How to Energize Donors with Fresh, Vibrant Fundraising Campaigns


Dozens, maybe even hundreds, of articles have been written about donor fatigue, the phenomenon of reduced willingness on the part of donors to contribute generously to charitable appeals because the appeals have been made too frequently. But Marc Pitman, CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, has made a pretty persuasive argument for why donor fatigue is a myth.

In a video on, Pitman explains, “I don’t know of any donors who are tired of giving to causes that they value, they are passionate about, they are excited to be involved in. I know plenty of donors who are being fatigued of being crappily asked.”

True, there are plenty of uninspired, hastily thrown together campaigns and appeals in the world. But still, there’s no doubt that it’s getting harder to make the ask, especially with the number of 501(c)(3) organizations tripling over the past 25 years.

So how can a nonprofit create fundraising campaigns that keep donors energized and excited?

 Focus on storytelling—not on your fundraising goals. What is your campaign really about? Who will realize the benefit, and how does it matter to them? How do your donors’ dollars make the difference? These are the keys for unlocking an emotional connection with donors, which is essential to cultivating an engaged donor base.

Create matches and challenges. Usually limited to a specific time range—almost like a popup shop or flash sale—matches and challenges create urgency with the promise of extra money given (by a major donor or sponsor organization) to the campaign if donors help your nonprofit reach a specific number of donations or dollar amount. This strategy fuels excitement in most donors, but is especially rewarding for donors with smaller pocketbooks, who then have the opportunity to see their gifts go even farther.

Connect it to milestones. Everyone celebrates birthdays and anniversaries. But what do you get the person who has everything, or who wants to lend a hand to others? The nonprofit charity: water, which brings clean water to underserved communities, addressed this with its innovative birthday campaign. Through it, participants can register to request donations instead of gifts for their birthday. To date, the campaign has raised $9 million.

Shake up your strategy with spotlight gifting. An exciting new concept in fundraising, spotlight gifting allows donors to celebrate the accomplishments or milestones of a loved one, or even pay tribute to the memory of friend or family member, by naming a charitable gift—such as paving stones at a new dog park, art supplies for a children’s school, or new technology for a local public radio station—in their honor. Sign up for free today, and you’ll receive premier access to the world’s first online marketplace for spotlight gifting opportunities.

Target donors by demographics. Many universities have found that donations from alumni increase when they focus their messages on specific groups—warm memories of the coming-of-age college experience for recent graduates, or mentorship and networking opportunities for those ready to climb the corporate ladder, for example. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, borrow a page from this strategy and tailor your campaigns by age or stage in life, or interest.

Spread the word on social media. Unlike traditional print appeals, social media is immediate, and levels the playing field by allowing us to reach out to audiences across the country—and even internationally. The new #SayEnough campaign from Oxfam International, including this animated video, sends a powerful—and easy-to-share message—about preventing violence against women and girls.

There are a variety of ways to create exciting fundraising campaigns and help donors feel engaged. Start with what your audience values and how you fill that need, and then try one or more of these timely strategies to forge connections that will last for years to come.

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