this guide

You’ll learn which channels and platforms yield the best results, based on input from both donors and other organizations.

Seeing how nonprofits approach fundraising and comparing it to how donors actually respond, you’ll be able to align your strategy with what donors are truly looking for in order to connect with an audience who shares your values and mission.

Here’s a summary of this guide’s key takeaways:

1. People can be motivated to give to nonprofits when there’s a compelling need.

2. Not all channels are equal. Many questions point to the fact that email from the organization drives the most charitable giving, followed by some surprises to nonprofits.

3. Nonprofits are on track with strategies to gain donor awareness, but may be putting too much stake in events. Many donors show surprising views around nonprofit events, and the perspective from an organization doesn’t always line up.

4. Over half of donors are likely to give after receiving a specific plea, even if they’ve already established a donation cadence. This has major implications for when and how nonprofits make big campaign pushes.

5. Using pictures and stories give donors a compelling reason to donate right now. Imagery can actually be one of the biggest contributors to compulsive giving.

6. Donors identify with people. The results show power in donors hearing from real people, about real people. Hearing the the impact a donation is creating goes a long way when in the context of human stories.

7. Events may not be as effective as nonprofits think. Results are mixed between donor and nonprofit perceptions.

About the survey

For the donor survey, we queried over 1000 people over the age of 18 about their charitable giving. Out of all of our respondents, the majority were between the ages of 25 and 35—this demographic represents 25.4% of all respondents. Meanwhile, 21.7% of respondents were between the ages of 36 and 45 years of age.

By far, the greatest percentage of donor respondents make more than $100,000 annually. This group made up 25.6% of our respondents. The next largest percentage was 10.4% of respondents who make between $50,000 and $59,999.

Aside from the peak responses, our respondents clustered around the $50k range: 9.9% said $40k, 9.8% said $30k, 8.7% said $60k, 8.6% said $70k, and 8.4% said $30k. All other ranges comprised less than 8% of respondents.

We asked questions about what motivates their charitable giving, and the ways they like to stay in touch. Some questions allowed respondents to choose multiple answers while others only allowed one answer.

For the nonprofits we surveyed, we queried over 500 nonprofits about the ways they connect with their donors and the methods that deliver results. In most cases, we asked the same questions from the donor survey in order to see where donors and nonprofits are on the same page and, perhaps more surprisingly, where they aren’t.

Chapter 1

Our seven key findings

If you don’t have time to read all these results at once, here are some key takeaways from our findings.

Take these findings into account as you start planning for your next big campaign to see better results. You may also find insights to inform your everyday communications and fundraising efforts.

1. People can be motivated to give to nonprofits when there’s a compelling need.

Most of our respondents give regularly to between one and three nonprofits, and make one-time donations to one or two others. We found that people give one-off donations when they have unexpected income—which is nothing new to nonprofits.

In fact, many people prefer to give one-time when faced with a specific and urgent need. While this means people may stop giving when that need is met, a campaign with a time constraint inspires people to act quickly and generously.

Perhaps it’s less of a commitment for people to give to a cause that has a definite end, and thus makes them more likely to part with their hard earned money. Or maybe it’s easier for donors to see how their money can solve a problem when faced with a specific and limited need.

Either way, people are more willing to give when faced with a compelling and specific need.

In fact, 74% of donors are more likely to increase their donation amount and/or give outside of their regular cadence if there’s a compelling reason to motivate them.

Inspiring these donations comes down to how well you emphasize urgency in your campaign. Urgency motivates people to act: Whether it’s the fear of missing out or the fear of missing a deadline, people are more likely to act when given a time limit.

A deadline also gives people a reason to act now, instead of putting off their donation for another day, another paycheck.


There’s power in clear, precise language.
While each donor will define “compelling” in a different way, you can increase your chances of connecting with a majority of your donors by ensuring your messaging is clear and concise. After all, you already know your donors are interested in your cause—all you have to do is explain the need and its urgency in clear, precise language.

Being concise about why you need donors to give and why you need donors to give now will result in more effective copy—and more donations.

Qgiv’s take: Consider SMS and text fundraising.
Text fundraising gets the word out about urgent needs in a timely manner and increases the likelihood of donations. Use what we’ve learned about being concise and urgent, and apply this to your text fundraising to raise donations fast and efficiently.

2. An email from your organization drives the most charitable giving, followed by some surprises.

We asked several questions about the ways donors like to be contacted by nonprofits, whether it’s for donation requests or just for staying informed.

Across the board, donors prefer email. Nearly 42% said they prefer to hear from a nonprofit via email from the organization, and 20.5% said an email from the organization would inspire them to give again.

On the other side of things, nonprofits presumed that donors preferred to be contacted primarily through Facebook, scoring email as the second most preferred method.

