Ellie Burke
Ellie Burke
5 min
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5 Tips to Leverage the Calendar for Your Cause

Many causes famously use one month-long campaign in a year to conduct a majority of their annual fundraising. By building a campaign around a specific month or date, you can launch a time-based fundraiser that spurs people to take action.

In fact, one of the benefits of this strategy is that it can attract devoted community members who are more likely to reengage with you throughout the year. Here are five examples of organizations leveraging the calendar annually and tips for how you can apply these strategies to your own cause.

John Wayne Cancer Foundation

From May 26 to Father’s Day (just over a three-week period), the John Wayne Cancer Foundation runs their #ShowYourGrit campaign to raise funds and awareness for their programs supporting cancer research. While they didn’t choose a particular month of the year to rally behind, they did choose dates that were significant to their organization: May 26 is John Wayne’s birthday, and he was a father of seven (hence Father’s Day).

Between these dates, this cancer-fighting organization raised over $49,000 dollars in 2016, more than 12 of which was raised online.

Main Takeaway

If your cause doesn’t align with a particular cause awareness month, consider what dates of the year you might creatively connect to build a time-based campaign.

NaNoWriMo

Nanowrimo Banner

November is national novel writing month, and that’s just what this organization’s name stands for. During the month of November, NaNoWriMo asks participants to try writing 50,000 words by the end of the month. During this time, they appeal to their community to support their writing programs.

What’s great about NaNoWriMo is that while their mission is top of mind during November, they actually section the entire year into different areas of focus that keep their community members engaged all year long.

November is national novel writing month, but after that comes:

  • January and February—The Now What Months
    • Participants focus on editing their NaNoWriMo project
  • March to July—Camp NaNoWriMo
    • Community members participate in online writing retreats
  • August—NaNo Prep
    • Participants gear back up to start a new project
  • September to December—NaNoWriMo Campaign
    • In 2016, NaNoWriMo raised over $930,000 from more than 13,000 donors

Main Takeaway

If your organization’s fundraising primarily takes place during one or two months, consider how you might extend or twist your theme to continue engaging your supporters throughout the year.

Movember

Born out of a challenge to bring back the “mo,” or mustache (moustache in British and Australian English), Movember takes place every November. This month-long challenge asks men to grow mustaches and create fundraising pages to raise awareness for men’s health. In recent years, the challenge has expanded to include women in a “Move” challenge, where participants pledge to participate in a physical activity every day of the month.

While the sense of urgency is high from November 1 to 30, the campaign is left open and continues to collect donations beyond the single month. In 2015, the global organization raised over 85 million AUD.

As an organization, Movember also recognizes key days throughout the year that are tied to their cause:

  • World Cancer Day (February 4)
  • Testicular Cancer Month (April)
  • International Men’s Health Week (June 15-21)
  • World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10)

These additional awareness days remind their supporters that there are always opportunities to engage outside of the month of November. Any community member can give back whenever, and however they like. Whether they pledge their birthday or run a marathon, supporters can celebrate men’s health, all year long.

Main Takeaway

In addition to your major month-long campaign, research and select any cause awareness days that align with your cause and brand. You can run smaller, relevant campaigns throughout the year to supplement your development strategy and keep your organization top of mind.

Operation Supply Drop

5 Tips to Leverage the Calendar for Your Cause

In the months of November and December, Operation Supply Drop’s Vetober campaign raises money to send supply drops to service members around the world. This campaign’s tagline, “one day is not enough,” lets potential donors know that while holidays like Veterans Day serve as reminders of military service and the needs of the community, we need more than just these single days of reflection to create the change and support this group deserves.

Main Takeaway

If you’d like to choose one month of the year to run a large, signature time-based campaign but are struggling to select a calendar month, research cause days. How could you leverage one cause day for a month-long campaign? Perhaps you could use it to kick off the campaign, or make it your campaign deadline as a culminating event.

Dressember

Similar to how Movember uses a month-long “challenge” to involve their community, Dressember asks participants to wear dresses every day in the month of December. Participants create fundraising pages and raise money from their networks while they complete the challenge.

In 2015, over 4,600 women raised more than $918,000 for International Justice Mission and A21, two organizations fighting injustice and human trafficking.

Main Takeaway

A challenge for participants, especially a physical one, is a great way to rally support. Challenges connect your supporters to your cause in a tangible way. They feel like they did something—sacrificed something, to help. This physical connection, referred to in psychology as the martyrdom effect, makes them more likely to invest in your cause.

Just like how an endurance event makes donors feel more connected to their contribution, a physical challenge could have the same results. Consider what creative challenges you could pose to your community during your month-long campaign to ramp up excitement and participation.

 

Signature time-based campaigns are effective strategies for some nonprofit organizations. Whether you’re looking for a creative way to squeeze more out of your signature event, or considering how you can leverage specific cause events throughout the year, use the above tips to engage your community and generate hype. A successful time-based campaign can become a prong of your development strategy that draws participants and community members back to engage with you, year after year.


  • Alayna

    I love this! I’m always way more interested in seeing exactly how the pros did it. Don’t tell me, show me! So I appreciate the campaigns you highlighted here. You may be interested in some of the tips I uncovered in how major nonprofits are overcoming their biggest marketing challenges in creative ways: http://bit.ly/2kOIy0M

    • Ellie

      Thanks for reading, Alayna! I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. And thank you for sharing your own!

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