How Farm Aid Achieved 1,007% Online Fundraising Growth in 5 Years

When Farm Aid, an organization that works to support and strengthen family farmers, realized that their existing fundraising platform lacked the tools to grow their supporter base, they started considering new ways to modernize their brand image and expand their fundraising toolbox. Farm Aid’s former web content wasn’t fully communicating the good work they were doing to drive support for its mission, so in order to effectively share their work and mobilize donors to give, they needed to try something new.

Farm Aid partnered with Classy in 2015 to enhance their online fundraising program by engaging new donors, adopting innovative fundraising strategies, and learning from other nonprofits in the space who were utilizing the Classy fundraising suite to successfully elevate their organizations. Since switching to Classy, Farm Aid’s online fundraising results have grown by 1,007% in just five years, which comes as no surprise when you see their successful campaigns, email appeals, and virtual events

Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised $60 million toward their mission to keep family farmers on the land, and celebrating their 35th anniversary in 2020 motivated them to dig even deeper into their community of supporters to strengthen their impact and expand their reach. Below, we dive into three main drivers of Farm Aid’s overall growth since joining Classy in 2015, as well as their 2020 efforts that resulted in their highest online fundraising results to date.

From Static Fundraising to Active Donor Engagement

When Farm Aid evaluated their overall online fundraising efforts in 2015, one of the major areas of opportunity they identified was the need to actively promote their campaigns. 

“We would create a fundraising page that just stood there to passively collect donations without considering how we can be more active and strategic about how we do our online fundraising,” said Caroline Fiore, Farm Aid Development Manager.

This resulted in online fundraising levels plateauing, and a number of donors were still choosing to send checks in through the mail. Farm Aid began to understand that launching a campaign page is the first step, but if there aren’t active efforts to promote it, the opportunity will most likely be cut short. 

Using Classy, Farm Aid created a number of effective fundraising campaigns that put their mission and goals front and center. They then made sure to have consistent branding elements across all assets, and they increased the frequency and quality of their email appeals driving to the campaigns.

The value of streamlining their marketing, fundraising, and communications processes became clear as the team worked together more cohesively and increased their online fundraising growth by 61% in their second year on Classy.

Download Now: The Nonprofit Digital Marketing Checklist

Building Momentum on Giving Tuesday

Until 2016, Farm Aid didn’t prioritize Giving Tuesday as a part of their annual fundraising strategy. However, when they saw the success other nonprofits were having on Classy with their Giving Tuesday campaigns, they were motivated to take advantage of the tools available to them to elevate their campaign visibility, attract new donors, and mobilize support for their cause. 

Image of Caroline Fiore, Development Manager, Farm Aid

It was becoming more and more apparent that Giving Tuesday was here to stay, and that this was a really amazing global movement that we wanted to be a part of to mobilize our base and kick off the giving season.

Caroline Fiore
Development Manager, Farm Aid

Giving Tuesday 2016 was Farm Aid’s first campaign on Classy, and although they didn’t know what to expect, they were hopeful to expand their reach and motivate people across the country to join the good food movement. The campaign raised $9,077, with an average gift size of $84. The campaign attracted 108 donations from 99 donors, of whom 22% were new donors. 

Farm Aid’s Giving Tuesday campaigns have improved every year, with 2020 being their most successful yet. They elevated their crowdfunding campaign’s visual appeal by incorporating high-quality images and a video highlighting testimonials from team members, farmers, and supporters to share why the organization means so much to them. The video was strategically placed beside the campaign progress bar and donation button, grabbing visitors’ attention and motivating them to join the supporters who had already contributed. 

Another engaging element on the campaign was the time-bound matching gift they offered exclusively on the giving day, which created a sense of urgency. For that day only, gifts were matched up to the first $7,000, motivating supporters to quickly take action in order to double their impact.

They also leveraged the impact blocks to showcase how gifts could advance different programmatic efforts, each with a call to action to donate. 

Farm Aid’s Giving Tuesday 2020 campaign raised over $40,000 from a total of 314 donors, which was a 352% increase in total raised compared to 2016. 

Other impressive growth metrics compared to 2016 included:

  • 54% increase in average gift size
  • 217% increase in total number of campaign donations
  • 43% increase in first-time donors

Download Now: Giving Tuesday Social Media Templates

Taking Farm Aid Festival Fully Virtual

The annual Farm Aid music and food festival is the biggest driver of revenue for the organization, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to make the festival fully virtual for the first time. 

Farm Aid promoted the festival on their website and linked to a Classy donation form. They used high-quality branded images and videos to invoke the festival experience, including their Farm Aid 2020 Mix Tape, a compilation of some of the artists from the 2020 lineup performing at previous festivals. 

By clicking on The Farm Aid Lineup button, you could also access a Spotify playlist of Farm Aid festival artists who would be performing in the 2020 event.

The donation form inspired visitors with a Willie Nelson quote about the importance of farmers and concise copy explaining the impact of their gift. 

Farm Aid’s 2020 campaign grew 192% year over year despite the challenges of pivoting to a fully virtual event experience. The 2020 festival also saw:

  • 279% year-over-year increase in total number of donations 
  • 308% year-over-year increase in total number of donors 
  • 413% year-over-year increase in first-time donors

Download Now: Virtual Events Toolkit

Adopting Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

In September 2020, Farm Aid launched their first-ever peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to raise $35,000 in honor of their 35th anniversary. With community being one of their most important values, the Farm Aid Bandwagon campaign was a natural extension of the groundwork they’ve laid over the years to attract loyal donors and mobilize their supporters to fundraise on their behalf. 

Download Now: The Anatomy of a Successful Peer-to-Peer Campaign

Thanks to the efforts of 50 fundraisers, who each brought in an average of nearly $700 from five donors, the Farm Aid community raised nearly $40,000 throughout the month of September. The average gift was 14% higher than the typical average gift, reaffirming the value of a strong network and the power of supporters engaging their friends and family. Not only did this success solidify the team’s plans to leverage peer-to-peer fundraising in their annual strategy, but it also motivated them to start by extending this campaign into 2021 and increasing the goal to $50,000. 

The campaign page immediately caught visitors’ attention with the captivating background photo and headline image. They also customized the progress bar, elevating the visual appeal and social proof to encourage supporters to help them reach their goal. 

The language on the campaign page reflected the brand’s casual tone and created a warm, welcoming feel. The campaign also highlighted the Bandwagon Rewards, two tiers of incentives for those who raised $100, or $250 or more. Another text block highlighted a custom image repeating the main calls to action.

Looking Ahead

Farm Aid’s innovative fundraising strategies attracted over 15,000 new donors in 2020, which is a whopping 413% increase from the previous year. Looking ahead, the organization is now focused on how to keep these new supporters engaged.

To continue strengthening their community ties, Farm Aid will be spearheading their first focused recurring giving campaign in 2021 to motivate new donors to stay engaged, and to ultimately expand their recurring donor base by reminding each person how much their gifts impact the organization’s mission.

Image of Caroline Fiore, Development Manager, Farm Aid

We have seen organic growth for recurring gifts in such an awesome way, but we have not been able to tend to them as much as we wanted to. I think part of the campaign will be taking care of those people who are already giving us monthly contributions and trying to foster some sense of community with them.

Caroline Fiore
Development Manager, Farm Aid

The nonprofit’s transformation from 2015 to 2020 speaks volumes about the importance of a nimble, strategic, and dynamic fundraising strategy. The pairing of Farm Aid’s drive and Classy’s fundraising tools has resulted in record-setting growth for the organization over the past five years, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish in the next five. 

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