Nonprofits were close: Donors did score Facebook as the second best method of communication after email. However, nonprofits missed the mark on just how important email is to donors when it comes to staying in touch and inspiring donations.

And nonprofits showed false assumptions in other ways, too.

Donors and nonprofits didn’t quite see eye to eye on the questions we asked about staying in touch. Nonprofits put more emphasis on Facebook than their donors did, but that wasn’t the only channel they overestimated.

In fact, 49.1% of nonprofits thought events were a preferred method of staying in touch—their third-ranked channel—but only 4.3% of donors felt the same. What likely won’t come as a surprise to most modern charity marketers is that donors ranked mailers as their third favorite channel. Nonprofits overwhelmingly voted direct mail as the channel with leading ROI.


Focus on email.
Clearly, email is a powerful tool for nonprofit marketing and deserves to be a high priority in your strategy. Unlike some other forms of contact, email is trustworthy and familiar to all demographics regardless of age, with clearly defined rules for data management and security.

Similarly, because email promotes a balance of images and narrative, it encourages senders to focus on storytelling. When you tell a story—whether the story of your organization or the needs you’re meeting in a community—you connect with your donors on a human level and make an even greater impact, which leads to more donations, volunteers, and action.

Know your audience.
On the other hand, be wary of staying in touch solely through Facebook. While it can be a great avenue for reaching out, it can also drastically miss the mark with some segments of your audience. While we can’t tell which of our respondents chose Facebook, studies show that the majority of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 34. If that’s your ideal demographic—or if you have a large amount of donors within that range—then Facebook may be a great option for you.

However, if you’re trying to reach more than just that range of donors, be sure that you also use other methods to stay in touch with them. If not, you could be ignoring a large chunk of your supporters.

Qgiv’s take: Consider multi-channel engagement.
Mix email marketing, social media, and fundraising in a fun and engaging way through storytelling. Peer-to-peer fundraisers can be easily shared via email and on social media, and with proper storytelling, they can inspire a whole new network of donors to give.

Fun fact: Qgiv recently launched an integration with Facebook that connects Facebook fundraisers to Qgiv peer-to-peer events. Fundraiser participants can post and share their personal stories about their involvement and why they’re passionate about a cause while spreading awareness for the nonprofit’s mission.

This integration provides an easy way for nonprofits to tap into the broad audience of donors active on Facebook while monitoring the success of fundraising efforts among their social media audience.

3. Nonprofits are on track with donor awareness, but they may be putting too much stake in live events.

When we asked both nonprofits and donors how donors find the nonprofits they choose to give to, we found a slight disconnect.

The winning method of discovery was word of mouth, with 41.5% of donors citing this as their main method of finding nonprofits. Similarly, nonprofits ranked word of mouth at 72.6%. The second most common method was Facebook at 71.5% when in fact, only 39.5% of donors cited Facebook as a form of nonprofit discovery.

Nonprofits and donors agree that word of mouth and Facebook are great ways for donors to find the organizations they give to. Yet we find it curious that, after polling them, the vast majority of nonprofits report only 10-20% of their donors come from social media.

Another disconnect is the role that live events play in connecting donors and nonprofits. Only 18% of donors discover a nonprofit through events, differing from the 58.9% expected by nonprofits. This is a drastic difference, especially when considering how expensive and time-consuming events can be for nonprofits with limited resources.

But this might just be a difference in perception. As reported, many nonprofits see major gains in new supporters from events. So this difference likely comes down to how donors view events—and how they’re interacting with nonprofits around the physical event. More on this in Qgiv’s takeaway below.


When you know how your most active donors found you, you’ll know where to put your energy when it comes time to find new donors.

Reconsider how you plan your outreach. Knowing that potential supporters don’t view events as ways to find new charities, create a marketing plan that encourages a variety of interaction methods: sharing the event, peer-to-peer fundraising, etc.

Find partners.
Similarly, see if you can find other organizations—perhaps other nonprofits with similar or complementary causes, corporate partners who will get their employees involved in donating, or even religious groups—to partner with. A large percentage of our donors found organizations through other organizations and donation matching programs.

Talk to your supporters.
Focus on bringing in current donors to help you reach a new audience. You can create shareable content that inspires donors to retweet, repost, and forward your message to other people in their network with whom your cause will resonate.

And when in doubt, ask. If you’re not sure how the majority of donors found you, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Consider adding a quick survey in your email newsletter or asking your followers on social media how they found you. You might be surprised at what you find.

Qgiv’s take: Define your goal.
Different methods will glean different results—social media is great for building awareness, but not necessarily for garnering donations.

And to break down the views of events, the key is to identify the totality of your event. Donors may not view physical events as a good way to find new nonprofits, but many organizations dramatically expand their supporter base because of peer-to-peer campaigns that accompany those events.

So get to know your marketing channels, get to know your audience, and make sure you consider these two factors when strategizing.

