Tim Glynne-Jones

Feb 14, 2024, 8:00 AM

One from the heart – How to add some love to your fundraising campaigns

By Tim Glynne-Jones, with Naomi Buckler, Supporter Communications specialist, and Faith Chrisp, Customer and Supporter Experience specialist

It’s Valentine’s Day – one day of the year that’s bound to set your letterbox rattling, if not with cards from secret admirers, almost certainly with mail drops aimed at capturing your heart with all manner of marketing campaigns.

But is there any real advantage in pinning your fundraising on special days like Valentine’s? And if you do, how should you go about it to make sure your arrow goes straight to the heart of your supporters? We asked comms specialist Naomi Buckler and customer experience expert Faith Chrisp, two Action Planning consultants with extensive experience in this field. 

Is it a good strategy to hang fundraising campaigns on special days?

Naomi-Buckler-Headshot-web.jpgNaomi: “Yes. The important thing is to find a point of connection between you and your supporters and if it’s a day already in their diaries, you have an immediate connection and the chance to say something that will catch their eye and make them respond. 

“Funnily enough, my birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day. I would always worry that one of the cards I'd be opening in front of my whole family on the 15th Feb would be from an admirer. As it happened, I needn't have worried!

“Special days also give focus to your message and make it time bound. What you’re trying to engender is that sense of connectedness and community, so a date that we’re all celebrating gives the opportunity to piggy-back on that and say something relevant and useful to your supporters.”

Faith-Chrisp.jpgFaith: “Yes – as long as you follow the golden rules listed below. Taking advantage of special days can have great ROI for charities, offering opportunities to connect with current supporters and attract new ones. They are important in creating a great supporter/customer experience because every touchpoint with your audience is a chance to build the relationship and loyalty, create a deeper connection between their emotions and your work and leave them feeling good as a result of the interaction and the value their support adds.

“Special days can provide your charity with the opportunity to do more than just send another email about what your charity does. If used correctly and strategically, they can give you the chance to maximise and deepen the way you connect with your audience and how you widen your sphere of influence. If you only ever speak about what your charity does, you limit your relevance. Special days provide opportunities for you to show what you care about in a variety of ways, with some special days and campaigns having a more serious focus than others.

“In organisations where I’ve worked, our communications and supporter plan had a column that listed any relevant internal and external days so that we could piggyback when appropriate and relevant, often using omnichannel touchpoints.”

Some examples of why special days help build customer engagement and relationship

  • Showcase your values
  • Give you the opportunity to create inspiring and engaging campaigns and appeals
  • A chance to provide a resource or communication that fulfils their own needs (for example, a virtual gift for ‘the person who has everything’ at Christmas time, or a short video on Bible translation progress for a Pentecost service.)
  • Display your expertise and authority on subjects that matter to you and your audience – boosts your relevance and credibility
  • Align your brand alongside other reputable organisations and great causes – boosts your brand reputation
  • Shows you have a wider impact and that you care about more than just your own organisation

Can help give your communications consistency – the key to successful communication – if you only show up every

So what are the golden rules?

Naomi-Buckler-Headshot-web.jpgNaomi: “Be aware of the diversity of who you’re writing to. For example, Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day could be quite a painful time for some people. If you’re a religious charity, it might be appropriate to focus on a religious date, but if you’re not, you should think twice.

“You might need to widen out your message. For example, Valentine’s Day could be a chance to show appreciation to friends and family, rather than it being a very narrow focus on romance – unless you’re a charity whose focus is couples support or something related like that.”

Faith-Chrisp.jpgFaith: “Creating an excellent giving experience starts before they have been ‘asked’ and goes on after they have given. Taking them on a journey before and making sure to thank them after is essential to leaving a positive lasting impression.

“Ensure you have a clear strategy on how you are going to inspire and inform your audience in the run up to it. What story are you going to tell them that speaks to their emotions and leads into a clear call to action of how they can help? How are you preparing them for the ask and their response? The power of storytelling makes all the difference and being really clear that they will have the opportunity to give on x day.

“If you’re asking for something, the message (and therefore the occasion) needs to be relevant to the ask and your charity’s mission. Are you clear on why you are asking or are you just copying other charities’ strategies? What may work for them might not be what you need.

“As with all fundraising campaigns, the process of donating needs to be easy, efficient and continue to speak to the emotions of the donor through the boring admin parts of the process. What do you want your potential donor to think and feel at each step of the process? Clunky, slow and uninspiring touchpoints will influence both if someone gives and how much they give.

“I’m going to mention thanking again. It’s surprising how many charities only have an on-screen automated ‘thank you, your payment has been processed’ message in response to a donation! I have experienced this oversight as a donor myself, as well as being a member of supporter care teams. Sending a personalised email to say thank you from your charity (not a third party), or a phone call if the gift was substantial, makes a HUGE difference. And do it within a quick time frame!

