[Webinar] Digital fundraising with Middle Seat

April 11, 2023 | Brandon Blumenherst
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Digital fundraising is an art that takes skill and precision to execute efficiently and effectively. Simple missteps can cost your campaign money and slow progress toward your fundraising goals. That’s why we reached out to our friends at Middle Seat to share some digital fundraising best practices to create compelling fundraising asks, explain data-driven tactics to raise more money, and more in our latest webinar. 

Digital fundraising best practices from Middle Seat 

We’ve all received emails from campaigns asking us to donate; perhaps you’ve even sent some on behalf of your campaign. But what are some of the factors that determine how successful your digital fundraising program is? 

  • The quality of your ask. 
    • You always want to improve your ask by thinking through how you can make the ask more relevant to your supporters.  
  • How often you ask for donations.
    •  If you ask people to donate once a year, you will likely raise less than you will if you ask them more frequently.
  • How easy it is to donate. 
    • Making it easier to donate will help you raise more money. Even if you have the most compelling fundraising email content, you could lose opportunities by having a complicated donation form.
  • The number of people you are asking to donate. 
    • A bigger audience means you will likely raise more money. By growing your email list the right way, you can also help increase your deliverability rates, helping you reach more inboxes and raise more money. 

Why should your campaign send fundraising emails?

According to Middle Seat, email fundraising is a growing field and the #1 way to raise money from small donors. By sending messages to all your supporters in one place, you get access to everyone every time you send an email. 

Building an email calendar also helps ensure frequent communication with your supporters and prevent email fatigue. Email content should lead your strategy here. Sending too few emails will lead to a drop in engagement, so make sure to develop engaging content and send it frequently to help increase your open rates, clickthrough rates, and more. 

What does a digital fundraising ask look like?

You’ll start with an opening that hooks the reader and presents a problem. Then, you’ll offer a solution to the problem that involves the reader making a donation. Make sure to answer the question, “How does the reader’s donation solve the problem?” You’ll then make a hard ask to the reader to make a donation with a specific amount and timeline associated with it.  

Here are a few other things you should consider when crafting your fundraising emails: 

  • Make your emails skimmable.
    • In just a few seconds, donors will decide whether to continue reading your email, so you want to ensure you draw their attention to the most important parts of the email. Using bold font, highlighting text, or inserting graphic calls to action can help make your content more engaging and draw the reader’s eyes to the most significant parts of your email.   
  • Ask for a specific donation amount.
    • Email software like Targeted Email allows you to customize donation amounts for supporters at scale based on their past giving to your campaign. Lower donation amounts for prospective donors and higher donation amounts for existing donors usually help you add new donors to your list while raising more money from your existing donors. 
  • Use a “we” mindset frame for your email. 
    • Using “we,” “us,” and “our,” you help the reader see their role in helping your campaign achieve its goals.  
  • Focus on a singular ask.
    • When writing your emails, center one ask in your email. Having multiple actions that people can take in an email can be distracting and make the ultimate goal of the email more difficult to achieve. 
  • Be timely.
    • Your ability to meet moments can be one of the most significant factors of your fundraising success. 
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Why should your campaign use digital fundraising ads? 

Digital fundraising helps you reach new and existing donors online. You can control how much you invest in target audiences and tailor your message to each group, helping you craft more effective fundraising asks to raise more money. 

There are two main types of digital fundraising ads: acquisition and direct donation. Acquisition ads help collect email addresses to build your email list. These ads often feature petitions, surveys, or other forms to help gather information or advance advocacy efforts. The more extensive the ask, the more expensive you should expect each acquisition to be.  

On the other hand, direct donation ads focus on raising money and bringing new donors onto an email list. While these ads are straightforward in their purpose, you still want to be intentional about their development. Similarly to fundraising emails, you’ll want to hook readers in with engaging content and explain the reader’s role in helping solve the problem. You’ll communicate urgency with a clear call to action to ensure readers understand why they must act now. 

Why does Middle Seat recommend paid acquisition campaigns? 

Growing your email list increases the fundraising and advocacy power for your campaign. It also helps overcome normal list attrition due to unsubscribes, spam reports, bounces, etc. When developing media plans for acquisition, Middle Seat considers several factors like budget, growth goals, vendors, ROI, deliverability rates, and list size to determine the best path for their clients.   

When considering platforms to advertise for paid acquisition campaigns, there are a few different direct donate campaign platforms to choose from that allow you to target supporters based on several criteria: 

  • Facebook and Instagram
    • Facebook and Instagram allow you to target based on geographic boundaries, demographics, and interests. You can also upload custom audiences and create lookalike audiences. 
  • Google Search
    • Google Search allows you to target specific keywords, geographic boundaries, and demographics. 
  • YouTube
    • YouTube lets you target audiences by geographic boundaries, demographics, or interests.  
  • Others (Yahoo, Google Display, Programmatic) 
    • These platforms mainly allow for geographic targeting with some interest modeling as well.

What are the benchmarks for digital fundraising success? 

Middle Seat evaluates benchmarks to measure digital fundraising success, including a 120% ROI and 20-30% new-to-list donors on every campaign. Middle Seat recommends that you constantly monitor your ROI for your digital fundraising campaigns to determine when you should scale up or scale back investment for specific campaigns. By following the guidance outlined in this blog and our webinar with Middle Seat, you should be able to adapt your digital fundraising efforts to help raise more money for your campaign. 

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Additional Resources 

Want to learn more about how NGP VAN software can support your campaign? Here are a few additional resources to help you build your email lists, engage supporters and donors, and win your race!