4. Over half of donors are likely to give after receiving a specific plea.

You can inspire donors to give outside of their regular donation cadence. In fact, 68.8% of our donors said they are more likely to give after receiving a compelling request for donations to meet a specific need.

While it’s certainly a difficult task, your nonprofit has the potential to motivate larger or more frequent donations. They key is to communicate clearly the specific and compelling need your campaign—or campaigns—are trying to meet.

The secret is to let your donors know how far their support will go to fulfill the need. Donors are far more likely to give when they know the impact of their donation.

For instance, if your group is trying to raise $1,000 to help students join an after-school program, one person might feel overwhelmed by the amount and choose not to give. They might assume that their little donation won’t do much, or that someone else—with deeper pockets—will take care of the problem.

Instead, you can tie a specific amount to a specific need. Explain that the registration fee for the after-school program is $25, and a donation of that amount will allow one student to join and make a difference to a very real person. This shows a donor just how far their donation will go and what purpose it will serve, making them more likely to give.


Give different options for your range of donors.
For organizations running multiple campaigns, you can use restrictions to give donors the opportunity to give to a specific fund. That way your donors can find the needs that resonate with them most.

Perhaps it’s an after-school program for at-risk youth or a job training program. Either way, allowing donors to choose which needs their specific donation goes to fulfill will ensure they know exactly what impact their donation is making—and will likely encourage them to give more than they would have otherwise.

Qgiv’s take: Make your campaign pages compelling.
If your organization is running a major campaign with a larger need, you can create a single form for the campaign with a compelling description, header image, and fundraising thermometer.

This puts the focus on the story and message so that it’s front and center for the donor. That way, even though your donors might not be able to meet an entire need on their own, they can see just how far their giving moves the organization toward its goal.

Similarly, when running a complex fundraising campaign, you can include descriptions next to each donation amount that outline the impact a donation of that amount will make.

For instance, if your organization wants to raise a certain amount to build a well, you can define how much it will cost to complete each stage of the build, ensuring your donors know what their donation accomplishes. Learn more about optimizing your donation form here.

5. Use pictures and stories to give donors a compelling reason to donate right now.

When we asked donors what would inspire them to make a donation today, 52% said a compelling reason and 36% said pictures and stories from someone the organization has helped.

Truthfully, these two ideas can be easily combined—and they should be. The use of powerful imagery and strong storytelling can inspire emotional responses, thus connecting with 88% of your donors and inspiring them to give today.

As mentioned before, different donors will define a “compelling reason” in different ways specific to their own experiences and your organization’s mission. However, you can design a compelling campaign by incorporating storytelling into every facet of your campaign.

Including personal experiences and pictures of the people you’ve helped is a simple yet effective way to create a compelling story and inspire people to give.


Put a face to the need.
Incorporating the use of compelling photos as header images in your donation pages and emails will put a very real face to the needs your campaign wants to meet. While you should be careful not to overload donors with too many images (thus distracting them from actually donating), the right photo goes a long way to increase the likelihood of a donation, especially when that image correlates back to something they’ve seen on social media or in an email.

This consistency keeps your mission top of mind and will drive home the fact that your campaign is raising money for a specific purpose.

Qgiv’s take: Tie imagery to your impact statement.
Try adding an image to your donation form with a clear impact statement such as “$7.89 provides Thanksgiving dinner for Jeremy’s entire family.” This creates an emotional connection and shows a concrete difference donors can make without distracting from the donation process.

Here’s more on how to tie imagery to impact.

6. There’s power in hearing from real people, about real people, and the results a donation is creating.

How does your nonprofit express its message, and who does it come from?
These questions matter. In fact, 58.5% of donors said they would rather hear from an individual within the nonprofit organization. Your donors want to feel like they’re hearing from a real person rather than a brand.

Donors and nonprofits seem to be aligned on content: 61.1% of donors want to hear stories about organizations’ impact and how their services are helping. This is the content donors value most, and 91.8% of nonprofits believe this is the most important type of content for donors.

There is another content type highly valued by donors: results (i.e. how much money the organization has raised and the progress it has made toward its goal). Results were valued by 59.9% of donors, and 59.1% want to see how nonprofits use the money they’ve given. This means organizations should provide real success stories from real people, as well as results and financial updates.

Nonprofits have a somewhat different take.

Here are the second and third types of content nonprofits believe to be most valuable to donors: 73.4% of nonprofits believe donors want a personal note from someone within the organization, and 72.8% of nonprofits believe donors want to see updates about a specific goal or need that resonated with them.

Nonprofits are not incorrect—but it’s important to consider the content donors value most. This content should be crafted as if it’s from someone specific in the organization, so each content type is personalized and feels like it’s coming from an individual.


Send your results from a real person and wrap them into real stories.
Donors want to see where their donations are going and the impact they’re making. Based on results, your messages and emails should focus on the impact of your field work, how far you’ve progressed to your goal, and how donations are being used in tangible, practical ways.

