The holidays — and especially Thanksgiving — are a perfect time to engage donors, and the proof is in the pudding. People who give during the holidays donate up to 80 percent more than they might the rest of the year. Those are huge numbers.
To bring in as many donations as possible this holiday season, here are some things your organization should start doing (and planning) over the next month or so.
1. Spruce up your website
Update and test your website, especially your donations page. Around Thanksgiving, people are looking to give thanks, and around the holidays, people are looking to give the gift of giving. But if your site doesn’t work flawlessly, you’re missing opportunities. Start by making sure all of the links work. If you have the budget, consider hiring a designer to spruce things up with a seasonal theme. You should also make sure that your website is optimized to rank high in search results. So when people Google “Thanksgiving donations to food banks in San Francisco,” it’s your organization that pops up. Your site should also be mobile optimized, meaning it displays correctly on smartphones. Because of a change in Google’s algorithm earlier this year, mobile-optimized sites are prioritized in search results. If you don’t have the skill set to do these things in your organization, think about asking an SEO firm if it can do any pro bono work for you this holiday season.
2. Set up a Square $Cashtag
Speaking of online donations, you might think about setting up a Square $Cashtag. With Square Cash, nonprofits of all sizes can leverage the power of a $Cashtag to create a custom, sharable URL that makes it easier than ever for anyone to make a donation quickly and securely online. Organizations like (RED), The International Rescue Committee, and UNICEF have adopted $Cashtags as a way to call for donations on social media and reach more potential donors through grassroots fundraising. Learn more about Square $Cashtags here.
3. Plan your email marketing campaigns
Email marketing is an important component of any fundraising strategy. So to make sure your efforts are as effective as possible, it’s best to start planning now. First, meet with your team to plot out all of the send dates for your campaign. These can be timed around events (holiday galas, community service days), or as a nudge to give thanks around the biggie holidays like Thanksgiving. Start readying your email marketing templates now. You can enlist a designer to make an attractive template, or reach out to past donors with an already-made template in Square’s email marketing tool. Be sure to include your $Cashtag in the email to make it as easy as possible for people to donate.
4. Be strategic about your email sends
A strong subject line is essential to get people to open your email. To not get lost in the noise, it needs to really stand out from the thousands of other donation requests going out this time of year. Brainstorm with your team. Bounce ideas off friends and family. Test subject lines and see which ones colleagues and friends click on most. Segment your customer email list by targeting specific groups using Square’s email marketing service. (You can brush up on email marketing best practices here.)
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5. Host an event
Throw a party for your network of supporters, and instead of asking for money, have a white elephant–inspired exchange of in-kind donations. Someone might have an extra iPhone lying around, others might have wine left over from their wedding that they’d be willing to hand over for your nonprofit’s next gala. In-kind donations are a great way for people to contribute without feeling pressured to help financially. Send invites to regular, occasional, or new donors with Square Customer Engagement tools.
Take to social media (especially Twitter and Facebook) to remind your followers of your cause. A great way to do this is by sharing statistics about your impact. “We’ve provided free tutoring to over 3,000 middle schoolers this year,” or “We’ve reduced homelessness by 20% in the neighborhood in 2015.” These types of messages show people exactly how your organization is helping to make communities a better place — providing even more of an incentive to give this holiday season. Including your $Cashtag link in social media makes it quick and simple for people to donate.
It’s the season of giving, and hopefully these tricks help to make the 2015 holiday season your biggest donation year yet.