It’s election season in the U.S. Yippee!

I’m sure all of you are VERY excited for nonstop, 24/7 coverage of the federal and state elections. You probably can’t get enough of it!

Sarcasm folks, sarcasm.

The election cycle is here and it’s gonna dominate the news worldwide for the next six months. (That’s assuming the election results aren’t contested. If that happens, I’d consider finding a remote forest without wifi and hiding there till it’s over.)

It’s also gonna dominate people’s email inboxes.

Which does raise a huge question for all nonprofits whose mission is NOT a political one:

If everyone is focused on the elections, will they read our emails? Will our fundraising suffer as people give money to political parties and candidates?

Time to dive in to electionpalooza and your nonprofit’s emails.

Image by Hannah Edgman from Pixabay


Email And Elections

Here are two things you should NOT do:

  • Don’t go dark on subscribers and donors
  • Don’t pull back with your emails!

No matter whether it’s election season or not, your organization needs to be in constant and consistent communications with your donors and audience.

I know that some nonprofits out there feel like emailing once a month is already too much. 🙄

If anything, nonprofits don’t email their subscribers enough! Subscribers in general aren’t reading every email you send them. (If we go by averages, they open one out of every four you send.) So if you want them to open, read, engage, click and take action, you have to be sending emails more often!

(Is there such a thing as “too often”? See at the bottom the section titled “The Bad” on this post. Also have a look at this post.)

What To Share

I think that people will be checking their phones a lot more often between now and November. That means more chances for your emails to seen in someone’s inbox.

What content should you be sharing?

Share good stories. Let people know about the impact they’re having on people in their community.

Consider that election season may make some people upset or afraid. It can be a dark time for some. They need the points of light you share!

Use email to make people feel good. Spread positivity and hope. Make them smile.

I think it’s also important to let people know that the “storm” going on around them is not affecting your organization. You’re out there every day offering programs and services, using your donor’s gifts to help people in need.

Is this any different that your regular emails? Nope. But election season may demand more positivity, more storytelling, more wonderful outcomes than usual.

People give because they want to do good in the world. This is why, when I work with nonprofits on their email program, I stress the need to send emails constantly and consistently. Keep spreading the good cheer!

Events

Yes your fall event will take place during election season.

Yes you’ll be using email to encourage registration, sponsorships and donations. All good.

But what if elected officials have to be invited? Make it bi-partisan. Show in one picture candidates from both parties. Get quotes from both sides because it’s about your mission and the people being helped- NOT the election.

Your organization should be above party politics. You’re here to help those in the community who need it, no matter who they vote for and no matter whether you’re in a red or blue state.

One thing I would avoid is holding the event around November 5, election day. Maybe have the event a week later.

Image by Square Frog from Pixabay


Fundraising And Campaigns

I wouldn’t run an appeal in the weeks leading up to November 5.

Have an annual holiday gift catalog you share with your audience? Send it out or have it arrive after the elections.

Thanksgiving campaign? Only send emails about it after November 5.

Year-end campaign? Make sure the direct mail letters arrive after the elections.

I am well aware that a contested election could go way beyond November 5. But once the elections are over, I’m pretty sure people will want to tune into anything but. So save your campaigns for after November 5.

But whether you’re sending fundraising emails before, during or after the elections, best practices remain the same:

  • Continue to highlight the need
  • Tell donors the problem and then let them solve it with a donation
  • Use storytelling (especially the story of one: Share the story of one person/family and use that to illustrate the larger issue)
  • Personalize your fundraising emails
  • Segment your email list (your monthly donors aren’t the same as your major donors aren’t the same as your Board members aren’t the same… you get the idea.)
Fundraising During An Election Year

I know that many of you are concerned that people will give less to charity this year because some of their hard-earned money will to go political parties and individual candidates.

Let me share this with you to ease your fears (read the entire piece here):

“CCS Fundraising notes that presidential elections have a negligible effect on overall charitable giving trends. Charitable giving increased in eight of the past nine presidential election years, per Giving USA data. The exception was in 2008 during the financial crisis. Donors in the majority of election years appear to give to both charity and campaigns and there is little empirical evidence to support a giving effect of an election year. Nonprofits in 2024 should reaffirm their organizational mission, purpose and values.”

The data has spoken.

What It’s All About

If your fundraising and marketing centers on building relationships, you’ll be fine even during an election cycle. If you are connected with your supporters, they will want to stay in the know. They’ll open your emails and positively react when asked to take action.

Of course this would mean that your donor retention rate is above the crappy sector rate of 40%. If it’s not, I’d use the next couple of months to build those relationships. If donors don’t feel connected, they’ll give elsewhere.

Elsewhere doesn’t mean to political campaigns. They have plenty of nonprofits to choose from when considering personal philanthropy. Don’t give them a reason to leave you!

No matter what happens with the election, you should continue to communicate with your email subscribers. They could use a break from the deluge of political emails stuffing their inboxes.

Keep them updated. Make them smile. They’ll keep donating.

If you’d like to learn more about elections and fundraising, download this white paper from The Better Fundraising Company.

Do you work in a small nonprofit? Do you have fundraising and marketing question but no one to ask them to? Looking to grow your org and go from survival to thrival? Then join today the Small Shop Success community! You’ll have access to an on-call nonprofit expert (me!) while joining a community of other small shop pros where you can share ideas, struggles and experiences. Sign up today and get ready to grow your org!