Dress these progress updates and results in the garb of true narratives from directors, employees, and volunteers in the field to not only show your donors that you value their contribution, but to demonstrate where there’s still a relatable need.

Email is a great way to update your supporters.
Take what you’ve learned about communicating with donors and pour these findings into your email strategy. Sending regular updates that encapsulate the content that donors are looking for can keep donors engaged, prevent lapsed donors, and inspire new gifts.

Qgiv’s take: Personalize your thank you emails.
Adding impact information and images to your donation thank you page and automated email receipts is an easy way to immediately show donors what their gift will accomplish and increase the likelihood they will give again.

7. Events may stand to be more effective for nonprofits.

Nonprofits think events are hugely important when it comes to inspiring donations, reaching new donors, expanding their reach, and more.

In fact, nonprofits consistently rank events as being more important to donors than donors seem to think.

Nonprofits thought events ranked third for donors’ preferred methods of communication. But in reality, events were ranked eighth by donors. And when it came to methods of growing their donor base, nonprofits ranked events as first. But donors ranked events in 10th when asked how they discovered the nonprofits they give to.

Similarly, 46.5% of nonprofits said they see their biggest ROI from events, even though only 4.3% of donors said they would give again to the same nonprofit after going to an event.

So where’s the disconnect? As we mentioned in the third finding, it might be a matter of perception.

Nonprofits tend to view events holistically: It’s not just about the physical event, but the word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer fundraising that happens leading up to the event. So while these findings show that donors may not be finding out about new charities at a physical event, it’s paramount to focus your efforts on sharing the event and fundraising ahead of time.


This mismatch in event perceptions doesn’t mean you should cut events from your strategy. You might just need to rethink your goals for an event, and how you build awareness and anticipation in order to see the maximum benefit.

Leverage the right channel for the right return.
As we covered in the third key finding, not all marketing and fundraising channels are equal. Use the results of this survey to see what donors expect from different forms of communication and interaction (e.g. social versus email versus events) and incorporate that into your strategy.

Qgiv’s take: Use modern tools to get more out of your events.
Event promotion is a vital ingredient to success. Don’t be afraid to promote your events on social media to reach new donors.

Consider putting some money into boosting posts to reach likeminded advocates (especially since Facebook was found to be the second-most way donors found new nonprofits). It will take a little more investment on the front-end, but you may see the reward from higher attendance and more dollars raised on the tail-end.

Incorporate user-generated content, custom hashtags, and photos from previous events to increase registration and excitement. Empower your supporters to share with their own network and peers by emailing them images and messages they can easily copy and paste into their own social posts.

Similarly, you can live screencast at events to try to get new donors as well as screencast your donation thermometer in real time to increase funds raised toward your goal at the event.

But one of the biggest takeaways we can offer: Don’t plan an event without considering how it’s going to drive buzz and donations outside the physical event.

Get your supporters to share. Find other organizations or major givers to match. Leverage peer-to-peer to make the most of every event, mobilizing your supporters and expanding your reach. It’s methods like peer-to-peer that give nonprofits the reach reported in this survey, turning a momentary event into a truly effective campaign.

Chapter 2

Donor survey results

Below are the direct survey results from questions asked to donors. Read through the results and interpret to see how the data aligns with your own biases and perceptions.

1. The donor-nonprofit relationship

1. How much money does your household give to nonprofits on average per year?

We saw peaks clustered around the $101-250 range which was the highest percentage, accounting for 15.4% of responses.

Similarly, $251-500 received 15.1%, $501-1000 received 14.5%, $76-100 received 13.3%, $1001-$5000 received 12.5%, and $21-50 received 10.2% of responses. All other ranges received less than 10%.

2. How many nonprofits do you give to regularly?

The majority of respondents give to between one and three nonprofits: 36.9% give to two, 24.4% give to one, and 21.3% give to three nonprofits. Together, these represent 82.6% of the responses.

For the other respondents, 5.6% give to four, 4.1% give to no nonprofits regularly, 4.3% give to more than six, and 3.4% give to five nonprofits.

3. How many nonprofits have you given to only once?

One nonprofit was the most common response at 32.1%. Next, 19.4% said they’ve given to two nonprofits only once, and 16.1% of respondents have given to zero nonprofits only once.

After a big jump, 10.7% of respondents have given to three nonprofits once, 10.6% said more than six nonprofits, then 7.1% said four and 4.0% said five.


2. Preferred channels for discovery and communication

4. How do you discover the nonprofits you donate to? Check all that apply.

Some of the highest percentages we saw show that many respondents discover nonprofits through personal connections: 41.5% said word of mouth, 39.5% said Facebook, 33% said community or religious organizations, and 30.3% said personal experience with the nonprofit. Another 27% said volunteer opportunities.

