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Care2 Team 18 min read

How to Plan a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign: 6 Key Steps

It’s no exaggeration to say that we live in a world bombarded by media. From email advertisements to Facebook ads to direct mail promotions, we’re surrounded by clutter from organizations that are fighting for our attention. 

That’s what makes it so important to have a comprehensive fundraising strategy. For your nonprofit’s voice to be heard above the noise, you need to have a handle over all of the different channels that your current and prospective donors are using. With a strong multichannel fundraising campaign, you’ll be able to get your voice out on all the right platforms, reach the right audiences, and boost supporter involvement and donations.

Follow these essential steps to create your own strong multichannel fundraising campaign and put you on the track to success:

  1. Establish your fundraising goals.
  2. Develop campaign goals and messaging. 
  3. Define your campaign’s messaging hook.
  4. Identify your target donors and their main channels.
  5. Set up a fundraising calendar. 
  6. Coordinate staffing and resources. 

Ready to more effectively engage your donors, boost donor acquisition, and inspire greater support for your mission? Let’s jump in. 

1. Establish your fundraising goals.

Goal setting is the first step to any good marketing, stewardship, or fundraising campaign. Of course, your “goals” could include many different things—the most obvious of which is how much money you’re aiming to raise.

When determining the “magic number,” it’s important that you set realistic expectations. For example, if you are experimenting with social media fundraising for the first time, keep in mind that typically nonprofits spend an average of $67 USD in social media ads to acquire a single donor.

Be very conservative in your goals and consider the staff time and vendor fees you’ll need to support your campaign. While every team hopes to shatter their fundraising goals, you should plan and design your campaign around practical projections of what you might make, with a concrete understanding of the resources at your disposal.

For even more guidance, take a look at your nonprofit data analytics. Descriptive and diagnostic analysis will give you a better understanding of how and why previous campaigns performed the way that they did, while predictive analytics can guide your upcoming campaigns to maximize fundraising success. 

2. Develop campaign goals and messaging. 

Now that you’ve pinned down your broader fundraising goals, it’s time to narrow things down and get more specific about the objectives of your campaign. For example, what specific issues or takeaways are you trying to impart to your audience, how are you hoping to further steward your donor base, and where is donated money going?

Sometimes it helps to crystallize your campaign goals by doing the following exercise:

Answer the question, “What three or four main goals will we achieve by raising X dollars for Y campaign?” For example, here are some campaign goals that the Care2 team answered internally for a neighborhood soup kitchen whose mission is to provide warm meals and job training to people who are experiencing homelessness.

“What goals will we achieve by raising $50,000 for the neighborhood soup kitchen?

  • Goal One: Illustrate that homelessness has risen 25% in our city over the last year, resulting in a rising demand for our free meals and job training services. We want donors to understand that every night there are lines of hungry people outside our door waiting for a hot meal.
  • Goal Two: For every $50 donated, 25 homeless people will get a nutritious dinner for one week at our soup kitchen, beginning next week.
  • Goal Three: For every $25 donated, our soup kitchen will provide computer training classes to 10 homeless people we are serving for one month.
  • Goal Four: Tell the personal story of a soup kitchen volunteer who has benefited from regularly eating at our soup kitchen and participating in our job training program.

Again, be realistic when setting campaign goals. Think about smaller, achievable goals, as is discussed in Chapter Three of Allyson Kapan’s Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money and Engage Your Community

Remember that these goals are for internal purposes. However, when your organization designs and rolls out its campaign publicly, you can still convey the fact that there are lines of hungry people waiting for food by telling an individual's story.

3. Define your campaign’s messaging hook.

When developing your campaign and its messaging, you will need to share the compelling story behind the issue you are fundraising for and discuss the immediate need. For instance, the aforementioned soup kitchen might show donors the impact of their gift by telling them the impact their donation had on someone’s life. This is key to engaging new supporters, long-time donors, and prospective supporters in your campaign, further endearing them to your organization and ensuring they stay involved. 