“Speaking into issues that are important to your audience is good for relationship building and many special days may be better focusing on campaigning and advocacy and not just giving financially- it should not always be about ‘asking’. I follow the communication cycle of inspire/inform, ask, thank across all supporter comms.”


How far in advance should you start planning?

Naomi-Buckler-Headshot-web.jpgNaomi: “Try and be planning a year in advance, otherwise what can happen is you use really good content straight away, whereas if you save it up you can use it at a time that’s really appropriate. Have a rolling schedule that fits into your whole comms schedule, tying in with all your other communications, eg newsletter, magazine etc. They should all work together.

“There will be times when you have dates all clustered together so you may want to find a topic that happens in a quieter time of year and you can spread it out a bit.

“The other advantage of planning is that you can be keeping an eye open for just the right story. Good stories aren’t easy to track down, but if you can give others in advance an idea of what are you looking for, it will help. 

Faith-Chrisp.jpgFaith: “Knowing how many times a year you are asking your supporters for something (and how) is sensible planning to avoid donor fatigue and creating potentially bad touchpoints on the journey. Also, you might need to have a budget for it, which is often signed off the previous year.

Don’t underestimate how long the actual planning and project management can take to deliver a good quality campaign: things like copy, sign-offs, artwork, meetings etc can mean projects overrun, as I’m sure many of you have experienced


Are some days more compelling than others?

Naomi-Buckler-Headshot-web.jpgNaomi: “A date on its own isn't compelling – it's the stories and the associations that come with it that pull at the heartstrings. We went to visit Ground Zero not so long ago, and so now when people mention 9/11, it brings back emotional memories of that visit. What stories can you tell that will make the dates come alive with memories, connections or hopes and dreams for your supporters?

“For Christian charities there’s certainly a whole Christian year, with festivals and things happening all the time. The charities I work with are always trying to get into churches who have a need to try to do something topical every week. You can provide them with that resource. At the moment I’m working on Healthcare Sunday in October. If there’s something already available ‘off the shelf’ for the person who’s doing the prayers or children’s talk for that day, it’s helpful for them.”

Faith-Chrisp.jpgFaith: “Often it’s a mix of factors that result in a successful ask and donation, not just how compelling the special day is. The whole strategy, the supporter journey you create, how well you know your audience, connecting emotions and relevance of the ask for that specific charity are what I believe make it more compelling. You could choose to do an appeal on a day that other charities have found success on, but your campaign could flop because it didn’t consider the factors mentioned above.

“For every charity there’s a mix of both external and internal special dates that they could leverage to generate income and awareness, eg:

  • Personal milestones
  • Holidays and special occasions
  • Awareness days, eg wellbeing/health days
  • Disaster relief and emergencies
  • End of year giving (tax benefits can make it more compelling to give too)
  • Christmas is an obvious one – the season of goodwill so people are generally more willing and expecting to be asked for money. You’d be silly not to! But there is a lot of competition at that time of year so it has to be a great omnichannel experience that follows the golden rules
  • Social media led campaigns: Piggybacking on social media led giving campaigns, eg giving days like the Big Give and Giving Tuesday – again people are generally more expecting to be asked and it helps with the urgency of ‘why give and why today?’

“Some charities have had great success at creating their own annual special days, weeks or months, eg Movember and Race for Life. There will have been a lot of resources and hard work that have been required to get these to where they are, and the size of the charity and supporter network that already existed will have played a part. But overall I think the key to their success has been how the charity has built supporter loyalty and advocacy over time, primarily through creating consistently good experiences for their audience and connecting them to the cause and the difference they are making so they keep coming back for more.

If you would like help with the planning or delivery of your fundraising campaigns, please get in touch. office@actionplanning.co.uk


Tim Glynne-Jones

Tim Glynne-Jones is a copywriter and author who runs the not-for-profit live music events organisation New Music Nights as a volunteer. He works mainly in marketing and non-fiction book publishing and is responsible for content at Action Planning.


Naomi Buckler

Naomi Buckler is a fundraising communications specialist who has been involved with Christian charities all her life: as volunteer, GAP year student, donor, staff member, trustee, diocesan giving adviser, and consultant. Her experience includes supporter acquisition, supporter retention, appeal writing, telephone campaigns, setting up a regular giving programme, GDPR and legacy promotion.


Faith Chrisp

Faith Chrisp is a customer experience consultant, specialising in driving organisational growth, audience engagement and sales. Faith has over two decades of proven expertise in the charitable and retail sectors, including leadership experience spanning more than 15 years. She is passionate about teaching and equipping organisations to craft feel-good supporter journeys in order to grow their income and build supporter loyalty. 

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