How to Spark Digital Engagement this Holiday Giving Season

Oct 07, 2020

Fall is here! Time for pumpkin spice everything, beautiful orange and red trees and holiday fundraising! Yes, it is that time of the year again – time to get ready for your holiday appeal. Do you have a holiday campaign strategy in place? And if so, what is the role that digital media plays in your campaign?

If you’re not planning a digital element to your campaign, you might want to reconsider. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has forced us all to evaluate our digital landscape, or to go digital for the first time!

Despite restrictions lifting in many locations, it is evident that digital is here to stay and will be playing a big part in fundraising going forward, as highlighted by the below statistics. Since onset of the pandemic:

  • There has been a 12% increase in people listening to podcasts
  • A 51% increase in content streaming
  • 44% of people are spending more time on social media
  • 67% of people watch more news via the internet, and, most importantly,
  • Online giving is growing at three times the rate of overall giving

If you are planning a digital element to your campaign, now is the time to build on your online presence.

Build Your Digital Presence Now:

First and foremost, you need to ensure that your website is accessible and easy to use. Can a potential donor reach your donation form within one click? Is your online donation form easy to use? Do they get a digital thank-you note right away? If not, you might be putting in a lot of work to cultivate potential donors, only to lose them at the finish line.

Do you have an email list? Are you on social media? Hosting a podcast? Use these tools to steward your existing donors and expand your audience of potential donors before you start asking for donations. If your budget allows, invest in some social media ads to help grow your digital community. 

If advertising is not in your budget, you can grow your audience organically by being strategic with your content and engaging with followers. You might have useful information that warrants re-shares, or you can run a fun little contest to encourage following (just make sure you check out your social media platforms’ rules regarding contests!).

Use your different digital platforms to promote each other, e.g. post a link to your latest podcast on social media, share your social media handles at the end of your podcast, or share a link for users to sign-up to receive emails from you on your social media channels. You want your supporters to see and hear you on the channels where they like to hang-out.  

Nurture Your Online Relationships:

Ok great. Now you are building a virtual community. But how do you get your social media following to donate during the holiday season? You build real relationships.

If you ask people to describe 2020 in one word, many will say “pivot."

As individuals and organizations, we’ve been faced with constant changes to the way we do things. Have you been sharing the changes and challenges your organization has faced with your donors?

Even though most of us are spending more and more time online, we can all agree that digital communication can often feel a bit cold and impersonal. Shake things up by sharing unfiltered, behind the scenes content of your team delivering on your mission. Share real stories through videos or use the “Live” functionality on social media.

Engage with your supporters daily and solicit audience feedback for the type of content they want to see. And don’t forget to respond to messages and comments. By giving your followers a role in your community, you get the opportunity to learn more about your supporters and why they care about your cause.  

Finally, keep an eye on your analytics and insights, these are valuable sources of information such as demographics, when people are online and what content they engage with the most. You can use these insights to drive the type of content you’re putting out into the world.

To showcase the power of digital media in building donor relationships, here’s a little anecdote from one of the members of Spark, our online fundraising community

During the height of the Covid lockdown, I was working with a small non-profit. Our organization was fortunate to be deemed an essential service, and despite our supporters and volunteers not being able to visit us, our mission continued. We upped our digital game and started sharing even more content via our social media and e-blast channels. We shared heaps of behind the scenes photos and videos of our team working away and saw a surge of social media engagement. I took the time to respond to people’s comments and messages (we often saw over up to 100 comments on particularly engaging posts) and soon started recognizing some names and building relationships with these supporters.

Like many other nonprofits we’ve had to cancel several fundraising events. And like many, our team was not entirely convinced that the midst of a pandemic is the best time to raise funds. We decided to leave the decision to our donors and launched a fundraising campaign via social media and email. The campaign was a huge success and exceeded our expectations. And, no surprise, many of those “familiar faces” on our social media channels, were some of our biggest donors during our campaign.

One of them stood out. This person was commenting on almost every single social media post on different platforms and responded to our e-blast updates with words of gratitude and encouragement for our team. They sent through three significant donations during our campaign. Based on conversations we’ve had via social media messages and email, I knew that this person was a healthcare worker, working at the frontlines of the pandemic. I also learned that our social media updates were one of this person’s daily highlights and were shared with coworkers to brighten their days too.

This was a big lesson for me – we sometimes get so caught up in the technical detail, focusing on data and statistics and conversion rates, that we forget our impact. Our supporters are there because they care deeply about our cause, and sharing little details of what we do bring them a little closer to the heart of our mission. 

Once you start tracking who your most engaged digital supporters are, you might find that they are already donating to you on a regular basis. Others might shine as your biggest advocates, sharing your content across their digital platforms and gaining more support for your cause. You may also find that your digital landscape attracts a slightly different demographic than your conventional outreach efforts. In a world of uncertainty, having an impact through their favourite charity has become a shining ray of hope for many.

There are a lot of technical aspects to consider before launching a digital campaign, and it is easy to get caught up in data and analytics and optimization and forget to “humanize” your digital presence. But your supporters are there because they care deeply about your cause and sharing little details of what you do brings them closer to the heart of your mission.

Use your digital platforms to share the heart and soul of your organization, and when you do make an ask, make sure that you have a compelling need.


Want more advice on how to strengthen your relationships with donors in 2020?  Read this blog post on Building Donor Trust in the Pandemic.


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