Viral + Voice = Long-term Fundraising Success

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By now you have surely seen – maybe even been challenged to – the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It has been a great effort that has raised awareness for a debilitating disease. This zero-cost awareness program has generated over $100-million in two months for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. That’s an almost 3500% increase over donations for the same period last year. What an amazing surge in donations! Unfortunately, it’s not a sustainable way to raise money.

People are already cooling on the Ice Bucket Challenge. In our short-attention span society, you have to keep it fresh and compelling in order to keep people interested. People should be interested in the cause itself, yes. However, it takes something different to break through the clutter and chaos of our digital lives to reach people and make them understand the cause and the impact a donor can have.

So what’s a nonprofit to do? You could spend time and effort trying to come up with the next big thing that will catch on like the Ice Bucket Challenge, and I certainly don’t discourage that kind of creative fundraising. However, it’s important to never lose focus on methods that have a proven track record with your constituents: direct mail, online fundraising, email marketing, and phonathons. While you are coming up with a new audience-engaging program, keep in touch with current and potential donors. Once you have your new program ready, incorporate these tried-and-true methods to help it take off.

Whether your next big idea involves ice buckets, being “locked up for good,” walkathons, or just raising money through the alumni association during homecoming week, here are some ideas to help you bring together social/viral aspects with the traditional means of reaching donors and raising money:

  • Create a microsite or section of your website dedicated to your campaign.
  • Drive traffic and awareness through email marketing, and social media updates. If you have “mail only” or older prospects, consider a direct mail effort.
  • After your initial rounds of messaging have gone out, it’s time to get one-on-one. Cue the phonathon! Get your volunteers and staff ready to excite your current and past donors about your upcoming fundraising event and use the opportunity to take pledges over the phone.
  • Set up an email drip to build excitement leading up to a specific event or to educate and encourage donors to “challenge” others to participate individually (maybe that involves a video posted to social media of the person doing some specific action and a fundraising challenge).
  • Check out the Google AdWords Grant for free advertising for your cause.
  • Wrap things up with a follow up phone call or email outreach.

What is your big idea for fundraising success? Will you couple it with the important human touch of phone call conversations? If so, I encourage you to take a VanillaSoft free trial and see how easy and effective your next phonathon can be.


Scott Amerson

As Vice President of Sales, Scott is responsible for leading our global sales team. He is a results-driven professional who brings more than 25 years of sales and executive-management experience to VanillaSoft. He is a proven veteran at building scalable infrastructure for inside sales and call center teams by defining key performance indicators, sales process, and training programs. In his previous role as Director of Sales at BenefitMall, Scott built and launched their inside sales team. In this position, he created and delivered policies and procedures, strategic planning, and technology integration leading to a 42% decrease in their sales cycle, and 30% increase in revenue per sale. Scott has also held prestigious positions at multi-million-dollar companies, including Capital One, where he overhauled the entire sales and training processes to drive goal-surpassing revenue from $300 million to $900 million. Scott holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Marketing from Nicholls State University.

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