Another way respondents discover nonprofits is through the internet and technology: 27.5% said online research, 22.3% said email, 19.8% said Instagram, and 18.5% said radio or TV.

Another 18.1% said they discovered nonprofits through events.

Here’s how the data breaks down by percentage:

5. How do you prefer to hear from your favorite nonprofits?

The greatest amount of respondents prefer to hear from nonprofits through email from the organization, with 41.6% of respondents choosing this method.

The next largest group, 32.4% said they prefer to hear from nonprofits through Facebook. Similarly, 21.5% chose mailers, 20.0% said through volunteer opportunities, 19.9% said through a community or religious group, 17.7% said Instagram, and 17.0% said they wanted to receive an email from a representative in the organization.

Here are the top 10 answers we received by percentage:

6. Which method of contact is most likely to inspire you to give again to the same nonprofit?

Just like in the previous question, 20.5% of respondents said an email from the organization would be the most effective form of communication.

Also similar to the previous question, the next most common response was Facebook with 17% of responses.

After the first two most common responses, there’s a big drop as the third most common response, Instagram, was only chosen by 9.8% of respondents and mailers received 9.6%.

Check out the top four responses:

3. Gift cadence and inspiring unique donations

7. Do you prefer to give on a one-time basis or through recurring payments?

The majority of respondents—68.7%—said they prefer to give as a one-time donation. That means that 31.3% prefers to give recurring donations.

8. Are you more likely to give after receiving a specific plea for donations or do you prefer scheduled donations that occur regardless of a nonprofit’s current, specific needs?

68.8% of respondents are more likely to give after receiving a compelling donation request while only 31.3% said they prefer to schedule donations and stick with that cadence.

9. Can you be inspired by a nonprofit’s campaign to increase donations or the cadence of donations?

Only 25.6% of respondents said no, they could not be inspired to give or increase their donations while 74.4% said yes, when presented with the right motivation, they will give more or increase their amount.

10. What would inspire you to donate to an organization today? Check all that apply.

Over half of respondents—52.0%—said they would donate after receiving an urgent campaign that presents a specific need or goal. This was by far and away the most common response.

The next common response, 36.6% of respondents said they would give after seeing pictures and stories from someone the organization has helped.

All other responses were chosen by less than 30% of respondents.

Here’s a complete breakdown of the responses we received:

11. How likely are you to make an unscheduled donation or increase the amount or cadence of your donations after receiving an email?

Luckily for nonprofits, more than half of respondents said they’d be at least somewhat likely to make an unscheduled donation from an email.

Broken down, 35.8% of respondents said they would be somewhat likely to make an unscheduled donation while 29.9% said they were neutral on the matter.

The third-largest percentage of respondents, 16.4%, said they were very likely to make an unscheduled donation. This means that over half of respondents said they were somewhat or very likely to make an unexpected donation in response to an email.

Only 7.6% said they were very unlikely to make a change after receiving an email.

12. How likely are you to make an unscheduled donation or increase the amount or cadence of your donations after seeing a social media post?

The response from social media is less promising for nonprofits: 31.3% of respondents said they felt neutral toward making an unexpected donation and only 30.1% said they felt somewhat likely to.

And 12.0% said they were very unlikely to make a donation after seeing a social media post.

13. How likely are you to make an unscheduled donation or increase the amount or cadence of your donations after attending an event?

A whopping 43.2% of respondents said they would be somewhat likely to make an unexpected donation after attending an event while 23.4% said they were very likely for a total of 66.6% of respondents.

Only 4.0% said they would be very unlikely to make a donation after attending an event.

4. Communication styles and content

14. Would you rather hear from a nonprofit as a brand or would you rather hear from an individual person within the organization?

58.5% of respondents said they’d prefer to hear from an individual person within the nonprofit compared to 41.5% of respondents who said they’d prefer to the organization as a brand.

15. What content do you want to receive from nonprofits? Check all that apply.

The three top picks from respondents all came in with very similar responses:

  • 61.1% of respondents want to receive stories about how the nonprofit’s cause has affected real people and how their services have helped
  • 59.9% want to see results such as how much money the organization has already raised and the progress they’ve made toward their goal or cause
  • 59.1% want to know how the nonprofit spends the money they donate.

Check out the rest of the data:

16. Why do you stop giving to a nonprofit?

The majority of respondents stop giving when they experience a change in their expendable income, with 33.0% of respondents citing this as the reason they stop giving. But 24.1% of respondents stop when they find other nonprofits they prefer.

While a specific goal or need motivates respondents, unfortunately, 15.2% of respondents said they stop giving when the nonprofit has reached the goal or met a need. Similarly, 14.3% of respondents stop donating when the nonprofit changes its approach to meeting a need or solving a problem.

Check out the rest of the data:

17. What tone or message do you respond to in a nonprofit’s communications?

Respondents prefer a positive message and are far more likely to react after receiving a hopeful or aspirational message than a negative message.

