Holiday marketing prep guide for nonprofits – Part 2: Site & User Experience Updates

In part 1 of our holiday planning series we covered how to get started with your holiday marketing prep and how to approach promoting your initiatives. In part 2 we will cover how to deck out your nonprofit site in a way your budget can handle and keep your momentum going all the way through the final donation.


Keep in mind, this is coming from Hubspot’s highly insightful ebook, “The Guide to Ecommerce Holiday Success” where they cover all you need to know about holiday marketing for ecommerce businesses. The Nerdy Nonprofit is helping you break it down for your nonprofit specifically.

Step 6: “Deck out your site”

As Hubspot put it so cleverly, this is the time to deck the halls! Don’t make changes last minute, as this could result in a lack of time to test your tweaks. When you’re still a couple months out, go through your site and make sure you have all the bells and whistles you have been talking about implementing all year.

  • Conduct a site audit:

ArcStone has a great downloadable worksheet “How to conduct a mini site audit” that walks you through a way to measure your website and how it compares to others. Make sure you at least meet the likes of the average site, and from there, stand out as much as you can, drawing in the attention of donors.

  • Make it mobile:

Although this is a bit of an investment, your site should be mobile. If you haven’t upgraded to a mobile site, this may be the best time to do so as you’ll reap the benefits. If you need to persuade your Board of Directors, read about the numerous benefits to making your site mobile (and consequences of not). Without this change, you could lose several donors.

  • Focus on navigation & slight tweaks:

If you can’t afford to change much about your site, focus on one area. Hubspot suggests choosing your site navigation as it is pretty central to your site’s UX. They also say adding just a few tweaks like a countdown timer to Christmas or snowflakes here and there can make a difference.

  • Build a landing page & strong CTA:

Another option for a tight budget is focusing on a solid landing page. We talk about strong calls to action and successful landing pages in, “Donate Now – The Workings of a Successful Nonprofit Call to Action.”

Step 7: Think about what happens to “abandoned carts” or abandoned donors

Just as we abandon our Amazon shopping carts due to distractions or better deals, your donors may start out with the intent to donate and realize they don’t want to follow through. In fact, research shows that 50-70% of donation pages are abandoned. How can you avoid this?

  • Read these 7 tips from npEngage
  • Be responsive: Maybe your potential donor left the page because they have questions about where their money goes. Be prepared to answer questions.
  • Follow-up: After they’ve donated, thank them and make sure they had a pleasant experience. It’s scary to put your credit card information out there or give money to a cause you haven’t before. If they know you are tracking their donations, they’ll likely feel better about it.

Step 8: Be prepared to change things up last minute

It goes without saying that just because you put a lot of effort into planning does not mean things will go your way. Avoid letting any aspect of your careful planning go as you leave for Thanksgiving break. Leave some room in the budget and timeline to continue to make tweaks based on your nonprofit’s donations and whether or not you’re meeting your goals. If this means setting reminders and mapping out a careful calendar to hold you and your nonprofit team accountable, do it!

If you need helping boosting traffic and drawing in donors at this time of year, it’s not too late! Message our team and we will see how we can best help in your digital strategy.

Holiday marketing prep guide for nonprofits – Part 1: Plan & Promotion Ideas


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” may not be ringing through your ears quite yet, but the hope is that, with enough holiday foresight you’ll be able to sign it at the top of your lungs without worry of your nonprofit’s year-end fundraising goals.

Thank goodness for digital marketing giant, Hubspot, and its holiday content offer, “The Guide to Ecommerce Holiday Success.” And thank goodness for the Nerdy Nonprofit and how we’re about to break down this guide for nonprofit’s specifically.

Step 1: Ask Questions

  • What worked for your fundraising efforts last year? OR what should you definitely do again?
  • … and what didn’t? Rather, what should you definitely weigh heavily before repeating
  • Did you time your heightened efforts appropriately?
  • What is your fundraising goal?
  • Which social channel, content format and/or advertising method worked for your audience?

Step 2: Break all your nonprofit’s fundraising goals down into digestible pieces

As Hubspot reminds us, it’s much too overwhelming to accomplish all your goals all at once. Find ways to silo your goals and map out what you hope to accomplish when. One Hubspot recommendation that might really help is to break out the Holiday Season into several pieces…

  • Thanksgiving: Mon., Nov. 21st – Thurs., Nov. 24th
  • Black Friday: Fri., Nov. 25th – Sat., Nov. 26th
  • Cyber Monday: Sun., Nov. 27th – Tues., Nov. 29th
  • GIVING TUESDAY (our own edition): Tues., Nov. 29th
  • Christmas & Hanukkah: Thurs., Dec. 1st – Sun., Dec. 25th
  • New Years: Mon., Dec. 26th – Wed., Jan. 4th

Knowing what goals you hope to meet and at what point, will help this time of year feel more approachable. Moreover, uncovering what audience to target and via which digital network will help you be more efficient in your digital marketing efforts.

