Digital teams spend a lot of time and effort creating and locking in a fundraising plan for the year. And the thought of making changes can be a frustrating and uncertain endeavor.

But being flexible and willing to pivot quickly in response to current events could win you favor with your supporters… and make a lot of money for your organization.

Kara Warr, Director of Digital Media Services

Breaking News Isn’t Just for News Outlets

Before my time in fundraising and digital marketing, I was a TV news producer. I spent all day painstakingly planning and writing my newscast only to have breaking news strike 10 minutes to showtime. 

In that moment, everything gets thrown out: the stories, the scripts…THE ENTIRE PLAN! 

And while that can be super stressful, I did it because I needed to. I needed to broadcast the best newscast possible. And the public needed to know vital information as it was developing.

Not When. Now.

I think it’s worth considering the same approach to fundraising. When the opportunity presents itself, organizations need to shine a light on their important work—not just at calendar year-end, not just in an annual report, but IMMEDIATELY as it is happening.

When your organization reacts to community issues, responds to controversy, or acknowledges world events, it sends a message to supporters that you are actively engaged. In many cases, it gives donors an immediate call to action and prospects a reason to finally convert.

Receiving a canned fundraising piece in the midst of major world events reads as tone-deaf, ignorant, and uninformedeven if that’s not the case.

Digital is Key to Staying Relevant

When you’re working with direct mail, it’s difficult to make last-minute changes. You may have the option to add in a buck slip but not change the entire package. Truthfully you may not want to risk deviating from an established control package for untested messaging.

This is where you can let your digital program shine. Digital campaigns can be changed at any point in production, in many cases, even after a campaign has been launched. They can also help inform how your direct mail might evolve through real-time A/B testing.

Need an Example?

Let’s say you’re an animal welfare organization that is assisting in the rescue of pets stranded due to a natural disaster. Thanks to digital platforms you canand shouldimmediately start working on a plan to tell donors you are on the front lines saving animals.

– Don’t drag your feet getting the new campaign off the ground. The longer you wait, the less urgent it becomes, and the less impact it has on donors.

– Don’t hesitate to reach out to your media team. They’re already hard-wired to “think like a journalist” and will be responding quickly as the story or situation develops.

– Don’t forget to connect with your communications team and coordinate consistent messaging. (For more on the importance of Communications and Development working together, check out our article “Marketing & Fundraising: A Perfect Marriage.”)

– Don’t be afraid to use every platform (social media, paid advertising, email, website modals, text messaging, etc.) at your disposal.

– Don’t treat digital channels like direct mail. Digital has different strengths, namely the opportunity to respond, stay flexible, and evolve throughout the campaign. Use that to your advantage. 

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

We are living in a world of local and international crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. Online audiences are constantly bombarded on social channels with causes that make the case for urgently needed donations. 

If you don’t speak up, donorsespecially younger donorswill have already responded and given to another organization. This has long-term ramifications. Growing your file with donors who were introduced to your work in a relevant manner represent strong potential LTV.  

Key Takeaways

Tell your organization’s story as it’s happening. Share what you’re doing in the face of a pandemic, civil unrest, or a natural disaster. I guarantee you’ll be able to grow your audience and increase affinity, authenticity, and relevance.

Bottom line? I understand the urge to stay the course, but you’re hurting your organization in the long run. Think like a journalist. Jump on your breaking news story and don’t be afraid to capitalize on the important work your organization is doing.