02.08.21 5 min

5 best practices for designing a multichannel fundraising campaign

How to increase awareness for your cause, attract new donors, and build life-long relationships with supporters in the digital age

Data Axle Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the global economy. Data Axle’s survey of more than 1,200 charitable donors found that, despite the devastating losses and widespread unemployment, a majority of donors (51%) have not reduced the amount they contribute to the causes they support. In fact, 28% indicated they now donate more than they did pre-pandemic.

The survey also found that while donors’ planned contributions are holding steady, their interactions with nonprofits have shifted towards digital channels. 48% of donors ranked email as their preferred way to communicate with charities. Direct mail came in second with 21% of donors identifying it as their preferred channel, followed by social media (17%), text messaging (8%), and phone calls (2%). To engage current donors and attract new supporters in a digital age, nonprofits need to invest in a multichannel strategy and seize opportunities while donors are ready to give.

Taking the following steps can increase awareness for your cause, attract new donors, and help you build life-long relationships on behalf of your nonprofit:

1. Make your website search friendly

According to our survey, when giving to a nonprofit, most donors (44%) go to the nonprofit’s website unprompted to make their gift online. Your website may be well-designed with eye-catching colors and an instant focus on your cause, but how high does it come up in search engine results pages (SERPs) when prospective donors are looking for the right cause? Donors can’t give to you if they can’t find you. SEO is instrumental to get your nonprofit on the map and drive awareness to your cause. Here are some key components of an effective SEO strategy:

  • Mobile-friendly design: The single most significant SEO improvement you could make to your website is making it accessible on mobile. 56% of organic online searches executed in Q1 of 2020 came from people using a mobile device, a number that is only expected to grow.1
  • Quicker loading: Even those eager to give do not want to wait around for your page to load. Make sure you regularly measure your load times with free tools like GTMetrix or SiteAnalyzer.
  • Updated tags and meta descriptions: You want the most up-to-date information available when search engines are crawling your page to ensure you rank well on SERPs.

These San Diego area dog rescues have clear meta description that will keep them at the top of the results page for relevant searches

2. Create fresh, relevant content

Keep your site content up to date—make sure you sunset outdated articles and keep your homepage and news fresh. Create new content blurbs to highlight a current campaign and the impact your donors make on your mission.

Our research has shown that email is the preferred channel for donors to engage with nonprofits. It’s no surprise that personalization makes people more interested in opening and clicking emails. Data allows marketers to take personalization to the next level—when you know enough about your donors to deliver relevant and compelling content to them at the right time, you help remove barriers to engagement and incite action.

  • Personalize with custom fields: From the subject line to preheader text to message body, design emails with the donor in mind. Giving is a personal matter; don’t be afraid to tailor your message to each recipient.
  • Know what content your audience responds to: Does your audience respond to hearing success stories from people helped by your organization: Do they value transparency in the form of financial accounts of where their money is going? Do they want merchandise, or are they incentivized to donate by matching gift campaigns? It’s essential to know what approaches and messaging your donors engage with and respond to. Leverage historic engagement and response data to inform your messaging strategy. Testing different approaches head to head can also give you invaluable information about your audience (which may differ by segment) and what offers work to drive revenue for your cause.
  • Optimize for mobile: Smartphones have turned into the primary device for checking email for 85% of users. At 90%, that rate is even higher for those aged 25-34.2
    77% of adults aged 50 and older have a smartphone and 47% have a tablet.3

Nonprofits need to make sure that all email communications they send render correctly and are easily readable in a mobile environment.

Example: Help for Heroes
Help for Heroes is a British charity that provides lifelong recovery support to service personnel who have been wounded or injured in the line of duty and their families. It was founded in 2007 by Bryn Parry and his wife Emma after visiting soldiers at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. Help for Heroes sends a personalized email welcoming subscribers to be “part of the team” after signing up for their email list. This email keeps recipients engaged by letting them know how important they are to the organization. Help for Heroes also optimizes this email for mobile, with clearly defined table roles and well-structured headings, making it easier for readers to navigate on a smaller screen.

