Messaging in a Bubble

Donors today are living in a complex and noisy world.  Between COVID-19, civil unrest, natural disasters, and the upcoming election…we are living through turbulent times right now.  So why, then, do we often forget that when we sit down to draft letters and emails to donors?  More about this is espoused here by Kevin Schulman over at The Agitator.


During the past several months, organizations have been required to pivot and change courses like never before.  Early on, fundraising strategists were faced with a choice – pause and wait for calmer waters or keep moving.


For the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on the organizations that maintained a steady communication cadence with donors throughout the last several months. Strategies in this camp fell into two buckets:

1. Stay the course with planned messaging and strategy (as much as possible)

2. Adapt messaging and cadence to address current events


Many organizations (specifically those that kept a steady stream of contact with donors) not only held their own in terms of direct response fundraising dollars – but some had record-breaking quarters.  From the data we have collected from our clients, as well as that which has been gathered from peers within the industry, nonprofits that adapted their messaging to recognize the environment faired the best.


For example, one animal welfare organization that MINDset partners with, American Humane, quickly adapted their message to a ‘Feed the Hungry’ integrated campaign – aimed at ensuring animals in shelters have the food they need throughout the pandemic.  This quick-thinking proved to be a good move for this organization, generating record-breaking revenue and increasing overall engagement across their current and prospective donor audiences.


There are likely many reasons why this untested messaging resonated so well, with one critical reason being the relevance demonstrated and urgency conveyed.  Donors are human beings … sitting in their homes grappling with the same emotions as us fundraisers.  Yet all too often when developing campaigns, we tend to forget that, and become so myopically focused on the importance of specific organizational work that all emotion is removed.


Another example of authentic messaging was shared by our friend Tom Gaffney during Fundraising Day in New York’s 30 ideas in 60 minutes virtual presentation.  During that session, Tom shared how Covenant House created an authentic donor communication that appropriately mentioned current events, while reminding committed donors of the ongoing need.


Being authentically relevant is always an essential part of donor relationship building – especially during these strangely chaotic times.  So the next time copywriting duties call – keep these examples in mind to help ensure your message hits home in a way that supports the authenticity of your organization’s mission.



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Candice Briddell

Candice Briddell, Managing Partner and Co-Owner, has worked within the fundraising and marketing industry for nearly twenty years and has been a part of the MINDset team for over a decade. Prior to that, she was integral in the retention marketing program at AOL.