Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Bryan Caplan of BJC Branding. Bryan is a Master Certified Authorized Local Expert for Constant Contact and the Co-Founder of Fogo Fund.

Just days before Thanksgiving, the volcano on the island of Fogo, Cape Verde, erupted after a 20-year slumber.

The lava flowing from the molten giant has destroyed the homes of thousands of villagers and nearly disintegrated the entire agricultural region on which the island’s economy depends.

When my wife, Linda, and I heard the news, we knew we had to help, but donating to the Red Cross didn’t seem like enough.

Together, we built the Fogo Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the education, health, and wellbeing of the people of Fogo. Our next step was to develop a brand that donors could trust and displaced villagers could rely upon.

The main challenge with any online fundraiser is credibility and transparency, so the goal from the start was to connect and communicate with potential supporters and report on progress through a number of channels.

Knowing that we had champagne marketing aspirations with a beer budget, we created a new Constant Contact account to (1) build our database, (2) engage donors, and (3) report on our progress and initiatives.

Building Our Database

Linda and I were gung-ho on driving  donations, but we first needed people to solicit. After setting up our Constant Contact account, we quickly added an email list of friends and family from our wedding as well as some of my business contacts — all people who could vouch for our credibility. It was imperative that we uploaded a spreadsheet complete with:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address

The First Name allowed us to leverage Constant Contact’s Custom Greeting functionality, so that our Email introduction personally addressed our connections. (As a note, according to a recent study by Aberdeen, personalized emails increase click-thru rates by 14 percent and conversion rates by 10 percent.)

The Last Name would help us to organize our reporting (especially if someone shared the same first name.) The Phone Number would allow us to follow up with everyone who opened our email campaign but did not donate.

In addition, we added subscription links to our custom-designed website and Facebook group.

Engage Donors

Now that we had our target audience locked in, we knew that 75 people was not enough to reach our fundraising goal of $500,000. For that reason, we attached a PDF flyer and asked our friends and family to print and post at their jobs, schools, and houses of worship to build awareness for the cause.

We also leveraged Constant Contact’s Social Media Sharebar to increase the likelihood that people would share our emails with their social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

In addition, we designed and inserted vibrant, powerful photos to tell the story for us. (According to WMG, 90 percent of data transmitted to the brain is visual.) We chose photos that would evoke an emotional response from our audience, and would demonstrate the severity of the situation people are faced with in Fogo.

Finally, we had a clear Call To Action (CTA) for our readers to download the PDF flyer and post it everywhere they could to help us bolster visibility of Fogo Fund. Following email marketing best practices, we placed the CTA above the scroll line.

Fogo Email

Reporting Our Progress and Initiatives

Whether a donor gives us $5 or $5,000, we want them to know who’s handling their money and where it’s going. When funding disaster relief efforts to a developing country like Cape Verde, philanthropic organizations and individual donors want to ensure their donations make it to the people in need. Fortunately, Constant Contact, in conjunction with our blog and Facebook group, allows us to provide this transparency through periodic updates.

One of the most effective ways we’ve gotten the message across is through YouTube videos.

Recently Linda and I filmed a video in our home, edited on iMovie, and posted up on YouTube, Facebook, and our website. Moreover, we inserted a video link into our email to explain our reason for starting the Fogo Fund and our intentions. We’ve received a resounding response, collecting over $1,500 in individual donations since sending the video.


Thanks to our integrated marketing strategy we’ve exceeded $30,000 in donations to date, and we’re now attracting the attention of American and Cape Verdean organizations to battle the volcano together.

Is email marketing part of your nonprofits fundraising strategy? Let us know how email fits into your plans for 2015 in the comments below. 

About the Author: Bryan Caplan of BJC Branding is a Master Certified Authorized Local Expert for Constant Contact and the Co-Founder of Fogo Fund, a non-profit charitable organization to benefit the people of Fogo, Cape Verde. Want to help Bryan battle the volcano? Learn how at www.FogoFund.org.