Stories from The Field: 2020 Fundraising Successes

As we put our 2020 fundraising plans together, no one in the nonprofit world could have predicted the year ahead. The field quickly adapted as the pandemic hit, and by year’s end a picture had emerged: A study by RKD Group and The Nonprofit Alliance showed that donors had still more to give, and larger donors in particular. 

We followed up with some of your colleagues to learn how their numbers compared to last year, what fundraising tactics they employed, and what lessons they learned along the way. Thank you to Connecticut Humane Society, Humane Society Silicon Valley, Atlanta Humane Society and Michigan Humane for sharing this important info with the field.

Connecticut Humane Society

$ raised 2020: $2.3M
$ raised 2019: $2.4M

What they did: “We saw a 64% increase in mid-range donor gifts,” reports Barbara DeBellis Naugle, Director of Development. This was achieved through a strategy of multiple high-touch communications with donors, including:

  • one week turn around on thank you letters
  • hand signing all $100+ thank you letters
  • adding personal notes to each letter
  • immediate follow-up of each gift with a phone call
  • getting the salutations right
  • including an impact report and remit envelope with each gift
  • sending adopters intake pictures of their new pets

Words of Wisdom: “The three most important words in fundraising are: relationships, relationships, and relationships.”

Atlanta Humane Society

$ raised on Giving Tuesday 2020: $101,079
$ raised on Giving Tuesday 2019: $55,914

What they did: “We focused our messaging on our triple match and encouraged our community to give to save 3x as many lives,” says Christina Hill, Associate VP of Marketing & Communications. “We used ‘today’ language on Giving Tuesday and immediate-need copy across our platforms to ensure there was urgency. We had pre-packaged some stories in case we didn’t have any good, new stories come through our facility, but we stayed on high alert in the days leading up to Giving Tuesday for any animal stories we could tell in real time. Our fantastic operations team helped us yet again by flagging some animals who would engage our community on this day.”

Atlanta Humane’s Twitter cover photo featured the Giving Tuesday campaign (also see top image for additional campaign graphics)

Atlanta Humane also ensured their end-of-year direct mail artwork carried the Giving Tuesday theme throughout this key fundraising time. They sent three emails (one deployed the day before Giving Tuesday), posted on socials, and integrated the campaign across their website. A handful of their key social influencers were engaged to remind the community the importance of Giving Tuesday and why they were giving to Atlanta Humane.

Words of Wisdom: “Tell as many stories as possible in real time as they happen!” shares Hill. “It helps your donors know they are the ones who make those stories have great endings, and allows them to be a part of these journeys as they unfold. We have a marketing animal automation to help us tell these stories, while hitting all of our touch points. It’s a great tool we use for rescues, single animal stories, and long-term animals to ensure they’re getting the visibility they need.”

Michigan Humane

$ raised Oct 1-December 31, 2020: $4,264,413
$ raised Oct 1-December 31, 2019: $3,896,147

What they did: Michigan Humane’s Giving Tuesday & Year-End fundraising efforts resulted in a 9% increase over 2019. “These numbers entail Q1, Oct 1-Dec 31, and include direct mail, digital, general, corporate/foundations, major gifts and estate gifts,” says Jamie Westrick, Chief Philanthropy Officer.

Tactics include:

  • October year-end stewardship newsletter
  • $20,000 Giving Tuesday match campaign
  • Animal impact video stories thru 12/31
  • Aligned direct mail, emails, social and major gift solicitation/messaging 
  • Year-end media buy on TV and digital
  • $50,000 Community Foundation December match
Michigan Humane’s year-end TV spot

Words of Wisdom: Westrick passes on the following tips gleaned from Michigan Humane’s 2020 successes:

  • Share impact before the ask/renewal
  • Inspire with a challenge
  • Share the work with powerful video stories throughout your campaign across all platforms (program/marketing collaboration)
  • Align calendar and timing of stories/messaging (marketing/philanthropy collaboration)
  • Increase digital ad buys and focus (marketing focus)

Humane Society Silicon Valley

2020 Giving Tuesday #s: $122,467
2019 Giving Tuesday #s: $84,597

What they did: “Our campaign ran from Friday, November 27, to Wednesday, December 2, and included a match,” says HSSV’s Yvonne Saucedo. “We had a series of five emails, a homepage graphic and pop-up on our website, social posts (Facebook and Instagram), and a digital media spend with our direct mail vendor.”

Words of Wisdom: “If you can, offer a match,” advises Saucedo. “Offering a match has made the most impact in our giving Tuesday campaigns and it has still shown success years later.”

Saucedo also stresses that organizations should be reaching out to supporters “more than usual to break through the noise. Donors are likely getting several emails from each of the charities they donate to, so you need to continue to stay top of mind and top of inbox to be seen.”


Did your organization see similar results? Any additional aha moments to pass on to the field? Leave a comment and share your expertise.



The Association

The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.


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