Specifically, 41.5% of respondents prefer a hopeful message while 27.3% prefer an aspirational message. Only 15.5% respond to a message of fear and 10.3% respond to a message based on guilt.

Chapter 7

Nonprofit survey results

Keep reading to discover actual data from the nonprofit survey in more detail.

1. Preferred channels for discovery and communication

1. How do donors primarily find out about nonprofits? Choose all that apply.

By far, nonprofits said they believed donors found their organization through word of mouth (72.6%) and Facebook (71.5%). After those answers, there’s a jump and the third most common response was that donors found nonprofits through personal experience (59.1%) and then events (58.9%) and email marketing (55.9%).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, podcast ads, Youtube ads, and sms marketing received the smallest response at 0.8%, 3.7%, and 4.5% respectively. According to nonprofits, these channels are the worst for reaching new donors.

2. How do donors prefer to hear from nonprofits? Choose all that apply.

While nonprofits chose the correct top two channels that donors prefer for staying in touch, nonprofits put them in the wrong order. 63.3% of nonprofits believe donors prefer Facebook while 62.4% chose email marketing.

Next, nonprofits believe donors prefer events, personal experience, and email directly from a representative as their next favorite channels (49.1%, 41.8%, and 41.8% respectively).

The channels that donors do not prefer according to nonprofits are podcast ads, Youtube ads, and sms marketing at 1.1%, 3.9%, and 4.9% respectively.

3. What inspires donors to give to nonprofits today? Choose all that apply.

The majority of nonprofits chose “They would donate after seeing pictures and stories from the field” as the primary inspiration for giving today at 62.6%. A personal request from donor relationship managers, letters in the mail, and an urgent campaign that presents a specific need or goal were the next most frequent answers, receiving 59.8%, 57.2%, 54.7% respectively.

Only 27.0% believe that donors donate once and never again.

2. Gift cadence and inspiring unique donations

4. Do the majority of your donors give on a set, recurring schedule, or do they prefer one-time donations?

According to nonprofits, a quarter of donors (74.5% to be exact) give as a one-time donation.

5. Are donors more likely to give after receiving a specific plea for donations, or do they prefer scheduled donations that occur regardless of your nonprofit’s current, specific needs?

A whopping 85.1% of nonprofits said donors are more likely to give after receiving a compelling donation request while the remaining 14.9% believe donors do not vary from their scheduled donations.

6. Can donors be inspired through a nonprofit’s efforts to increase donations or the cadence of donations?

Of nonprofits polled, 88.9% know that yes, when presented with the right motivation, donors will give outside of their chosen schedule or increase the cadence and/or donation amount.

7. How likely are donors to make an unscheduled donation or increase the amount or cadence of their donations after receiving an email?

Almost half of nonprofits (42.4%) reported that donors were somewhat likely to give or give more after receiving an email. When combined with the 7.5% who chose very likely, 49.9% of nonprofits believe donors are somewhat or very likely to give after receiving an email.

Only 6.8% said donors were very unlikely to give and 17.5% said donors were somewhat unlikely to give after receiving an email.

8. How likely are donors to make an unscheduled donation or increase the amount or cadence of their donations after seeing a social media post?

On the other hand, only 32.7% of nonprofits said donors were somewhat likely to give after seeing social media, the exact same percentage that chose neutral.

Only 38.8% of nonprofits said very likely or somewhat likely to give and 28.6% said somewhat likely or very unlikely to give.

9. How likely are donors to make an unscheduled donation or increase the amount or cadence of their donations after attending an event?

Nonprofits saw events as more likely to yield donations: 50.4% of nonprofits said somewhat likely and 25.1% said very likely to give.

Only 2.0% said very unlikely and 4.3% said donors would be somewhat unlikely to give after attending an event.

10. Why do donors stop giving? Choose all that apply.

The largest percentage of nonprofits (69.4%) believe that donors stop giving because they experience a change in expendable income.

The next largest percentage 48.7% believe that donors stop giving when they find other nonprofits they prefer and 36.4% believe donors never intend to give more than once.


3. Communication styles and content

11. Would donors rather hear from your nonprofit as a brand or would they rather hear from an individual person from your organization?

Over three quarters of our respondents—76.8%—believe donors prefer to hear from an individual person, as opposed to the 23.2% who believe donors want to hear from the organization as a brand.

12. What content do donors want to receive from nonprofits? Choose all that apply.

Almost all of our respondents believe donors want to hear stories about real people (91.8%).

Almost three quarters of respondents believe donors want to receive a personal note (73.3%) and a similar amount believes donors want to receive updates about a specific goal (73.0%).

Only 65.9% believe donors want to know how their organization spends the money while 60.3% believe donors want to hear about results.

