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Five Tips for Fundraising in an Election Year: Part Two

Just when you thought you were out, we pull you back in!


Today, we conclude our two-part series on how the political campaign season may affect nonprofit fundraising. Read Part One here, or continue on for more tips!


3.) Define your mission and needs, and communicate with your donors and prospects early and often.


Now that we know that donors don’t stop their charitable giving in an election year, it’s up to you to provide them with reasons to give.

Your organization’s need doesn’t go away just because there’s an election! That’s why it’s more important than ever that you clearly and concisely communicate what that need is.


Tell stories that connect with your donors and prospects on an emotional, perhaps even visceral, level. Show your donors and prospects the problem, then help them to connect the dots to illustrate how their financial support can solve the problem.

Now, before I say this, let me be clear; I’m not saying that you should advocate for an outcome of an election or do anything else that could jeopardize your organization’s status or relationship with donors.


However, if an issue to which your nonprofit is dedicated is particularly salient in an election cycle, it is to your benefit to be at the forefront of your donors’ and prospects’ minds, educating them on the issue and why your nonprofit is uniquely positioned to make a big impact on the issue (regardless of the outcome of the election), but only if you can count on their support.


In doing so, you set your organization up to be potential beneficiaries of the newly-named “rage giving” phenomenon. While charitable giving in response to bad news isn’t a new phenomenon, several nonprofits have seen windfalls when significant numbers of donors have been dissatisfied with a political event or fearful of the repercussions of a major news story. There have been several examples of this in recent years, from all across the ideological spectrum, including:


· Planned Parenthood’s 20-fold increase in new donors in the week following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dodds v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.


· The American Civil Liberties Union’s raising of $24 million (mostly from first-time donors) following the Trump administration’s announcement of Executive Order 13769 (commonly referred to as the “Muslim ban”) in January 2017.


· What the National Rifle Association called a “record fundraising cycle” following the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.


· A Facebook fundraiser for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, showing that this phenomenon can also extend to small nonprofits, as well. This 2018 fundraiser, launched after news broke of migrant family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018, had an initial goal of $1,500 to “reunite an immigrant parent with their child,” but wound up raising over $20 million!


4.) Plan ahead with your communications.


When it comes to your donor communication plan, planning ahead will be especially important this year.


In election seasons and especially during Presidential election cycles, Meta (which owns both Facebook and Instagram) has a much more meticulous process in approving ads on its platforms. This often causes delays in the ad approval process, and nonprofits that are inherently apolitical may find that their content is considered to be political or social speech, further delaying your ad campaigns – perhaps until the election is over.


With Meta certain to freeze on new political ads before the election, the earlier you can schedule your creative and ad audiences, the better, and it may prove prudent for nonprofits to build out multiple variants of these ads to have a better chance of running among automated rejections.


Any of us who has donated to or volunteered for a political campaign before knows how clogged our email inboxes can get. Be intentional about your organization’s emails. Make it obvious that your emails are coming from your nonprofit, and try to avoid the last few days of the month (especially June, September, and December), when political campaigns make their big pushes for contributions ahead of their “critical fundraising deadlines.”


And when it comes to your print-and-mail communications, the good news is that very few campaigns extensively utilize direct mail for their fundraising efforts. However, they do utilize direct mail (ad nauseum!) for voter persuasion and Get-Out-the-Vote efforts.


Here’s what’s important to remember: Direct mail remains king for nonprofit fundraising, and the election won’t change that. But the USPS is still limited in its own resources, so plan for an additional week or two to account for increased processing times.


Taking these steps will ensure that your communications arrive when you want them to, with the greatest chances to make the maximum impact on those who receive them.


5.) Call us!


Now, the best news? Rescigno’s can help you with researching your prospects, how you communicate with your donors and prospects, and developing a strong communication plan. Those, in turn, will help you to not panic during what should be a critical fundraising year for you and your organization! Want help with any of these or more? Contact us at (708) 974-2600, or e-mail Colin@rescignos.com.


And, in the meantime, don’t fear this election season. As far as you’re concerned, it’s full steam ahead!

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