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Allyson Kapin 9 min read

Three Strategies to Plan Campaigns and Engage Supporters

As a consultant to nonprofits, I get calls and emails daily from organizations are who are looking to market their online campaigns, grow their email list, and raise more money. Often they are looking for a quick fix, which is just bad strategy and frankly a waste of money. When you focus on one-off marketing campaigns (even if they are done through multiple channels) that don’t have a long shelf life, you see a quick bump and everyone at the organization is jumping for joy. But once the marketing has stopped, everything goes back to normal. Your web traffic, sign up rates, media coverage, and donations level out pretty quickly. Sound familiar?

This is why it’s important that nonprofits start focusing more on long term campaigns and multichannel marketing plans to engage their base and keep supporters feeling inspired and motivated to take action and be a part of your movement. Here’s some tips to get you started in planning your long term campaigns.

Develop a One-Year Campaign Calendar

Determine what campaigns you want to tackle over the next 12 months. Note, this should be very strategic and not filled with 12 different campaigns that have little connection to each other. I call that “here and there” campaigning because you are so busy launching several campaigns that you aren’t able to focus on anything very meaningful. You also run the risk of bombarding your supporters with too many asks around different campaigns, which ultimately burns them out. Instead focus on up to three signature campaigns that your supporters are excited about and develop a calendar that outlines:

  • Monthly actions. Determine the types of actions supporters can take online and on the ground. For example, signing petitions, pledges, sharing your petitions or content on social networks and with their friends, family, and colleagues. You can also plan photo and caption contests on Facebook, Pinit contests on Pinterest, organize protests, and house parties,
  • Fundraising appeals. How can your members financially help support the movement? Ask them to help fund a major ad buy around an urgent moment in the campaign. Get a major donor to match supporters dollar for dollar up to a certain amount. Do a homepage hijack. And of course don’t forget to map out your year-end fundraising campaign.
  • A/B testing. This is a great way to understand your list better and what resonates with them to take an action. Use A/B testing to test subject lines, graphics, donation landing page forms, etc.
  • Campaign updates. Don’t just send supporters emails or tweets asking them to take action or donate money. Tell them how they are making an impact. Is the campaign gaining momentum? If you are working on an advocacy campaign, is an important legislative bill about to be passed or is it in danger of not being passed. Be honest and don't try and spin a loss as a win.
  • Volunteer opportunities. How can your supporters volunteer their time to help spread the campaign or support your work?
  • Content updates across your online channels including your website and social network accounts. You know the old saying content is king? Let’s reframe that – good, compelling and informative content that is broken up into digestible chunks is king. Long winded, boring, wonky content is useless because people won’t read it.
  • Multichannel approach. What channels will you be using to promote your campaign? For example, when you are coordinating a big fundraising campaign, will an email hit supporters inboxes two days before their Direct Mail piece lands in their mailboxes? Do you plan to follow up with telemarketing? Will you build a peer-to-peer fundraising component through a platform like Causes or Razoo? This all should be mapped out on your master calendar in advance, so your team has time to plan and the necessary resources to implement it.

Learn to Say No

Does your nonprofit suffer from initiative-it is? I know that many of you are nodding your head right now. I promise that you are not alone. As a matter of fact, it was one of the big topics of conversation at the Nonprofit 2.0 breakout session “Dealing with Silos Inside Nonprofit Organizations.” As an organization (and you must get senior leadership on board with this strategy) you must learn to say no. There are not enough hours in the day to do all the cool initiatives that come your way. You must focus on the task at hand - which is to implement the long term campaign calendar that you mapped out for the year.

On the other hand, there will be opportunities where it makes sense for you to change course for a bit or add another element to your existing campaign plan. These are tempting moments. The best way to handle these opportunities is to evaluate their ROI based on a pre-determined set of criteria. For example, will this new opportunity help move the needle around one of your three signature campaigns that is already on the calendar? What kind of staff and financial resources will be needed to take advantage of this opportunity? What will need to be moved on the calendar to make this initiative happen? What will you sacrifice if you shift things on the calendar to make the new initiative happen? Can the organization afford not to do this opportunity? Will this new opportunity help the organization mobilize its base, grow its list, or raise a lot more money?

Plan for Churn and Recruit New People to Your Email List

Did you know that the average churn for nonprofits email list is about 19%? That is a pretty significant statistic so it’s important to pay attention to churn. Organizations should always be replenishing their email list through paid and organic recruitment campaigns. By the way, Care2 who hosts this blog, specializes in recruitment campaigns so check them out. Also if you have a Google grant, your nonprofit can get up to $40K in free Google adwords per month, so be sure and take advantage of that great resource as well.


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.