Sarah Wallin

QUICK SHOT: Make Repetition Part of Your Fundraising

Here’s why repeating yourself will benefit your nonprofit marketing and fundraising…  

By Sarah Wallin, Creative Director

If your childhood was anything like mine, you probably heard this warning from your parental figures more than once: “Don’t make me repeat myself.” Maybe nowadays, it’s a phrase you’ve even said yourself! 

Repetition has a pretty negative connotation. If we have to repeat ourselves, it means that people aren’t listening closely to what we’re saying, or aren’t fully engaged with what’s going on. And that feels bad! 

But when it comes to fundraising, we not only need to get used to repeating ourselves… we must make it a key component of our fundraising strategies. Because the best thing you can do as a nonprofit is make repetition part of your fundraising. 

In case you missed that last part, let me repeat myself: As a nonprofit, making repetition part of your fundraising is one of the best things you can do! 

Despite what we might feel, the numbers don’t lie.

When you’re sending out direct mail and digital campaigns on a regular basis, it can feel like you’re sending out the same messaging, offer and asks in all your appeals. You start to feel like your appeals aren’t relevant… or, even worse, are so repetitive that they’re boring. 

But check out this data on nonprofit response and engagement rates… 

I bring up those stats to ENCOURAGE you how important and necessary it is to “say it again” to your supporters. Post it and repost it… email it and reblast it… send it and send a follow-up letter or postcard reminder. Give your donors more opportunities to stay engaged and respond to the great work they’re making possible.

Don’t shelf your best fundraising stories and photos too soon.

I often see this same hesitancy with using stories multiple times. When a nonprofit captures a good story – one that’s really moving and illustrates the amazing and important work your organization is doing – it always pains me when those stories aren’t used again just because they’ve been used previously. 

The same applies to great photos, videos and audio clips – use them across channels and more than a few times, knowing that, each time, just a small percentage of people will actually see them. 

As fundraisers, we also have to work on our perspective. For those of you who work in Development or Communications, you may see the same messaging, stories or photos and think, “People have already seen this!” 

But remember – you are not your audience. While you may remember that same story or photo used in a recent appeal, based on the stats above, most people probably won’t. So even if it seems to you that you’ve used it TOO MUCH, keep in mind that it may be brand new to your audience and still has the power to stir them into action. 

Ask, thank, repeat.

The goal of making repetition part of your fundraising is to present a consistent message over a number of communications, but it doesn’t have to be a broken record. Maybe you change the accompanying photo, or tweak a few words of the copy to make it feel new… but your core message should stay the same. 

Think of the best commercials. The same phrases, ideas and slogans end up in direct mail, email marketing and social media – but in slightly different ways. The central message is repeated (“Just Do It!” “Got Milk?” “Progressive can’t help you from becoming your parents, but it can help you with insurance!”), but the slight differences in format and delivery keep the audience from tuning out or getting annoyed.

And let’s all admit it: We tend to skip and skim through a lot of our mail, email and social media feeds. If we’re doing it, we can count on our readers doing the same thing! 

Repetition isn’t just useful because it helps people remember you or your organization, it can also build trust through consistency. As the good and great Shellie Speer, BDI’s Senior VP, BDI Academy, always says, “Consistency lends credibility.” So start looking for ways you can repeat yourself… and make repetition a part of your fundraising today. 

Check out last week’s Quick Shot – “Direct Mail: How Much is Too Much?”>>

  • Sarah Wallin

    Sarah Wallin, Vice President, Creative Director

    With more than 10 years of nonprofit and Rescue Mission experience, Sarah Wallin brings her expertise and imagination to the creative work at BDI. She draws from her background as a college English instructor and writing work for a variety of nonprofit clients like Boys and Girls Clubs, Goodwill of Los Angeles, Catholic Charities and Summit Ministries, as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. 

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