December 20, 2014


Transforming online advocacy actions into donations

Mark Davis

Mark Davis

[Publisher's note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Not surprisingly, people willing to advocate on behalf of a cause are frequently willing to support it by pulling out their wallets.

You can tap that natural flow to boost your fundraising efforts. But it is critical to follow best practices and a well-thought-out plan to ensure the most rewarding outcome.

In fact, recent studies indicate that advocates are seven times more likely to donate to an organization than individuals who are not advocates.

It is critical to implement best practices to ensure the highest possible response rate to your advocacy appeal.

The linchpin is the "issue du jour," a relevant and timely news item that compels constituents to act and give immediately.

Using this and other methods, any organization can build an advocacy program that organically leads to a more effective fundraising effort.

So how do you clear a path that leads from taking action to giving money? You need to closely follow actions with messages that thank supporters or report on results, and then add a request for donations to support your cause.

Identify an "issue du jour"

No one cares about yesterday's news; they care about today's. Appeals for donations that launch from a current crisis prove the strongest of all.

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti offers an excellent example. Appeals were specific, urgent and relevant to messages appearing in the news each day.

If an issue relevant to your constituency becomes top news, grab the opportunity and respond immediately.

Choose imperfect and timely over perfect and late

Although you may be tempted to get the wording just right before you send your initial advocacy email, follow this twist on an old adage: "Don't send tomorrow what's relevant today."

Open rates for advocacy emails containing an "issue du jour" are more than double those that do not pertain to a currently relevant issue.

Further, the response rate for emails containing an "issue du jour" increases from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Transform actions into money

To capture potential donors as soon as they act, you might send a follow-up email that includes these three elements:

  • 1. Thank your constituents for taking action. Emphasize that their actions contribute to a cause that's important to them.
  • 2. Remind them of your organization's mission. Explain the change that you're trying to bring about and the need for money to run a productive campaign.
  • 3. Integrate a fundraising appeal. The more specific you can be about how your constituents' money will be used to respond to an issue, the better.

Integrate actions and appeals

You can incorporate appeals into your email messages in a variety of ways. For example, you might include the appeal directly in the text of a thank-you message, include a donate button in the footer, or in a follow-up appeal for action.

The gift that keeps on giving: Build a sustainer program

We have already seen how striking while the iron is hot can boost response rates on action alerts and fundraising appeals. 

One of the ways to further leverage news-driven advocacy opportunities is by encouraging donors to make recurring gifts. 

While this may diminish the overall response rate, it will help you grow a dependable revenue stream and increase the lifetime value of your donors.

This article is excerpted from Connecting Online Advocacy and Fundraising, a joint white paper from Blackbaud, M+R Strategies and Amnesty International USA.

Mark Davis is Blackbaud's internet solutions architect.


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