3. Facilitate donations through social media

Our research found that young people are more likely to be engaged with nonprofits on social media. 90% of Millennials and 74% of Gen Z are active on social media, making it one of the best ways to get in front of the younger generation and grow their awareness of your cause.4 But social isn’t exclusively the realm of younger donors. On Facebook, users 65 and older are the fastest growing group.5 So be sure to also reinforce campaigns to that appeal to all donors that use social.

  • Make use of creative calls-to-action (CTAs): Platforms like Instagram and Facebook now allow you to add buttons, donation stickers, and other controls that make donations a simple process for your visitors. Donors are getting more comfortable giving “in platform,” so ensure you’re leveraging those tools within your social profiles.
  • Make your content work harder: The content you create for your website can be shared on social media, making for a coordinated marketing strategy. Infographics can easily be added to your Instagram or Pinterest accounts when you are gearing up for a fundraising campaign. Many large nonprofit organizations like Greenpeace, UNICEF, and PETA have an active social media presence.
  • Spend smartly: If you’re investing in paid social advertising, make sure to target wisely. Many social media platforms allow brands to build their own look-alike audiences based on first-party data. You can enhance platform data with your own data including email, direct mail, or CRM lists, as well as retargeting pools built on your website traffic. Partner with a data provider to create custom audiences on social media platforms that more accurately target true prospective donors and result in higher engagement and more donations.

4. Continue to innovate your direct mail program

Direct mail has long been the bread and butter in the nonprofit individual giving revenue. Nonprofits that focus on innovating this tried-and-true channel will find continued success.

  • Keep it clean: On average, 4% of addresses in an organizations’ mailing list are inaccurate, and organizations waste $180,000 annually on undeliverable direct mail. For nonprofits operating with tight margins, this type of waste is untenable.
  • Consider joining a data co-op: Leveraging intelligence from co-op data can help you target donors who’d make a higher average gift, have a higher response propensity, or fuel your major giving pipeline. In the case of cooperative data sources, a group of organizations agrees to pool their data together to create a collective database that allows them to benefit from each other’s data. Some data co-ops require members to contribute their own data in order to participate—for example, donor cooperative, Apogee, covers millions of households and billions of unique donor transactions that help nonprofits drive cross-channel fundraising success.
  • Frame campaigns around donors: Write copy centered around the donor and their actions, as opposed to your organization’s fundraising goals. Personalization is important in all messaging; keeping the donor at the forefront of your appeal will help contributors feel like an important member of the organization.
  • Drive attention to key elements: Even though longer letters tend to have greater response in direct mail, it’s important to be creative as you steer the reader’s eye to your CTA and important content elements through formatting, callouts, personalization, and image placement.
  • Track the donor journey: Did your donor mail back a reply-device or go online to donate after receiving your mailer? Make sure to measure campaign response across all channels to tie online gifts to your direct mail list and investment. This data is invaluable as you design future outreach and CTAs.

5. Use Video Appeals

Videos are a helpful tool for giving potential donors insight into your organization’s cause. Allowing the beneficiaries of your efforts to tell stories in their own words can help attract donors and compel them to join your cause.

Nonprofits can track the popularity of various video types by looking at engagement data. Knowing which pieces compel your audience helps create more relevant content. Promote your videos through all your social media platforms and send out alerts through your email lists.

Another way to leverage the benefits of video is to target a specific audience and deliver programmatically.

Example: Charity Water

Charity Water has made a name for itself over the past 14 years through innovative, eye-catching fundraising efforts that both inspire and engage a wide base of donors. Core to the organization’s success has been its multichannel strategy that enables Charity Water to connect with volunteers and donors across a number of platforms, driving awareness and action at every step. The organization often uses video content to further its story. “The Spring” is a short video Charity Water uploaded to YouTube to share the origin of the charity and help viewers connect with its mission. Followers and donors are urged to share the video in a concise CTA in the video summary.



Between the pandemic and a growing segment of younger donors, channel preferences continue to shift, highlighting the importance of planning effective cross-channel fundraising campaigns. The success of your multichannel fundraising strategy depends on your in-depth knowledge of your donors, their preferences and the data and technology to support them.

Download our whitepaper for more findings on the best ways to connect with today’s charitable donors:

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