Occasion & Challenge Post-Pandemic: 7 Must-Have Strategies for Today’s Social Donors

There are 365 days in every year and infinite opportunities for nonprofits to attract and convert today’s Social Donors.

Let’s think about that.

There’s not a single day where nonprofits are not empowered from inspiring giving to their missions.

People are motivated to give for a host of reasons. A donation may commemorate a birthday, anniversary, be a memorium, or mark any other special occasion.

Oh, and let’s not forget the myriad of Giving Days that are sweeping through fundraising. There is an entire website dedicated to Awareness Days, aligning individuals to causes based on affinity. There are holidays, giving seasons, Giving Tuesday(s), Black History Month, and local and regional giving days.

Layer in popular viral peer-to-peer challenges (remember the ice bucket challenge) and you’ve got a rising tide of online giving opportunities that make giving easy, accessible, and fun.

Let’s explore further the magnitude of occasion and challenge giving (aka, DIY Peer-to-Peer fundraising). According to the 2021 Giving Experience Study by OneCause, the average donation from occasion and challenge giving has increased significantly, creating a boon for fundraisers.

Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed gave during an awareness, dedicated giving, or spirit day, week, or month.

Let’s review why this is important for nonprofits:

  • Online occasion & challenge opportunities are limitless.
  • Donation amounts have surged.
  • Giving days attract new donor groups.

And more importantly, how can your nonprofit expand your reach via these online giving days and campaigns?

Here are seven steps for cultivating the Social Donor.

1. Engage Donor Networks, Magnify Stories & Impact, and Take Donors on a Journey.

When asked “How did you hear about this giving opportunity,” 53 percent of respondents reported they heard through a friend, family member, or colleague, followed by 32 percent who saw or heard an advertisement.

The study also identified where donors found out about a giving opportunity. Social media outlets ranked the highest at 46 percent. Second to social channels, was website at 29 percent.

Since the majority of Social Donors hear about giving opportunities through their networks, having social engagement and promotion strategies are essential to reach social giving circles.

Now that you have their attention, how do you stand out? The most effective way to engage Social Donors is through high impact storytelling and mission messaging.

Storytelling is essential for demonstrating impact, connecting with your audience, and inviting people to take action. Use stories to share the impact that your organization has on your community. Be sure to tell them everywhere, in your donor communications, impact statements, on social media, in your nonprofit event marketing, and especially in your events and virtual fundraisers.

2. Lead with Clear Communication about Impact and Mission.

When a donor is introduced to a nonprofit organization, they may only have a tidbit of information, or they may have never heard of the cause at all. To actually engage and convert those donors, you need to understand what motivates today’s Social Donor to actually donate.

This is your roadmap to success for your next occasion & challenge campaign. It’s pretty simple! Focus on your impact and make it easy:

  • Ensure the donation process is seamless. (Hint: less clicks)
  • Go through the giving process to remove donation roadblocks.
  • Highlight your mission in every communication.
  • Communicate where the money goes and how the funds make a difference.
  • Demonstrate impact. Give examples. Story tell about your success.
  • Identify goals associated with tangibles and special projects, for example building a new library, funding medical appliances, or sending 50 children to camp; quantify as much as possible.

3. Diversify Messaging to Attract New Donor Groups.

Another surprising finding from the study – occasion & challenge campaigns engaged new donors, and made giving accessible to younger, more diverse groups.

Going virtual removed barriers to entry for those who previously couldn’t or chose to not attend in-person events, such as ticket sales and geographic location. With these events moving online, it opened up an easy avenue to giving. All great signs for increased giving from a wider segment of today’s donor population!

This exposes the value for varied messaging in marketing and advertising initiatives. How and where you promote is equally important to your strategy for diversification.

Rule # 1 – Tell Impact Stories. Rule # 2 Tell Impact Stories.

Storytelling is a nonprofit’s lifeline to engagement. But are your stories diverse? Take the time to develop a collection of stories focused on your impact. Then take a step back and review to ensure your stories resonate with different target groups.

For example, in a mentor/mentee program, you’ll want to storyboard from both perspectives to attract the two different audiences. Here’s a tip – create a story arc template and make it available online for your constituents to complete and submit. Journaling is good for the soul and this simple idea helps build your story database while engaging the community you serve.

Once you have a consortium of stories in your marketing toolkit, advertising will become much easier.

But how do you tell these stories? Mixing different advertising vehicles will also contribute to reaching diverse audiences.

Here’s a checklist:

  • Online
  • Digital Communications such as Newsletters
  • Printed Materials
  • Social Channels (Hint: channels, plural)
  • Social Ads
  • Video

Finally, you’ll attract different groups, especially generational, by the manner in which you deliver stories, impact, and mission messaging. Branch out from snail mail and email by testing the waters with texting and mobile platforms.

4. Keep Mixing in Virtual Events – for Flexibility and Convenience.

In 2020, fundraisers faced many challenges. The pivot to engaging donors virtually was fast and furious.

How did virtual giving and events do?

The results mean good news for nonprofits and virtual giving. Social Donors said they would give the same amount regardless of in-person vs. virtual format.

Likewise, more than three-fourths of Social Donors agreed that donating via a virtual format was more convenient and liked the variety of the types of events offered through virtual experiences.

Let’s take a closer look.

So, what do you do with the data?

