Digital fundraising campaign updates bring IMPACT and ENGAGEMENT to your supporters and keep the donations coming!
Your campaign might end when you hit your funding goal or a deadline… but that doesn’t mean the story ends too.
The new beds for your women’s shelter arrived, the stray dog you rescued and healed went to a forever home, and the child whose cancer treatment you funded achieved remission – these are the parts of the story your supporters are excited to hear. Updates are continuous boosts of endorphins they (subconsciously) paid for!
What is an update?
Updates are posts to a campaign’s activity feed. Everyone who contributed to your campaign receives an email notification to let them know to check it out (unless they unsubscribe). This inspires two things:
- More contributions
- LOTS of sharing.
Say I contribute $25 to your campaign to build a community garden in a needy neighbourhood. I get a little boost of dopamine when I see the video of happy kids from underprivileged homes learning to grow their own food, and then I go about my day that much happier.
Two weeks later, an email pops up in my inbox:
This campaign you supported posted an update!
Before receiving this email, this small campaign with its adorable tiny humans has, unfortunately, slipped my mind. My brain remembers, though; this organization is responsible for that little happy jolt in my day a couple of weeks back.
I read the update and see how happy a child is to be harvesting the tomatoes he’s grown for his family. My brain is telling me, “Aw, we did something good, and this kid is happy,” and I’m flooded with more endorphins.
Also, I just happened to get paid last week! So, I contribute another $20 to the campaign because, really, you can’t have too many gardens.
Your updates are bringing supporters back to your campaign, where they might be inspired to contribute more.
Here’s a screenshot from a FundRazr campaign’s analytics. Each star represents an update posted.
The day of or after posting, there’s a small uptick in donations (depending on if the update is posted at the beginning or end of the day). Even over the Christmas holidays, when the majority of North Americans (where this campaign ran) are a tad occupied with a big dude in red clothes coming to visit.
The point here is twofold: impact and engagement. A focus group study of what motivates donors concluded:
Donors expressed a greater desire for nonprofit organizations to communicate the impact of programs and services and to be informed in more engaging and personal ways.
So utilize updates as a way to engage your donors while communicating impact. Useful hint: if you can, include lots of pictures and videos in your updates. Those are the two most effective engagement tools.
LOTS of sharing?
The marketing rule of seven isn’t a secret: we need to see an ad 7-9 times before it becomes recognizable or before the message sinks in. If you keep going with those numbers, by the 20th time, someone sees the ad, that’s when they’ll commit to buying.
The same basic principle can apply to advertising your fundraising campaign. However, it doesn’t work if you just share the same campaign over again. Repetitive content won’t attract attention. If anything, it’ll bore your audience.
Updates provide the opportunity for new and exciting information about your campaign to be shared wide and far. In my excitement about that little kid and his garden, I share the update to my social media, saying “Look what I helped with!”.
(I do actually often do this. It usually involves bunnies.)
Inspire your supporters to share your updates, and ensure you provide new and engaging content for them to share. If each of your supporters can inspire just one friend or family member’s interest, that’s doubling your current donor base.
It works, too. Just ask all of my friends and family members who’ve been inundated with rescue rabbit spam over the last year and are now loyal bunny lovers.
What can be an update?
An update should be:
- New (don’t reuse weathered material)
- Valuable (your supporter will gain something from it; be it knowledge, insight, or a good laugh)
- Exclusive (an update loses its power if your supporters see you post the same thing on your Facebook page)
- Engaging (pictures, videos, surveys, fun stories, etc.)
An update should NOT be:
- Asking for more money.
There is SO MUCH that your updates can be that I only ask for it not to be just this one thing.
Thought experiment: Imagine you connect to a campaign and contribute some of your hard-earned money to it. You end your day feeling all good about yourself because of it and think of the people or animals or environments you just helped. The next week, you receive an update in your email! You’re excited about new information. You open it and read, “We’re not quite at our goal ☹ We need more donations!”
What emotion does this elicit in you?
Guilt is NOT what we are aiming for. Even if you are convinced to donate more to the campaign, do you think you’d be inclined to support this organization again?
How many or how often should updates be posted?
CPSI did a review of successful campaigns and compared those with updates to those without updates. We found this:
Campaigns that produce at least 1 update are 1% more likely to meet or exceed their goal.
Campaigns that produce at least 2 updates are 20% more likely to meet or exceed their goal.
Campaigns that produce at least 3 updates are 33% more likely to meet or exceed their goal.
This pattern does continue, but it plateaus above 10 and gets murky as updates go higher.
What does this mean for you?
- Plan to have at least 3 updates to your campaign.
- The more updates, the better. While the direct effects of those updates on your campaign might decline, the impact on your relationship with supporters will only get stronger.
There are two examples I’d like to share. One has ‘obvious’ updates, whereas the other has ‘less obvious and therefore had to get creative’ updates.
“The Worry Monster Campaign” by Pathstone Foundation
This campaign’s purpose was to put Worry Monster dolls into the hands of children who were experiencing high anxiety during the pandemic. The children write their worries down and zip them up in this little guy’s mouth. Then they bring the doll to their counselling session with Pathstone, and they have a safe and familiar friend to comfort them as their counsellor helps them work through those worries.
Updates are pretty easy and obvious here; Pathstone showed every step of this process, from receiving the shipment of monsters to a young child receiving hers:
(If you would like a warm fuzzy for the day, check out the page for a video of the young girl getting her monster!)
“Rescue the Rescuers” by Basanta Adventure and Trekking Expeditions
In another pandemic-themed example, this campaign focused on helping Basanta’s sixteen trekking guides (the ones that lead you up Everest like it’s a nice backyard stroll) get through the pandemic after tourism shut down. These sixteen folks had families to feed and house and zero government assistance, so the company turned to their large support base to help them out.
Since not much happened throughout that fateful year of lockdown, you can imagine the lack of update material. This is where creativity came into play.
Basanta took pictures, videos, and stories from those sixteen people and shared those biographies with their supporters.
Now, go forth and update! If you are stuck with update ideas, here are two suggestions:
- Go to fundrazr.com/find and search through what other campaigns have done.
- Ask us! We love helping out with campaigns, and we haven’t run out of ideas yet.
Yours in success,