In February, Schultz & Williams attended the “How to Prepare for Election Season” session presented by the Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association. The panel addressed what mailers could expect during election season, and if mailers should make any adjustments for this fall.
The outcome of the session reinforced what we know to be true—organizations need to stay faithful to their mission and make a connection with their donors. The political climate may change, and political campaigns will come and go. But after the elections are over, organizations remain, and they need their donors’ help both now and in the future.
The following are three key takeaways from the session:
1. Overall, organizations do not see a drastic change in giving during an election year.
Instead, the economy remains the key determining factor of whether an individual will make a charitable contribution. During the 2016 presidential election season, fourth-quarter nonprofit giving slowed in the last two weeks of October, increased slightly during the week of the election, and increased again through December 31st. Many organizations actually saw a larger increase in year-end giving in 2016 than they did in 2017.
2. It is important to keep your organization relevant to your donors.
The longevity of an organization is important to donors—both the organization and the donor remain after elections are over, and the connection between them needs to be maintained. To help keep this connection, it’s key to make clear what a donor’s dollars go toward. It’s also important that the donor feels that the organization knows them as an individual, so make use of personalization as much as possible in a mail piece, including in the ask on a reply device.
3. The election should not significantly alter your fundraising plans for the fall but, do be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
Based on the political climate and what news or events are happening, you may want to shift the timing of your email or digital efforts. You should continue to mail, but it’s important to plan your in-home timing in advance. Take advantage of your data and modeling tools to help determine who will be best to mail for the fall. Continue to test—don’t hold back on trying new strategies because of the election.
While we cannot predict the 2020 election results, we can still rely on our time-tested direct marketing techniques to keep donors engaged with the organizations they support. In the busy fall season ahead, be mindful of the political climate and time your messages to have the most impact with your audience. This may mean shifting a campaign to be in home in early October instead of at the end of the month, or editing an email based on the day’s news. However, this should not hold you back from mailing and proceeding with digital campaigns as planned for this time of year. By using mail and digital efforts throughout the fall to communicate donors’ importance to the mission and by implementing strategic testing strategies, you can keep the connection with your donors strong long after the elections are over.