TrueSense Marketing  ●  11/11/2021

33 Fundraising Tips to Engage Donors in 2022

Heroic Fundraising Featured image loading bar to2022

Back by popular demand, our fundraising experts weigh in on the top issues facing nonprofit organizations today.

As we did last year (and the year before, and before, and before), this roundup of the top trends will help you finesse your donor marketing plans in the coming year, and ultimately raise more funds for your mission.


The Top 33 Fundraising Best Practices and New Trends for 2022

  1. Treat employees like donors to improve retention.
    Like many industries, nonprofits and their for-profit providers are dealing with employee migration and movement. Ultimately, this degrades the important work we do. In 2022, let’s treat our employees and teammates as we would our donors: brainstorm strategies for how to acquire committed and passionate talent. Then, let’s do the important work required to retain our employees just like we would our donors!
    Steven Busheé, President
  2. Prepare for supply chain changes by practicing agility.
    With supply shortages and uncertainty of how long they will last, it’s critical that we plan as far ahead as possible and have backup plans ready. Place orders early and assess the packages you are mailing. In some cases, we can make some relatively easy changes to package elements to improve the chance of getting materials on time. In other situations, we are preparing backup plans for schedules and mail dates so we can pivot quickly if needed. The supply chain issues are affecting more than just our direct-mail packages. In the next six months, we most likely will experience food supply shortages and price increases. How will this impact your clients’ abilities to serve their communities? It could be a very difficult winter for some of our clients and, consequently, those they serve. We hope that’s not the case, but let’s be ready.
    Mimi Natz, Executive Vice President
  3. Harness the power of a great first-time use experience.
    For far too long, our industry has held to a notion that a “welcome series” is a sufficient enough onboarding experience for new donors. It isn’t. First-time use experiences (FTUE) are a deliberate and thoughtful aspect of most technology products, video games, and loyalty programs. 2022 will be the year nonprofits create onboarding experiences tailored to each donor that keep them engaged for much longer than the typical 60-day donor welcome series.
    Stephen Ferrando, SVP of Strategy and Analytics
  4. Innovate through a testing budget.
    This is a common practice in the corporate world that hasn’t been widely adopted by nonprofits yet. It doesn’t have to be a large amount, but 1–2% of your marketing budget is a good first step. Let your team test and try new things without the expectations of a return. You’ll find some of your most profitable ventures this way!
    Brian Tucker, Senior Account Director
  5. Leverage the power of deep research.
    If the question is large enough, putting money toward a better understanding can make a significant difference so youll know how to repeat success (or steer clear of a repeated disaster). For example, investing in a research study on COVID-19-acquired donors helped us better understand how to continue investing in long-term growth for our Food Bank clients.
    Megan Carder, VP & Managing Director
  6. Proactively address digital privacy.
    Google may have postponed phasing out third-party cookies on its popular Chrome browser until January 2023, but Apple has introduced a raft of privacy measures in its latest iOS releases designed to give users more control over how their data is shared with marketers. Fifty-three percent of the U.S. mobile market runs on iOS, and iOS users trend wealthier and more female than Android users, as do many of our donors. While it will be some time until the majority of iOS users have updated to the latest release, this is not the final stage of digital privacy evolution. Nonprofits need to take digital privacy very seriously to retain donors’ trust and to continue digital program growth. That means a laser focus on obtaining zero- and first-party permission-based data.
    Jonathan Sills, VP of Digital & New Media Strategy
  7. Remember: the medium isnt the message.
    Advancing technology is bringing exciting new opportunities for sharing our message with donors and prospects. There will be a lot of fun testing to do around tactics and audiences in 2022, but the goal remains the same: to connect with another person’s heart, and their dream of a better life and a better world. Nothing does that as well as a good story, so remember to keep the human experience at the center, no matter what medium you’re working in.
    Andrew Rogers, Creative Director
  8. Create an innovation budget.
    On a campaign-by-campaign basis, set aside the dollars that would otherwise be spent on the weakest portion of the plan; say the bottom 5–10%. In short order, you’ll have a pool of dollars that can fund new, out-of-the-box ideas that have the potential to pay big dividends in the future.
    Eric Johnson, SVP of Business Development
  9. Include nonprofit clients in the circle of giving.
    Many charities count among their best donors the men and women who have, at one time or another, received assistance from that charity. This is helpful context to have when discussing the opportunity for giving to a specific campaign or project. Usually, this information is not contained in the database, so you might have to ask: what is your personal connection to our work? If indeed empathy is one of the great drivers for giving generously, then every organization can look no further than to those it has helped, and those currently being helped, for support.
    Shawn Reed, Executive Vice President
  10. Get negative to drive positive PPC results.
    Approximately 63,000 search terms are processed by Google every second. That’s why, when it comes to paid search campaigns, nonprofit marketers need to focus on quality over quantity. Casting a wide net may attract clicks, but how many of those visitors will stick around to become donors? An easy way to make sure you’re not wasting budget dollars on empty traffic is to keep an updated negative keyword list active in all of your search campaigns. This simple step helps Google bypass less relevant queries to drive ads more directly to your ideal prospects.
