Creating a Strong Communications Strategy

While the secret to crowdfunding success is getting your ask right, there's a caveat, a big one: even the most exceptional project with the most compelling call-to-action won't meet its goal if only a handful of people ever find out about it.  

Your communications strategy is essential to driving traffic to your project page and ensuring people follow through to click on “Give Now.” Without it, your campaign will get stuck at $0. There is a multitude of resources online to help you communicate more effectively. Hubspot’s bilingual resources explain the inbound model of marketing for-profit and nonprofits alike, and Abila’s Donor Loyalty study reveals key findings about what inspires people to give that you can act on now.  

Perhaps the easiest way to put together a strategy is by answering the key questions: Who? What? How? and When? But, however you approach the task, remember to put your donors at the heart of your communication strategy. Treat them as friends rather than a source of funds and strive to build up a relationship that will grow over time based on your mutual commitment to the cause. 

1.  WHO? (Define your audience)

Start by establishing your target group for the campaign. Rather than aiming for the general public (a concept too huge and vague to be of any use), ask yourself, what does success look like? What sort of donors do we want to attract, how many do we need, and where will we find them?
Many organizations run their first crowdfunding campaigns by communicating to existing audiences—donors, lapsed donors, volunteers, families of beneficiaries, etc. However, if your goal is to recruit new donors, then it’s essential that you start with a clear idea of which specific groups of people are most likely to be interested in supporting your project and understand their motivations to give.    

2. WHAT? (Craft your message)

Once you’ve defined your audience or target group, you can develop your message. You should strive to explain your project in a straightforward but engaging way and add a clear call to action at the end of each communication. Videos, photos, and stories or testimonies will enrich your communications, but make sure they are congruent with the overall message and fulfill the main objective of all your communications—encouraging people to give. 
If you want to delve deeper, think about donor motivation and how to respond to donor needs in your communications. According to Abila, the three main reasons people donate to nonprofits are very personal: “they have a deep passion for the cause, they believe the organization depends on their donation, or they know someone affected by the nonprofit’s mission.” Try to reflect one of these aspects in your campaign messaging or develop your own “donor persona” to understand what will best motivate your target group to give. It doesn’t have to be too complicated—San Miguel School created two different messages for potential donors and current donors, which contributed significantly to the success of their campaign.

3. HOW? (Decide which communications channels to use.)

If you’re clear on your audience and your message, the next step is to decide how to get that message out to them. Email, social media, and phone calls are the most common, but how they work for you depends on the preferences of your specific target group. Ask yourself how THEY prefer to communicate. Do they have time to read long emails? Are they likely to confide in social media posts?
  • Email lists are still the number one driver of visits to campaign pages. It’s easy to see why—if someone is on your list, they already have a connection to your organization. However, do update your list before the campaign and make the most of the opportunity with a well-crafted message.
  • Social media, especially Facebook but also Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, may seem like essential additions to your strategy, but their usefulness depends on the strength of the community you’ve already established there. Exploit the opportunities by all means, but not to the detriment of your other outreach channels.
  • Instant messaging (such as Messenger or WhatsApp) enable very direct communication with your potential donors, but messages must come from a trusted contact and be friendly and personalized, otherwise the strategy will backfire. Have a look at how ASAC used WhatsApp to great success.
  • Telephone campaigns seem outdated but research shows that they remain hugely effective. Terra Peninsular revitalized a flagging campaign by developing a basic script and making calls to potential donors, and it’s also a popular practice to have Board members each make at least 10 phone calls each.
Whichever combination of channels you choose, always remember to make your communications as personalized as possible.

4. WHEN? (Select the frequency of your communications.)

Finally, decide how often to send your communications. You should aim to keep your campaign top of mind with frequent outreach but you don’t want to over-communicate and risk causing annoyance.   
HIPGive campaigns run for 15, 30, or 45 days, or can be entirely customizable, so the frequency will vary depending on the campaign duration and your choice of communication channels. However, it’s a good idea to send out a “save the date” note before the launch day, and if you’re running a giving day or participating in a contest, send or post regular updates throughout that day. Have a look at how El Centro Hispano’s recent campaign involved careful email scheduling or how Contextos ensured constant communication throughout the campaign.
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