Digital Fundraising During the Covid Outbreak – Tier 3 & 4 Tactics

If you’ve not read the blogs on Tier 1 and Tier 2 tactics, start with those and then come back to this!

After implementing your rapid-response Tier 1 & 2 tactics, you can move onto Tier 3 – tactics with a longer lead time, but with potential to deliver high returns over the next few months – and even more experimental Tier 4 tactics.

Tier 3 – Longer lead time, but with potential to deliver high returns over the next few months

Handraisers with an action daisy chain, promoted by Facebook ads

We find that petitions and handraisers (which ask visitors to add their name in support of a values statement or policy, without an explicit target like a petition – examples from some of our partner organisations here and here) are usually the most cost-effective way to rapidly recruit large numbers of supporters, who you can then re-mobilise via your email programme. Crucially, they can also be very effective at driving people to take a higher bar action (such as donating or messaging an advocacy target) on the thank you slide, straight after signing – provided you’re using technology with an optimised action daisy chain (example here). We’ve worked on projects where the organisation has recouped as much as 50-70% of their ad spend immediately through the daisy chain donate ask.

  • Start by developing a set of 3 – 4 different handraisers with a mix of framings, to be promoted via Facebook ads (also test other channels like Instagram if you have capacity, but Facebook typically drives the best results).
  • Draft a range of Facebook ad creative for each handraiser – at least 4 copy variants and 4 image variants per handraiser, but ideally more – and set your ad campaign up to automatically test and optimise between handraiser framing, ad creative, and a range of target audiences. A lot of the same tips on audiences and ad structure from direct-to-donate Facebook ads in the Tier 1 blog apply here too.
  • If you have (or are able to quickly launch) a telemarketing programme, integrate optional phone fields so people can opt in for calling (example here – organisations using this format of consent for calling typically find 20 – 30% of signups leaving their phone number, but we’ve seen as high as 60%).

If you’re also running direct-to-donate ads, the handraiser Facebook ads should be directly tested against them, as both sets of ads will be targeting similar cold audiences. If your primary goal for both sets of ads is fundraising, you should compare their lifetime return on ad spend (ROAS – i.e. the ratio between ad spend and lifetime income received) and use this to decide how to allocate your budget. You’ll need to give it a couple of weeks of equal spend to give time for people to get to the end of the welcome series (see below) before making your decision.

Unless the ROAS of the direct-to-donate ads is significantly higher, we’d typically suggest prioritising handraiser ads, because they have the big advantage of delivering much greater email list growth (which you can turn into many more high value actions down the line). If the goal of your handraiser ads is primarily advocacy, then you’ll need to manually balance spend against the direct-to-donate ads to ensure both ads sets are able to deliver their goals.

Welcome email series for new signups

Draft a four-to-six email automated welcome series to be sent to everyone who signs up via the handraisers. We find including a welcome survey in your first email, ending with a high value advocacy ask or donate ask, is a really effective way to both drive high levels of engagement (40-60% of email openers click through to take the survey) and generate high value actions. Including the first question in the email itself dramatically increases action rates – we’ve seen by as much as 100% in testing. Here’s an example from Dignity in Dying:

Dignity in Dying's welcome email


After this, each email in the series should contain a single high priority advocacy or fundraising ask. When it comes to planning emails, people often assume they “can’t ask too much too soon” or need to warm up the new supporter with some passive content before asking them to do anything else. However, the data we see suggests in fact the opposite is true: people are most engaged and motivated to take action soon after they’ve signed up, and it’s giving people things to do that feel valuable and impactful that keeps them engaged longer term. You can still tell a story about your organisation in these emails – just do it by bringing the supporter and the impact their action can have into the centre of the narrative.

Optimise your opt in ask format and copy

Getting your opt in ask working well is essential to running a cost-effective handraiser campaign. You should be aiming for a benchmark of 50 – 65% opt in rate; anything lower than that and you’ll start to substantially increase your cost per subscriber from your handraiser ads and reduce the number of high value actions and donations you’re driving through your email programme.

Setting up petition/handraiser technology optimised for driving post-sign up action

As with donation technology, having an optimised user experience for your handraisy action daisy chain has a massive impact on performance. For example, we’ve found adding a Yes/No ask between the signup and donate/share slides increases donation rates by as much as 50%, while adding a “Signed -> Shared -> Donated” progress bar increases people donating as well as sharing by 40%. So if you’re going to be driving increased traffic over the coming months, it’s worth investing in getting your handraiser tech in order now to make sure you’re not missing out on significant numbers of actions or income. If you think this is relevant for you, get in touch and we can discuss getting you set up on our Blueprint handraiser platform as soon as possible.

And finally, tier 4 – newer digital mobilisation tactics to pilot

If you’re looking for additional activity beyond Tiers 1 – 3, you could look to pilot some new models:

  • Virtual challenge events – we’d recommend speaking to Adrian from Get Your Stories Straight if you’re interested in trying these; we’ve seen some of the case studies of really outstanding results he’s been driving using a combination of Facebook ads, groups, email and the Facebook fundraising tools.
  • Using email and Facebook posts to prompt supporters to launch Facebook fundraising appeals for your organisation. This could be a good automated email follow up ask for people who’ve just made a donation themselves, for example.
  • Webinars – some organisations have had success fundraising through webinars with supporters. Make sure you’re giving supporters a compelling reason to join the webinar – for example, offering to talk them through a plan for how they can support people struggling during the covid crisis – and then make two or three direct asks for people to make a donation there and then during the call.
  • SMS/WhatsApp – Create a list with a clear incentive to sign up – e.g. service users can sign up for covid-related advice or updates/advice from your organisation. You could test embedding a soft fundraising ask embedded at the bottom of each message, with people replying to the message to donate if using SMS.

If you have questions on anything in this or the other two covid response blogs please do get in touch via email or Twitter – we’re happy to offer any pointers and advice we can to help you. Thank you to everyone in the sector for all your hard work at the moment – look after yourselves.