    Alayna Frankenberry, Marketing Director
  11. Keep calm and fundraise on.
    Between the pandemic, supply chain issues, and slow mail delivery, cash flow can be unpredictable. History shows that organizations that maintained or even grew their spend during tough times raised more revenue in the long run and were far better off when clear skies finally appeared. Canceling or pulling back on fundraising spend during uncertain times will only compound your issues. Keep calm and fundraise on!
    Jennifer Starrett, VP of Strategy
  12. Treat your donors like people, not numbers.
    2022 is a time to remind ourselves that donors are not described by RFM data points, predictive models, or wealth capacity indicators. They are human beings who have experienced an extended period of disconnection and isolation. Double down on personalized engagement, affirmation, stewardship, and gratitude.
    John Thompson, Chief Creative Officer
  13. Organizational alignment is the foundation for your mid-level programs success.
    It is critical that your mid-level program has a strong foundation to succeed. Organizational alignment between your individual direct-response program, mid-level donor program, prospect research, and major and planned giving is that foundation.
    Kurt Worrell, SVP Donor Engagement Team
  14. Simplicity is best, even in a complex digital landscape.
    While new digital tracking roadblocks will reduce our ability to be personal, timely, and relevant, remember that the message and mission, stated clearly, is always the best choice. Start with your clear and concise call to action, and let more sophisticated tactics enhance, but not dictate, your fundraising message.
    Katie Damico, Director of Digital Operations
  15. Leverage smart marketing tech and trends to build relationships with your donors.
    Make use of the current tools available to marketers to provide deeper levels of personalization and more customized content for your donors. An example of this is Conversational Marketing (i.e., writing in a conversational tone). This humanizes the way nonprofits speak to donors at all levels and allows for more organic personalization. Create a great experience for your donors with a feedback-driven model that fosters more conversions and greater brand loyalty to your mission.
    Cris Parisi, Creative Director
  16. Donors want to feel “seen.”
    In the age of targeted advertising and personalized algorithms, a one-size-fits-all approach to donor marketing no longer works. Your donor expects you to know who they are and how they’re connected to you — and they can spot a form letter from a mile away. Say, “we see you” by creating different versions within your campaign that speak to different audience types. If your donor gives monthly, belongs to a giving society, or uses your nonprofit’s services, recognize them as such. Acknowledge the amount of their last gift or their geographical area. And be sure to personalize your digital campaigns wherever you can.
    Jolene Miklas, Copy Director
  17. Focus on the role of empathy in fundraising.
    In a recent study conducted by TrueSense, we learned that donors who experienced a personal impact from COVID-19 were more likely to continue giving at a high level after the pandemic. In the coming year, pay close attention to the role of empathy in fundraising. As we look to find and retain donors with high lifetime value, an empathetic donor is a critical resource for mission impact.
    Paul Hebblethwaite, VP of Strategy
  18. Don’t forget the power of celebrating your donors.
    Especially new donors to your organization. Your New Donor Welcome series can a be cost-effective and automated stewardship touchpoint. Enhance this effort by simply modifying your three-part New Donor Welcome Series to a four-part series that includes a donor anniversary email 11 months after the first gift is received. By celebrating the donor and reminding them that they became part of your organization’s family one year ago, you are providing an opportunity to continue their relationship and obtain that crucial second or third gift. A secondary or soft call to action at the end of the email will do the trick, keeping the celebration of that donor the main focal point. Keep the email short and sweet with beautiful photographs or typographical images.
    Samantha Jasnos, Senior Director of Strategy
  19. Pause before you speak.
    Are you treating your donors like ATM machines, or are you being thoughtful in how you build a relationship with them? Listening makes people feel valued, appreciated, and understood, which is the basis of great relationship building. When it’s your turn to speak, remember what Rumi said: “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, ‘Is it true?’ At the second gate ask, ‘Is it necessary?’ At the third gate ask, ‘Is it kind?’”
    Claire Waiksnoris, Director of Business Development
  20. Consider how you can bridge gender and race equity gaps in the way you tell your story and the stories of those you serve.
    Are you inadvertently perpetuating race and gender stereotypes in your campaigns? Consider the stories and photographs you use and how you portray the clients you serve. Look for ways to use strength-based messaging that treats the people you serve like people and not as victims. Leverage our shared experiences and sense of community to inspire donors rather than relying solely on the need and conditions afflicting them — but don’t abandon need entirely. You still have to express the problem and need, but find the right balance!  
    Angie MacAlpine, Creative Director
  21. Inspiration doesn’t happen behind a computer monitor.
    It happens everywhere! I love having a toolkit of ideas to use whenever I need to channel new creative energy.
    Amanda Swadlo, Art Director
  22. Build two-way relationships with your donors.
    When speaking with someone from whom you wish to receive something, whether it be support, advice, donations, etc., it is important to give them something first. In the case of phone conversations with potential donors, offering them literature, prayers, or information goes a long way in initiating that give-and-take relationship. 
