FYI Blog

What’s Next Beyond Email Fundraising?

person using black iPad

We took in Digital Day at the DMAW and brought back a host of ideas and trends—here are some highlights that we might think about testing…knowing that none is one-size-fits-all:

Lots of organizations shared ideas for designing successful fundraising emails and discussed website trends they are trying out with mixed success.

But the most interesting takeaways came from panelists discussing, the idea of what’s next beyond email fundraising. For example:

  • For The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, right after the in-person experience is still the best time to convert donors. So the Museum has added staff whose job it is to diplomatically approach visitors at the end of their Museum visit and ask them to join/give. USHMM is also looking into ways to run automated chat campaigns using Facebook Messenger.
  • Planned Parenthood is using Hustle in-house for mass communications, including some fundraising campaigns—successful with mid-level upgrading and lapsed sustainer reinstatement so far. And all tied in with a current event so it doesn’t feel transactional to the recipient.
  • Some organizations are testing chat bots and automation for fundraising, seeing those as the next big fundraising driver. Many agreed that communications need to feel individualized and like they’re coming from one person, which chat bots can accomplish better than traditional social media.
  • Another example of an emerging technology that can be used for fundraising is the home smart speaker (e.g., “Alexa, make a donation to XYZ org”).
  • Facebook Lives and Instagram Lives also came up as an emerging trend—especially now that each has a donate button. Again, especially when tied to a current event, it feels more personal (like direct mail and email) than channels like digital and social media advertising. Internally, many advise getting buy-in by keeping revenue expectations low, then scale as appropriate.
  • One other point: since nonprofits don’t get donor information from Facebook Fundraisers, and they’re largely supporter-led, many organizations are worried about promoting them—because in a sense, it’s passive income that comes in without the organization’s control. One panelist noted that we’re moving more and more toward a world where we’re communicating with audiences/supporters via advertising (instead of via phone number, name, and email address), so we should get used to the idea of a good portion of our donors being anonymous—and start developing strategies for that reality.

As digital tools and channels evolve, nonprofits must keep pace. What new trends and tactics are you trying?