Global Practices

Digital Fundraising in the Age of Trump



The election of Donald Trump and other recent events have resulted in a surge in donations to immigration, LGBTQ, women’s, and minority rights non-profit advocacy organizations. A newfound sense of urgency and peril is in the air – and it has reinvigorated these organizations’ donor communities. Most notably, the ACLU raised $24 million online over the course one weekend after suing the White House over President Trump’s immigrant travel ban.

Organizations such as these, however, cannot simply count on the fundraising dollars to roll in. Digital preparedness and planning will determine whether the news of the day will inspire a flood of new donors or just a steady trickle.

Here are a few of the tactics that can help a non-profit double – in some cases even quintuple – their end-of-year fundraising revenue when the news of the day (Trump-instigated or otherwise) draws attention to their mission:

1. Make it easy to donate. When people react to the news of the day and they look for a worthwhile non-profit to give to, your name recognition and history of accomplishments won’t be enough to seal the deal. If it’s hard to find the “Donate” button, if it requires too many clicks to get to that donate page, or if the donate form is overly complex or has too many fields to complete, a lot of people simply won’t do it. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Consider setting up a lightbox that directs all new visitors to donate – and update the call-to-action copy to match current events so every new visitor will see a topical and timely message.

2. Overcommunicate. While many organizations are nervous about “spamming” their supporters, there’s some very simple math about email fundraising: the more emails you send, the more money you raise. As long as your messaging is true to your mission and treats your community with respect, you will not lose your email subscribers. One client was nervous about our plan to more than double the number of fundraising emails they sent the previous year, but the results were unambiguous: Not only did we increase digital fundraising by nearly 150 percent, we also lowered spam complaints and unsubscribes.

3. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. We understand; non-profits have tight budgets and the prospect of investing tens of thousands of dollars in Facebook ads can be terrifying. That said, the resulting new donors often bring in an exponential return on investment – especially if you encourage people to become monthly givers. A recent campaign we ran for a client had exactly that result. The immediate revenue from the campaign equaled only half of the cost of the ads, but a significant proportion of those gifts came as only the first installment of a monthly donation. When we factored in an average 12-month lifespan of those sustaining gifts, the return on investment was well over 100 percent.

Steve Jacobs is vice president, Digital Corporate and Public Affairs.

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