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Randy Paynter 7 min read

Unlocking the hidden power of engagement

Here’s a thought I keep coming back to at Care2: A supporter that’s re-acquired is two times more likely to donate than one that was recently added to your list.

It makes intuitive sense, doesn’t it? Individuals that loved your organization in the past are always the best candidates when you need their support in the future.

With this truth in mind, many nonprofit organizations plan ongoing tactics to engage online audiences who are already members of their email and phone lists. 

The 2022 M+R Benchmarks report confirms the trend. Nonprofit organizations spent $1 on re-engaging supporters to every 76 cents spent on prospect audiences. 

However, when reaching out to known supporters, not all engagement tactics are equally valuable. 

An unbroken series of donation appeals is not a helpful way to build a meaningful relationship with your audience. Supporters already tell us they feel fatigue from over-solicitation across multiple channels. 

Instead, top performing organizations are using engaging content that’s designed to motivate people to take more actions over the long-term. 

So, how do they do it?

The famous marketing “Rule of 7” suggests that customers need to have multiple interactions with a brand before taking action to purchase. This means that building relationships with donors should involve interaction beyond just seeing a logo or a “donate now” button.

Care2 wanted to test the theory that designing more points of meaningful contact with supporters would equal positive outcomes like increased donations and boosted re-activations.

We built Care2 Cultivate, a platform offering interactive activities like quizzes, surveys and polls to members of our Care2.com community who are also on a nonprofit client’s supporter list. 

The results are exciting.

Here’s just one example from our client African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).  AWF, and their agency partner Sanky Communications Inc, were looking for specific solutions to improve email deliverability and supporter retention.

AWF were already implementing best-practices like creating a multi-part email reactivation series, retargeting past donors with unique social and display ads, and keeping up with annual email change of address (ECOA) protocols.

Care2 Cultivate allowed AWF another opportunity to reach those supporters while they are on Care2.com and are in a prime mindset to think about taking actions for social good.

When someone on AWF’s list visits the Care2 community, they are eligible to engage with an AWF-branded quiz, survey, or poll. Because so many Care2 members are active in our community at any given moment, Care2 was able to generate over 1.6 million engagements for AWF in the first 12 months.

As a result of those engagements, AWF saw an incredible 105% increase in donations from active supporters, and a 127% increase in donations from inactive list members.

We also found that extra cultivation prompted donations for our clients across a variety of channels, including the website, through email, on Facebook, and even by SMS. 

The most effective content piece? Polls and surveys.

It turns out supporters appreciate giving feedback and being asked their opinion.

For AWF, Care2 Cultivate was also a strategic way to unlock the significant value hiding in the inactive emails within their supporter database. Over a year, more than 114,000 AWF supporters reactivated after engaging with Cultivate content.

These positive results were directly attributable to more digital engagements. Interacting with mission-focused content reminds supporters why they love an organization’s work. 

This is especially important if those supporters have not been opening emails and have stopped responding to communications on other channels.

AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project revealed the sobering fact that while fundraising was slightly up during the pandemic, the number of individual donors has gone down.

Retention and reactivation has never been more important, especially when you consider that 77% of first-time donors only give once

Lapsed donors can sometimes be a mystery. It’s frustrating when you don’t know exactly why a supporter stopped opening your emails or clicking on your content. 

Your organization doesn’t have to accept lost donors and declining response rates. You can take action to reignite the love by designing online activities that reflect your mission and recapture the interest of supporters.

Healthy and ongoing cultivation of your prospect file with engaging, interactive content is a tactic that belongs alongside data hygiene, email segmentation, and social advertising in the battle to improve your fundraising and retention rates. 


Randy Paynter

As the founder of Care2 and the PetitionSite, Randy is a pioneer of online advocacy. Randy launched Care2 in 1998 to empower individuals to take collective action in support of social and environmental causes. Today, Care2 helps over 45 million members stand together, start online petitions, and share stories that inspire action.