Remember this effort at this time of year is worth it! Especially if you target Giving Tuesday, you may see donations well beyond your goals. Check out this encouraging data regarding Giving Tuesday and its development since its initiation:

Data source: Wikipedia & Blackbaud

Step 3: Start some serious brainstorming

Now that you’ve established your nonprofit’s goals, timelines and focus, it’s time to get creative. We’ve discussed preparing for Giving Tuesday in a previous post, but how can we get creative with the entire season of campaigns?

Hubspot broke down a list of ideas to get the creative juices flowing, but let’s apply them to nonprofit’s specifically:

  • Take the idea of gifting and craft it for your campaign:

– Encourage your audience to give a gift to their loved one and also a gift to someone they might not know. Underline how valuable gift-giving is in general and then show how much a gift could mean to a stranger.

– Understand that your audience may be feeling stressed about finances and incorporate that into your messaging. You understand they may not feel they have extra cash as they buy presents for the family AND donate, so could their family decide to sacrifice a gift and give one to those in need?

  • Use the age-old marketing tactic of urgency:

– Even though donations are valuable all year round, use a countdown to remind your audience of timing. People often put off donating and doing good till later when they believe they’ll have more time and resources. Emphasize that the difference will be biggest if they make a donation now.

– Tie in some humor with last-minute shoppers. Are they a little late to getting to the store or sending that Christmas card? Well luckily it’s never too late to give a small gift with HUGE benefits to your cause.

  • Reward those who’ve helped:

– The holidays are perhaps the best time to be thanking your donors. For one, they deserve thanks. Likewise, hearing from your cause about how grateful you are and what a difference they made may help them feel inclined to donate again. The holidays are filled with anxiety as people want to gift their friends and family, and we often feel guilty when we can’t afford this or that or when we get too materialistic ourselves. Remind your donors of the good they’ve done and the true meaning of the holidays.

Step 4: Focus on email specifically

Maybe you haven’t been the best at reviewing your nonprofit’s current email marketing efforts (which you should be!), but if there’s any time you must, it’s now! During this season, potential donors and campaigners are receiving more salesy emails than ever, some of which leave them feeling dry and discouraged as the true spirit of the holiday is dampened. Your nonprofit has time to stand out – as long as you find the best subject line, the most concise and effective messaging and the easiest user experience possible.

Analyze your nonprofit email marketing effectively with the help of “Would YOU read your nonprofit marketing newsletter?

Step 5: Create a social media budget and AdWords campaign

Yes, email is the go-to tool as it’s effective AND affordable, but have a plan for your other channels as well. Facebook, Twitter and especially Google have free resources for nonprofits – take advantage of them in full throttle for your nonprofit’s holiday marketing. In the very least, we strongly encourage you to set up your Google AdWords campaign to gain $10,000 in Google Grant money.

Hubspot also provides you with several easy-to-use social media calendars.

Get strategizing and read Part 2 next!

Pumpkins for a purpose – October Nonprofit Marketing News

Pumpkin spice and everything nice is finally here. Can your nonprofit do something with this season? Check out how Akard True Value Hardware raised money for nonprofits via “Pumpkins for a Purpose” and got their whole town and Facebook community involved too! Here’s the full story.

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – October 2016 – 

Content Strategy: Can your content marketing empower users? (Rather than guilt-tripping them)

From The Nerdy Nonprofit

“Rather than asking, ‘how can we best ask them to donate, volunteer and support us?’ some content could ask, “how can we empower our readers, and in effect, motivate them to take part in our cause?” [Read More]

Branding:The key to great year-end fundraising? Your brand.

Post by John Haydon

In year-end fundraising, the stakes are high. What can you depend on for drawing in those donors? Your brand.  [Read More]

Web Design: Unforeseen factors that can derail your website redesign

Post by ArcStone

Nonprofits definitely don’t want to go over-budget. Avoid the unexpected costs and obstacles many companies run into as they approach a new site. [Read More]

Fundraising: Raise More Money: Incentive-Based Fundraising 101

Post from Nonprofit Hub

4 ways to inspire people to donate and raise funds that you might not have thought of before [Read More]

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Can your nonprofit content marketing empower people (and earn them as supporters)?


Nonprofit content marketing often revolves around “the ask.” Generally speaking, a nonprofit marketing campaign’s ultimate goal is to drive funds, volunteers and support for their cause. Hence, most digital content leads towards a plea for help.

What if, instead, your nonprofit refocused some of your content production goals; at creating content that empowers your audience. Rather than asking, “how can we best ask them to donate, volunteer and support us?” some content could ask, “how can we empower our readers, and in effect, motivate them to take part in our cause?”

Marketing case in point: Uber

Surprisingly, Uber can help illustrate this content marketing style. In their recent campaign in India, they tell a story about their users. Instead of having this story revolve around exactly how Uber works and how great the company is, it revolves around two people’s lives and brings Uber in at the end.

Shankar is an Uber driver, but we don’t find that out right away. Instead we see a dad successfully driving his young daughter to school on time, despite rush hour traffic. We see his worry as he wants to help his daughter out so she can get to her test on time. We also see how anxious see is to make it on time and how relieved she is when her dad succeeds. Once Shankar finishes his task – and after a sweet goodbye with his cute daughter, of course – he pulls out his phone and begins his day as an Uber driver.