    William Barnes, Director of Donor Engagement Team
  23. Clarify your call to action.
    It’s one of the basic best practices, but it can be overlooked sometimes. Especially with digital impacts, where we now have the capability to direct the donor to different landing pages, donation forms, and other options, we need to be very clear about what we’d like the donor to do — and make it as simple as possible for the donor to do it.
    Alan Hyams, Copy Director
  24. Work smarter, not harder.
    Find ways to repurpose the amazing content you’ve curated to maximize its impact for your organization. Instead of reinventing the wheel when developing your high-value donor strategy, first look for ways you can successfully elevate your existing communications.
    Megan Carder, VP & Managing Director
  25. The Internet of Things reaches the world of fundraising.
    From clothes that monitor our movements to smart homes we can talk to and stores where you can walk out with your arms full of groceries without ever reaching for a wallet, the Internet of Things knows no bounds, except for our concerns about ensuring privacy amid such convenience. Will donating as easily as saying, “Give $25 to Dana-Farber” finally become more commonplace and less gimmicky? I bet it’s closer than you think.
    Stephen Ferrando, SVP of Strategy and Analytics
  26. Create opportunities to deepen donor relationships with real-time conversations.
    Capacity screening, propensity modeling, and donor behavior are all important when evaluating gift planning and major gift opportunities. Actual real, personal, relevant conversations with your donors move you from statistics to actual relationships. Surveys, impact reporting, and stewardship are all great reasons to reach out and have these conversations. Make sure authentic conversations are part of your strategy to identify transformational donors.
    Kurt Worrell, SVP Donor Engagement Team
  27. Find budget to try new fundraising initiatives.
    Trying to squeeze more out of your budget and feel like you can’t fund that “next new thing”? Budget opportunities are often hidden in the fringes. When you get to the end of your budgeting process, carefully review each section and break down those large “buckets.” For example, in your acquisition budget, are the weakest investments in that budget line better or worse than the missing opportunity you can’t fund? Using a scalpel to dissect your larger budget line items might reveal opportunities to fund something new. 
    Britt Fouks, VP & Managing Director
  28. Donors are online, but they dont all give through that channel.
    In the last year, more and more donors consumed online media. Just because they are online, it doesn’t mean that they will donate online. While we are seeing a slight uptick in donors moving from offline to online, it’s still less than 10%. If a donor donates through the mail, they are still not very likely to start donating online. However, we have seen time and again that online impressions lift direct-mail results. Make sure you are where your donors are, but also make it easy for them to give through their preferred channels.
    Jennifer Starrett, VP of Strategy
  29. Digital and hybrid events are here to stay.
    Motivated by convenience, cost-savings, or COVID-19, online and hybrid events are here to stay. Even if you have Zoom fatigue, be sure to create engaging virtual experiences for your donors and other key audiences.
    Elyse Haines, Agency Marketing
  30. People have different content expectations for the different social channels.
    Just about everyone is on Facebook. Millions are using Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Clubhouse, Snapchat, etc. Yes, most people use more than one (and even some use all of them — can we say, “FOMO”). But really, each platform offers unique audience differences. Facebook users are looking for social interaction. People turn to Twitter for information. LinkedIn is a networking platform for business and employment. Instagram is visual. Pinterest tends to be crafty and relaxed. Knowing who is consuming content and how they expect it on each platform should direct how you engage with them (and ultimately how you make your fundraising ask).
    Taryn Myers, Director of Digital Media
  31. Give yourself a digital checkup at least twice a year.
    Is that general inbox email still working? What happens when someone fills out a form? When was the last time you updated your e-receipt copy? All of these little things may seem small, but they can add up to a bad experience for new and existing donors. I’ve found it makes sense to review these in February (after the holiday rush) and August (right before the holiday rush begins).
    Brian Tucker, Senior Account Director
  32. Dont underestimate the value of an email address.
    Email marketing continues to drive a significant portion of online revenue (19% of total online revenue per 2021 M+R Benchmarks). Many nonprofit organizations are turning to paid digital advertising and lead generation to grow their audience. If you are too, ensure you’re leveraging email addresses for your constituents to reach them across media networks — it’s not uncommon for people to utilize differing email addresses across social networks and online transactions. Make sure you’re cleansing and appending your file regularly to expand reach in digital channels and improve email deliverability. Further, as privacy regulations and the pending sunset of third-party cookies loom, an email address will be the primary way to attribute digital activity back to an individual.
    Katy Jordan, SVP of Digital Marketing
  33. Solving for attribution is important, but not your #1 goal.
    Knowing how effective individual elements of your fundraising plan are is important … but don’t let your pursuit of good attribution get in the way of best donor communication practices.
    Marcy Auman, Executive Vice President

Bonus tip: Subscribe to our Heroic Fundraising blog. You’ll receive a monthly email with the newest fundraising trends to adjust your campaigns for maximum success, no matter what 2022 has in store.



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