It’s Far From Too Late: Why Nonprofits Should Focus On Audience Growth In September/October-And How

Candace Cody
Candace Cody

Guest Post by Jamie Finney, LeadPup

Jamie works to grow the LeadPup brand and find product solutions for clients. He is dedicated to helping those who are building a world we all want to live in. Outside of LeadPup, he helps run a venture fund and chases good dirt, rock, or snow. Before finding nonprofit digital marketing, he led many community initiatives within the Boulder startup community.


It’s no secret that year-end giving is the backbone of the fundraising sector. Last year, 33.5% of all giving occurred in the last three months, and witht in December alone, according to the 2015 Charitable Giving Report. This puts the majority of the nonprofit sector in a fundraising frenzy from October until the New Year, which begs the question:

How can you set yourself up for year-end success before the fundraising frenzy?

First, let’s think about how we identify strong donor leads.

RFM – This stands for Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value.

By looking at your supporter-base through the lens of these three variables, you can identify your most valuable leads and conclude how to best cultivate them. This includes those who have already donated, or, looking forward, to convert supporters into monetary supporters. Let’s take a look at how you can analyze your nonprofit’s potential donors through recency, frequency, and monetary value.

  • Recency
    • Donors – When did they last donate? Is it time for another donation ask, or perhaps you keep it to smaller asks for now
    • All Supporters – When was your last communication, and their last interaction? This can help you decide if you need to remind them of the great work you do, or if you have set the stage for a donor appeal.
  • Frequency
    • Donors – How often do you get a donation? Should you ask them to become a monthly giver, or are you still chasing the first monetary gift?
    • All Supporters – How often do you communicate with them? Do they interact with these communications? The healthier the conversation, the better. Most nonprofits don’t communicate with their supporters enough to keep their mission at the top of their supporters’ minds.  
  • Monetary Value
    • Donors – How much do they usually give? How much have they given over the course of their support?
    • All Supporters – This can be simplified to whether or not leads are donors yet, or not. From there, focus on guiding donors from their first gift to become larger and/or more frequent donors.

So what does RFM have to do with year-end lead acquisition?

Many organizations assume their audience is only receptive to their email appeals after many months of well-crafted cultivation. While this certainly primes leads to become donors, it isn’t the only way.

Grow Your Audience: Leverage Recency, Create Frequency!

When you add a name to your email list, it means you have successfully convinced someone that your cause is a worthy one. This newcomer has given you his/hers sacred contact information in exchange for information about your cause and how your organization is making a difference.

Q3 provides a perfect window to educate new supporters and keep on top of their minds for year-end appeals.” tweet this

In our experience, the most important part of RFM, in regards to donor conversion, is recency (in this case, it’s recency of last communication, not donation).  From a donor perspective, it was just a couple of months ago that they learned of the issue you’re tackling.

How to leverage recency and create frequency for meaningful audience growth this September/October:

1) Queue Up Your Welcome Series

The welcome series is 3-5 initial emails that  walk new leads from “mildly curious,” to “enthusiastic supporters.” These messages start with a friendly “hello, thanks for joining,” and, over the next few messages, warm the audience member to your organization with more information and a few small asks to test the waters.

“Every supporter who gives you his/her email address should receive a well thought out welcome series of emails.”

Now imagine this conveniently happened leading up to Thanksgiving. Your new lead is at the peak of his/her curiosity, and it’s about to be prime giving season.

2) Look To The audience You Already Have – Your Social Media Followers.

While there are many places to turn for new leads, you have a short runway to cultivate them. For this reason, we suggest looking to the ones that have already self-identified as supporters.

What’s more, less than 25% of Facebook fans are actually receiving your email appeals.

At LeadPup, we have analyzed hundreds of email files, and 25% is the highest overlap between Facebook fans and an organization’s email file (4% on Twitter). This is not bad news, but rather, a HUGE OPPORTUNITY. By prospecting your social audience, you will likely get 80-90% new-to-file emails. These are folks that have never gotten your well-crafted email asks, or direct mail.

By prospecting your social audience, you will likely get 80-90% new-to-file emails.” tweet this

3) Value First – Create A Social Campaign That Converts

Don’t post another “Save the walruses, give to Walrus Protectors” type appeal. Simply highlighting your organization and your cause can foster awareness, but it will not convince users to provide you with their email address for more information.

Put your mission on pause and think about how you can offer your audience immediate value.” tweet this

You want your audience to join your email file now, so give them something of value now.

Understand who your audience is, and think about the knowledge or resources your organization can provide to solve a problem in their lives. For example, rather than promising to bring the recycling revolution (your mission), offer your audience a guide to setting up composting at home with the kids.

There are a lot of nuances to identifying opportunities for immediate audience value, but the results can be astounding. Not only does this Value-First approach convert new supporters, but, in our LeadPup experience, they tend to be highly valuable donors once cultivated.

So what does this look like from a new lead’s perspective:

  1. You promised him/her something that would valuable in his/her life, right then and there (through that initial social post).  In exchange for that value, your organization received their email address.
  2. You followed up with a thank you and well thought out welcome series of emails. Your new lead is now more informed on your organization, and maybe even signed that petition you mentioned.

You have converted vaguely curious social media followers into members of your email audience. What’s more, your welcome series helped cultivate these new leads by regularly informing them about your organization and how they can be a part of your mission. And all of this happened between September and #GivingTuesday (Nov. 29 this year).

You have created the ideal recency and frequency amongst your new leads. Now apply your year-end campaign to gain monetary value, and make this your best year-end fundraise yet!

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