13. What tone or message do donors most respond to in your nonprofit’s communications? Choose all that apply.

Nonprofits recognize that positive messages are the most effective: 89.8% chose hopeful messages while 71.8% chose aspirational messages.

The next largest percentage sees a major drop at 11.6% that believe donors respond to fear for the future.

Only 5.4% believe donors respond to messages that make them feel guilty.

4. Marketing methods and investments

14. What is your organization’s biggest planned marketing investment for 2020? Choose the top 3.

Email marketing is the biggest planned investment for 50.8% of the nonprofits we surveyed.

Similarly, 49.5% plan to invest in direct mail and 48.9% will invest in event marketing. 46.7% intend to invest in Facebook.

The next largest percentage sees a big drop to 22.0% for content marketing.

The smallest percentages of respondents intend to invest in podcast ads (0.5%), Youtube ads, (2.7%), and Twitter (3.6%).

15. Where do you see your biggest return on investment? Choose the top 3.

51.0% of nonprofits said they see their biggest return from direct mail while 46.8% see a major return from email marketing, 46.2% chose event marketing, and 40.6% chose Facebook.

After a major drop, 16.5% of nonprofits said email marketing while all other options were below 10%.

16. How do you grow your donor base? Choose the top 3.

Most nonprofits grow their donor base through event marketing (56.1%) and through Facebook (54.7%). Similarly, direct mail and email marketing work for 40.7% and 40.2% respectively.

Meanwhile, 25.4% of nonprofits grow their donor base through face to face and word of mouth interactions, through various organizations and experiences.

13.7% of nonprofits grow their donor base through content marketing while 12.5% grow through Instagram. All other responses received less than 10%.

17. What’s the best method to retain donors? Choose the top 3.

When it comes to retention, 54.9% of nonprofits chose email marketing and another 54.9% chose direct mail as their best methods. 38.8% said event marketing, 38.5% said Facebook, and 28.2% chose word of mouth and personal interactions as their best methods to retain donors.

Content marketing and video marketing came in next with 16.4% and 10.9% respectively. All other responses received less than 10%.

18. What’s your biggest challenge for 2020?

The biggest challenge for the most of our nonprofit respondents said acquiring new donors (29.9%). Next, 17.7% said converting one-time donors to recurring givers while 12.5% said their biggest challenge was improving awareness of their organization and another 12.5% said increasing the number of donations they receive.

All other responses received less than 10%.

19. What’s your biggest goal for 2020?

While acquiring new donors is the biggest challenge for many nonprofits, it’s also the biggest goal for the next year for our respondents (24.1%).

Increasing donations is the second biggest goal for these nonprofits (19.1%) and improving awareness is a goal for 15.1% of our respondents. The goal for another 15.1% of respondents is to convert one-time donors to recurring donors.

All other responses received less than 10%.

Here’s a chart of the top six priorities:

Chapter 12

Data-backed strategies to grow your impact

How to improve donor retention and re-engage lapsed donors with email

Every nonprofit knows how important it is to increase retention and re-engage lapsed donors. After all, it’s more expensive to convert a new donor and gain that first donation than it is to bring in a second donation.

But there are plenty of strategies to reconnect with these lapsed donors and, as we’ve seen from the data, donors can be prompted to give again and give more frequently through email.

Here’s a quick four-step process to re-engage your lapsed donors through email.

Step 1: Define what a “lapsed donor” is for your organization.

First of all, you have to understand what qualifies as a “lapsed donor” for your specific nonprofit. What is the normal lifecycle of a donor? Do they give once a year? Once every 6 months?

The time frame that you decide upon to target donors as lapsed will depend on your area, your cause, and your ideal demographic.

Step 2: Discover why donors lapse.

If someone lapses because of a change in income, there isn’t much you can do to bring them back into the fold.

However, if donors lapse because they haven’t heard from you in awhile, or they believe you’ve met your goals and there are more pressing causes to give to, it’s time to re-engage them.

In addition to the reasons outside of your control, some of the main reasons donors lapse is:

  • Your campaign met its goal and they’ve moved on.
  • They’ve found a cause that resonates more strongly with them.
  • They aren’t sure how you spent their donation.
  • They didn’t like something about your messages.

The best way to make amends to any and all of these mistakes is to design your email strategy around the donor lifecycle that targets them at the right time, ensuring donors never reach the “lapsed” stage.

However, when they do, you can design an email journey that targets these specific reasons.

Step 3: Design an email journey.

Instead of just sending one re-engagement campaign that asks lapsed donors to give again, you should create a journey that eases them into it. No one likes a hard sales push, and immediately asking people to donate isn’t going to work with lapsed donors. If it did, they wouldn’t have lapsed in the first place.

Start by saying thank you. Thank your lapsed donors for what they’ve done for your organization and be specific. Give them personal attention so they know you’re speaking directly to them instead of sending out a generic email blast. More on thank you emails here.