Here are some helpful recommendations to get the most out of your event fundraising calendar:

  • Develop a calendar for giving days and leverage both annual traditions and national giving opportunities.
  • Offer a broad range of giving occasions, inclusive of opportunities for memorials, tributes, birthdays, anniversaries, occasions, and special times of the year such as Mother’s & Father’s Day.
  • Intermingle in-person events and virtual experiences throughout the year to broaden reach and optimize convenience for giving.
  • Think out-of-the-box and enhance giving experiences with creative execution – example: How Big Brothers 7 Big Sisters used the Virtual Event center for Fundraising innovation.
  • Build an online sense of community with virtual walks, runs, and rides.
  • Deploy software with integrated social sharing.
  • Consider lower or free participation fees for virtual challenges.

The chart below further demonstrates the combination of responses for planned engagement post-pandemic. Respondents leaning toward virtual engagement comprised 38 percent (only virtual: 12% plus mostly virtual: 26%). The study revealed donors plan to engage with nonprofits through in-person events by 23 percent (only in-person: 8% plus mostly in-person: 15%). 30 percent of respondents revealed they would likely engage with organization through both in-person and virtual fundraisers.

The responses are slightly tilted toward virtual engagement, but the data is not overwhelming. This further aligns to the recommendation for planning a varied fundraising calendar that blends virtual and in-person engagement opportunities in order to maximize fundraising potential and donor engagement.

5. Build a Strategic, 365 Fundraising Calendar

Have you looked at your fundraising calendar recently? Has anything changed in 10 years? Do you create or take advantage of Giving Days beyond ‘Giving Tuesday’?

The study presents nonprofits with a silver lining from the pandemic – the ability to extend fundraising beyond events and into a world of endless online giving opportunities. In fact, giving through occasion and challenge campaigns almost doubled in the last 12 months.

It’s never been more important to take a forensic look at your fundraising calendar and find ways to include Giving Days and evergreen DIY giving opportunities.

By taking time to add a variety of giving days, creative online challenges, and third-party fundraisers, your nonprofit can:

  • Attract new donors.
  • Cultivate the next generation of supporters.
  • Diversify donor groups.
  • Activate current supporters.
  • Build a community.
  • Draw new sponsors.
  • Expound year-round awareness for your mission.
  • Complement engagement strategy.

Once you’ve decided to take the leap and blend giving days into your 365 programming, be sure to use a variety of promotion channels, including digital ads. The findings indicated a rise in advertisements as a top way to reach Social Donors, growing from 15 percent in 2018 to 27 percent in 2021.

This may be an ideal time to experiment with social media advertising. Afterall, Gen Z through Gen X live on social outlets. Meet them where they are!

6. Motivate with Impact and Ease

In the 2021 study, and consistent with the 2018 Social Donor Study data, the three key motivators for Social Donors are:

  • Easy process to donate.
  • Connection to the mission.
  • Belief the donation is making a difference.

The data was insignificant between all Social Donors vs. first-time donors. Ease for giving was the top motivator for the two sets. Likewise, time frame for giving was the least motivating factor. Both groups were over 60 percent when probed for caring about the mission (all social donors: 65 percent vs first-time donors: 61 percent) and their donation dollars making a difference (all social donors: 61 percent vs first-time donors 60 percent). Both donor sets were motivated to give because they cared about the person vs. the organization, responding equally at 51 percent. First-time donors were less motivated by clear communication on how their support would be used, first time donors: 51 percent vs all social donors: 55 percent.)

Whether your goal is to further engage social donors or attract new social donors groups, motivation strategies are similar. If you distinguish the top-ranking motivating factors for giving, or motivating factors that are around 50 percent or higher, you can identify patterns for guiding effective campaigns.

Here are three practical tips to drive motivation in your next Occasion & Challenge campaign.

  • Ease of Donating. Take the time to experience your donation process. Are the steps clear? Is the ‘donate button’ easy to locate? Is the process simple and mobile optimized? Can the donor easily cover transactional costs to offset expenses? Does your software platform make match programs and recurring donation an option? These and so many more questions may be answered with an optimized software solution. Explore different software offerings to ensure the donation journey is maximizing fundraising opportunity.
  • Social Sharing. Social influences were a resounding driver for giving. Make sure you have a comprehensive social media strategy and fundraising software that offers integrated social sharing features. But don’t stop there. Enlist your volunteers and ambassadors to carry your message further. Consider preparing a social media toolkit and providing personal and configurable fundraising pages that are social media friendly. Why is this important? First-time donors (56 percent) were slightly more motivated to support the person who asked them vs. all social donors (54 percent). By inspiring donors to recruit their networks and empowering them with mission impact statements, you are optimizing the social chain, broadening your reach. and positioning your organization in the best manner for attracting new donor groups.

7. Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy

If there is one recurring theme amongst donor responses, it’s ease of giving. Above all, ease influenced donations.

As you plan for your next occasion or challenge double check the ease of the log on and mobile experience. Feature the goal thermometer more strategically across channels. Consider a software platform that offers rich engagement, participant chat features, and social sharing tools.

These are clear areas for improvement that will enhance the donor experience and lead to increased giving.

Now that you have seven strategies and actionable insights in your tool kit to develop the Social Donor and attract new donor groups, it’s time to examine your fundraising calendar and create a fresh, new game plan.

Keep in mind you have 365 to work with. Make them count! Diversify your messaging, impact stories, and mission statements and examine your delivery vehicles and implementation methods. Remember, it’s not one or the other; mix it up in order to stand out and broaden reach and donor conversion.

Above all, make it easy for your supporters.

You know what to do, now’s the time. It’s seems appropriate to quote that famous sneaker brand, “Just do it.”

For more research findings revealed about Donor Insights on Social Giving During a Time of Social Distancing, download the study here.

Not done? Keep learning with OneCause!

For more information on fundraising best practices and essential strategy for successful fundraising campaigns, be sure to check out these additional resources: