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January 16, 2020

Does Your Fundraising Bore You? Good.


Imagine this: You’re sitting in a conference room with your colleagues. You are brainstorming the upcoming fundraising campaign. You know your boss is “tired of using a #10 envelope,” so you’re moving to an A6. And her boss is “tired of reading the same types of stories.” But every idea you and your colleagues come up with has a whiff of repetition. So, to keep the bosses happy, you decide to change things up. Without a clear strategic plan or even a test consideration, you’re going to focus on your 50-year anniversary.

Sound familiar? It’s easy to let gut feelings drive donor marketing strategy. You reason that because you are bored of the same colors, formats, offers, and stories, therefore your donors must be, too. But that line of thinking is a trap.

*Buzzer noise* Of course you’re sick of your own marketing! Hours have been spent fine-tuning every detail, as you carefully craft and review each piece. You have years of historical references of past campaigns and messages, tested and confirmed as successful.

But it’s important to remember this simple fact: Your donors don’t know as much about your marketing as you do. They likely don’t read your emails or letters word-for-word. And they certainly don’t spend months thinking about each fundraising campaign.


Marketing repetition isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing.

What if Coca-Cola became bored with their polar bears? What if Wounded Warrior Project stopped telling hero stories in their TV spots? Or what if Virginia became convinced their iconic campaign “Virginia Is for Lovers” needed to retire? The repetition of these messages and tactics is part of what makes these campaigns memorable.

There’s a long-standing marketing rule of thumb that people need to hear your message an average of 7 times before they buy from you (or donate to you). Most modern marketers agree that in today’s environment, that rule may be more like a 7 times 7 rule. Just as successful real estate relies on location, location, location, successful donor marketing relies on repetition, repetition, repetition. 


Here are four ways to use repetition to your advantage to build strong donor relationships:

  1. Value your direct mail control packages. If you have a control package that beats out the test package year after year, that’s great! Be thankful to have found a strategy that resonates so deeply with your donors. Lean on it until it ceases to perform, regardless of its “stale” familiarity to you personally.
  2. Tell the same stories across channels. Your donor is checking her mail, email, and news feed. Make sure your fundraising messages are consistent wherever she is. An Adlob (ad-like object) is a great place to start the messaging strategy in your multichannel campaigns. It provides a channel-agnostic blueprint for the consistent message, tone, and imagery of a multi-channel campaign .
  3. Repeat your Call-To-Action (CTA). The best long form messages (like emails and direct mail letters) have CTA repeated throughout the piece. Consider including the CTA “above the fold” or first scroll, or in a handwritten font on a side bar, or in the P.S., or midway through the appeal. Or all of the above.
  4. Remember: You are not your donor! This important reminder often gets obscured in the sometimes overwhelming myriad of decisions that donor marketers face. It is never a good idea to let your own personal likes and dislikes obscure what campaign performance data tells you.


All your donor cares about is how your fundraising communications make her feel. Is she the hero of the story? Is she provided an opportunity to right a wrong? Is she seeing the impact of her gift?

Your donor likely won’t notice a repetition in your marketing tactics, but what she will notice is a repetition in the way you cherish her, over and over again. And that’s what builds a strong, long-term donor relationship.

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