Ultimately, the audience witnessed how Uber empowered Shankar to be both a good dad and an entrepreneur. Similarly we saw how Uber empowered the daughter to get to school on time as well as have a dad who has the flexibility to drive her to school.

A post on The Drum points out,

“For users, it explored the concept of having the freedom of mobility in an affordable way and for the drivers, it shows how it can turn them into micro-entrepreneurs.”

Nonprofit content marketing’s turn:

How can you sell your audience in the same way this video – with 1.2 million views – did?

1. What does your nonprofit do in just a few words?

For example, Uber offers “the freedom of mobility” for riders and enables drivers “to improve their livelihoods.” In a nut shell, they move users forward. Hence “Move Forward” is the name of the campaign.

Your nonprofit may change lives, feed the neglected, fuel the earth. Keep it simple, and use that simplicity to impact people.

2. What does your nonprofit audience look like? What are their day-to-day needs that your nonprofit can help meet?

The rider (the daughter) needs to get from place to place in an efficient manner. The driver (Shankar) needs a job with flexible hours and an employer he can trust.

Your nonprofit can easily sell how they help those in need, but how do you also help your donors, volunteers and contributors? You may make them feel good, you may keep them involved in the greater world, you may help their friend. Study your audience and hone in on their needs, not just your nonprofit’s.

3. What scenario could you portray that catches your audience in a moment of need? What are they feeling in that moment and why?

The daughter is feeling anxious as she needs to get to school. Shankar is feeling nervous as he wants to get her there on time and be a good father. Then, as Uber works well for them, the daughter feels relieved as she gets to school and Shankar can be proud of his job.

Your audience may be feeling guilty they haven’t given back enough. Or they’re looking for help for their neighborhood and need an organization to help move their cause forward. Develop content that helps answer those moments. Read more in “Where the micro-moment meets the nonprofit.”

Watch the video below & be sure to reach out to ArcStone if you’d like to get a video rolling.

How to create brand ambassadors for your nonprofit

nonprofit-brand-ambassadorsWhen Kate Middleton wore a blue dress to announce her engagement to Prince William, the dress sold out. Moreover, rumor has it the company producing the dress almost went bankrupt to keep up with the demand of new customers (EOnline). Now what does this style icon have to do with your nonprofit?

This dress company could have spent hours and all of their budget on social media and content strategy, sales calls and ads. However it took one decision from a well-trusted fashion icon to go viral and change their business forever.

This scenario serves as a reminder for all of us nonprofit marketers: people trust other people far more than they trust your ad or social media message. Due to years of taking in ads and being disappointed by the reality behind a product or message, the same doubt will likely be applied to whatever your nonprofit is offering.

“74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision”  – AdWeek

However, this doesn’t necessitate your nonprofit landing a single brand ambassador such as Kate Middleton. In fact, they could doubt what she is saying about any cause just as much as they doubt your website messaging. Rather, the focus could be on encouraging your users, donors and volunteers to do the promotional work with you.

You need people who your potential audience trusts – their friends, family, coworkers, etc. – to be your brand ambassadors.

Now how do you get your brand ambassadors to share that your nonprofit is doing the great work you say you are?

Of course there are the non-digital means: make t-shirts, encourage people to talk to their family, having them host a drive, but we’re in the digital age – let’s get creative, shall we?

1. First and foremost, make their digital experience a pleasant one.

When they visit your site, is it easy for them to understand what your nonprofit is doing, its impact, and how they can get involved?

For donors: What’s the donation process like? Here are the top nonprofit donation platforms: 5 online donation platforms to delight your donors. If you’re currently using one that has a wonky user experience, consider investing in something better for your users’ sake.

For volunteers: Is it easy to view your calendar of events or contact your volunteer coordinator to get involved? Here’s a snippet on how to add a Google Calendar to your website.

For users: Can they find case studies to show how you can help them? When they need help from your nonprofit, how can they get access to it quickly?

2. Share & show off.

As seen in the #WarbyParker example below, people don’t mind showing off every once in a while. Nonprofits tend to be full of humble people and no one wants to brag about how great they are at volunteering, so how can your nonprofit get people to share their involvement?



3. Engage & re-engage.

One of the best ways to get people to talk about you and your nonprofit is to keep them feeling involved and inspired. It’s likely that after they donated or volunteered, they felt pretty great and wanted to do more. It’s equally likely that their feelings faded and they’ve been too caught up in other things to remember what that experience mean to them.

For donors: Make a meaningful follow-up strategy. We have a post on Follow-Up Ideas. Make sure this is as much of a priority as gaining the donation is in the first place.

For volunteers & users: You may have made a strong connection when you had them in front of you, but if they don’t enjoy reading your email newsletter, that spark won’t rekindle. Read Would YOU read your newsletter? for ideas to amp up your engagement efforts. Consider reaching out to them on social media to be even more personal.

Overall, the more you can make it easy for people to talk about your nonprofit and engage with your nonprofit, the more brand ambassadors you will create. Rather than getting too pushy with your message, focus on how you can please your users and remind them your cause needs them.

For help with strategy, connect with our team at ArcStone.