The Nuts & Bolts of a Targeted Appeal


There are abundant articles and blogs about the importance of making targeted appeals and letting donors know what their contributions have accomplished. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of real advice regarding how to do this. Technology can help you reach more donors and can help you build personal connections with those donors like never before, but in order to do this effectively, technology needs to be employed in a strategic way.

Good online fundraising begins with the donor database. Identifying giving patterns and involvement in your organization will help you construct a targeted message that will resonate with those to whom it is sent. As you begin to create more and more targeted campaigns, the information you have about your donors will become increasingly nuanced.

Let’s start with a very simple analysis. Look at your current donors and sort them into four groups:


1. Accelerating Donors –

Donors that began with a small donation, but that have increased giving year after year

2. Steadfast Donors –

Donors that give the same amount year after year

3. New Donors –

Donors that recently gave for the first time

4. Lapsed Donors –

Donors that gave in the past but have recently lapsed

Craft a specific message for each of these groups with a clear call to action and a clear goal in mind. Consider these examples:



Accelerating Donors

Message: Thank you for your enthusiastic support! Here is what we’ve accomplished with your help.

Call to Action: Invite to a special event that will connect these donors with the mission and recognize them for their support.

Goal: Acknowledgement of a positive pattern of giving in order to inspire continued increase from these donors and encourage recruitment of other donors to support the mission.

Make these donors feel like champions. Let them know that you see that they’ve given more every year and tell them how much the organization appreciates it. Share with them a good story about what you were able to accomplish with their help, and make it easy for them to share their enthusiasm with others via social media, email, etc.


Steadfast Donors

Message: Thank you for your steadfast support! Here is the impact you have had.

Call to Action: Please give a bit more this year. Here are some current projects/missions where your help could make a difference.

Goal: To incrementally grow donations from your solid base.

To maximize the effectiveness of this campaign, be sure to create multiple donation pages with variable rates based on prior giving patterns. So, for example, if a donor has given $100 every year, the donation page he sees might present options starting at $150 and ranging up to $250. Another donor who gives $500 annually might see a page with options starting at $600 and ranging up to $1,000. This demonstrates that the organization knows the donor and is aware of past gifts while nudging her to give more.


New Donors

Message: Welcome and thank you for your recent gift. Provide some in-depth information about the organization, current activities, and ways for donors to be more involved.

Call to Action: If they haven’t already, encourage these donors to subscribe to a newsletter or blog. Advise them of upcoming events and invite them to participate.

Goal: To cement a relationship with new donors to inspire future giving.

Make it hard for these donors to walk away. Be sure to connect them with your mission; give them opportunities to connect with others who support the organization. If they are inspired by what you accomplish and if they become part of a community of supporters, they are likely to remain supporters in future.


Lapsed Donors

Message: Thank you for your past support; we need you now more than ever.   Here are some of the ways in which you can make a big difference if you donate again.

Call to Action: Come to an upcoming event and please support us again. Here are some current projects/missions where your help could make a difference, please donate today.

Goal: To recapture lost donors and reconnect these donors with the mission.

As with steadfast donors, be sure to create dynamic donation pages that present different options based on previous giving patterns. Be sure to identify donors who appear to have lapsed because of an expired credit card; the message to them should be different from the message to those who seem to have deliberately stopped giving.


After the campaign has been run, evaluate the success based on open rate, click through and converstion configure a follow up campaign based on the results of the analysis.