Tell them what they accomplished through your nonprofit. This is where you can explain how you’ve used their donations or update them on any major campaigns they’ve contributed to. Make sure you let these donors know that you appreciate their gift and their time and that their help hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Remind donors what your nonprofit is trying to accomplish and why you need their help. Even if the campaign they give to is finished and that specific need is met, it doesn’t mean your nonprofit’s work is done. Now’s the chance to remind them why your cause matters and why your current campaign deserves their hard-earned money. If donors have lapsed because they don’t think your cause is urgent, here’s where you convince them otherwise. Share stories of why you do what you do in order to connect with them on a human level.

Ask lapsed donors to get involved again. Maybe these lapsed donors will be ready to give at this point in their journey, or maybe they’ll want to subscribe to your newsletter, volunteer their time, or just learn more. Whatever call to action makes the most sense for your specific audience, be sure to end strong with a clear, definitive CTA that leaves no room for confusion. Remember, audiences react well to commands.

Step 4: Follow up and follow through.

Once you’ve designed your journey, start sending. After lapsed donors have had time to go through the journey and react, check your metrics to see how successful your re-engagement campaign has been.

When you know what links are being clicked and which emails opened, you can use this data to refine your strategy and include more of what works—and less of what doesn’t.

This is also where you need to follow through and deliver on what you said you were going to do. Did you let donors change their email preferences or adjust their giving schedule? Be sure to honor that.

Trust might be important for all companies, but it’s impossible to operate a nonprofit without it.

Bonus—how to build a Giving Tuesday strategy

Giving Tuesday can jumpstart the end-of-year giving that helps many nonprofits receive the majority of their donations. Needless to say, a solid Giving Tuesday strategy can be the difference between barely making ends meet and making a major impact.

Here’s how to create a plan that catapults your donations into the latter category.

Step 1: Start early.

It’s never too early to start planning. Most nonprofits start planning their Giving Tuesday strategy in the summer, but we say the sooner the better.

To start, take a look at last year’s giving so you know what worked for your audience and what didn’t. Did people respond to emails that featured stories of the people you’ve helped? Maybe peer-to-peer fundraising brought in more money than you expected.

Find what worked last year and consider how you can include these initiatives and supercharge them for this year.

Step 2: Define your goals.

Obviously Giving Tuesday is about raising funds. But maybe you also want to earn a certain amount of new followers on social media or subscribers to your email newsletter. Maybe you want to encourage people to volunteer or forward your messages.

Either way, quantify exactly what you want to accomplish with your Giving Tuesday strategy in order to determine the best way to get there.

Step 3: Plan how you’ll integrate all your marketing channels.

Remember, one of the greatest perks of digital marketing is how easily you can combine your efforts across channels to exponentially improve your results. Share your newsletter on your socials, and include content from your followers in your email.

That way, you can cross-promote and see greater results than you would from one channel on its own.

Step 4: Create your messaging matrix.

Since you’ll communicate with your audience across multiple channels, be sure to have one consistent messaging matrix, ensuring your message is clear and cohesive.

Make sure your primary goal for your campaign comes across on every channel, in every post, and through every email. Even though each channel might make your point in a different way, the overall message should be the same on all your Giving Tuesday marketing materials.

Step 5: Design your customer’s journey.

Now’s the time to design your emails, create your posts, and produce whatever other assets you’ll need.

Make sure you consider how you want your customers to click-through and what their actions will be from start to finish.

Step 6: Optimize landing pages.

While you’re designing your journey, make sure every page is easy to use. You don’t want to lose donations because someone wants to donate from mobile but your page doesn’t render.

Consider how your specific audience prefers to give and how you can make that easy as possible.

Step 7: Measure your results and plan for next year.

Keep an eye on your metrics to see how you accomplish your goal. Did you make it? Did you not? What channel underperformed? Everything you can learn about your campaign will help you create a more successful campaign next year. Even if you have a record-setting year, you can still do better next time.

This is where we tell you that it’s never too early to start planning for next year. See the first step to wash, rinse, and repeat.

Chapter 13

Wrap up

You have all the tools you need: A worthy cause and an audience looking to connect and put their money where their values are. Now all you need is a way to bring the right people to you.

These marketing tips ensure you do exactly that.

When you look at your marketing strategy, pay attention to how you can incorporate these key findings:

  • People can be motivated to give when faced with a specific compelling need.
  • Donors prefer to hear from nonprofits through email.
  • Email drives the most charitable giving on average.
  • Nonprofits may have the wrong perceptions about the significance of live events.
  • Needs are most compelling when told with a story and imagery.
  • Results, progress towards goals, and impact are better shared through stories from real people in your organization.

Your nonprofit doesn’t have to change everything about your strategy all at once. Instead, start with small but intentional changes that will have the biggest effect.

Here are some final tips to get you started:

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