DNL Omnimedia’s article about nonprofit storytelling outlines these steps to effectively create a narrative that will motivate donors to give:

  1. Map out the basic “arc” of your campaign narrative, including a beginning, a middle, and end.
  2. Introduce a compelling character, such as a volunteer, donor, or someone your organization has helped. Remember to get permission in advance to use their name and story.
  3. Unleash the “challenge,” or the main issue that needs to be confronted or addressed. In the soup kitchen example, it was food insecurity and poverty.
  4. Provide a solution to the problem that is facilitated by your organization because of your donors’ support.
  5. Invite supporters to join your efforts with a compelling call to action.

Remember, people want to see a tangible impact. You will raise more money if this is clearly highlighted in your fundraising messaging. Fundraising appeals that have urgent deadlines have higher open rates and average gift amounts.

4. Identify your target donors and their main channels.

Who will you target with your fundraising campaign? Existing donors who have donated to an appeal before? New donors who have only given to a specific, past social media campaign? 

This is especially important to consider when you take into account that each fundraising channel has its own unique user demographics. For example, not only are Millennials and younger donors more active on social media, but 39% of Millennial donors report that social media inspires them most to give.

This demographic breakdown makes it critical to understand prospective and current donors’ preferred channels for donating and communicating. Are they more compelled by online fundraising appeals that are signed by your organization’s executive director? Do they prefer to donate via direct mail or by phone? Perhaps they’ll be motivated by an appeal in your email marketing communications.

To identify the best channels to reach your donors, pay close attention to your donor data. In particular, take a closer look at their personal demographics, channels they’ve historically been responsive to, and even direct indications they’ve made to you about their preferred channels.

5. Set up a fundraising calendar.

A fundraising campaign calendar is one of the most important parts of multichannel fundraising plans. It maps out the timelines for the entire campaign, helps you plan an engagement ladder with your constituents, outlines staffing and resources, and allows you to strategize how you can align your nonprofit brand across all platforms

A good calendar outlines a schedule for drafting, editing, and implementing the campaign and considers the goals, audiences, and channels for each component. For example, your calendar could consider the following marketing and communication channels: 

  • Email appeals
  • Website 
  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing
  • Social media 
  • Text messaging
  • Online or print advertising

These channels are not only critical for sending out fundraising appeals to your donors, but they can also be used to keep supporters engaged during and beyond your campaign. From creating a welcome series for new donors to sending thank-you messages and fundraising campaign updates, remember to share a rich array of content curated to your donors’ needs and desires. 

Additionally, as you begin to build out and manage your fundraising calendar, be sure to:

  • Set important benchmarks, namely for fundraising and donor engagement.
  • Share the calendar across your team and establish cross-department goals and expectations.
  • Assign team members to perform management and make sure that the calendar is being followed.

For best results, a professional fundraising consultant can help to guide you through the planning, organization, and management of your fundraising calendar. Explore the Meyer Partners guide professional fundraising consultants for recommendations, analyses, and breakdowns of the specialized services from some of the top fundraising and marketing consulting firms in the nonprofit sector. 

6. Coordinate staffing and resources.

As part of the fundraising calendar creation process, it’s also important to establish staffing resources and identify how the various resources fit into your overall timeline.

Just listen to what professional online strategy consultant Ted Fickles has to say about the topic:

A tight team that [has] worked together, knows their stuff, and understands what everyone else is doing probably doesn’t need to muddy a calendar with project management details, dependencies, and [broken-down] tasks. But the typical nonprofit fundraising team is working with outside developers, designers, and writers, plus staff, spread across the country, some of whom just started in the past year because of typical nonprofit turnover. 

And the weekly team meeting and countless emails to everyone, just doesn’t get you organized enough. So, a calendar should to the extent possible specify the relationships between people and tasks.

From executing day-to-day tasks to managing complex multi-week projects, your internal staff is critical to the success of your fundraising initiatives. This is what makes it so important to allocate and strategize staffing for each leg of your campaigns, especially in relation to multichannel fundraising campaigns

With so much content to oversee across multiple, unique platforms, your organization will greatly benefit from taking a bit of time to draw out a timeline for staffing allocation and hours. 



With the insights we’ve outlined for you, as well as a bit of professional fundraising expertise, you should be in a strong position to begin confidently planning and organizing your next multichannel fundraising campaign.