Learn why making last year's donation season your rival can grow your nonprofit organization.

I need to win, even when competing against myself.

Yes, I spent way too many hours with virtual race cars, but that controller time wasn’t wasted. Racing the shadow car from my previous best lap taught me that my past success is only a starting point. There’s so much more to learn.

You crossed the finish line last donation season with valuable contributions from your audience. Maybe you even came in with a new personal best. Still, you can do more.

Learn how to turn your best laps around an email marketing strategy and start at the head of the pack this donation season. The finish line comes up faster than you’d expect when you’re too busy leaving your shadow in the dust.

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What did you learn during the last lap?

Every lap starts fresh, that’s where you need to focus, but you likely learned things that inform every move you make now. What strategies worked last year that can be repeated with new messaging? Who were the donors that gave you the most support?

Reach out to your past donors with a targeted, personalized email and ask for their support again. Include last year’s donation amount and show how it directly helped your cause. Then ask for a repeat donation, with the option to donate more this year. If they donate, make sure to send a thank you email or letter.

Get your audience to start rooting for you

There’s a reason the home field advantage works. Even if a team is far behind, the cheering crowd behind them gives them the motivation to make a comeback happen. As soon as you find a supportive audience, boost the volume of their cheering to new donors and let them do your marketing for you.

Highlighting an individual donor and their contributions in an email or blog post works two ways. It attracts more donations by showing how valuable they are to your organization, but it also cements the relationship with the highlighted donor. This turns them into a superfan likely to share your organization with all of their friends.

Turn your marketing success into a game

Competition is powerful. A joke in the sailing world says that any time two sailboats see each other it turns into a race. You can turn your marketing strategy into a game, either with your team or by yourself, and place a reward on the other side of a stated finish line. Making the finish line real, with a specific deadline, automatically turns up the competition.

Use last year’s marketing number as a goal post, then make it higher. A hard goal means you have to work to surpass it, which raises the stakes. Keep raising those stakes by adding a reward, such as an extra vacation day for your team, or it could be a simple gift card. If you don’t have a team, your reward can be a bigger donation amount that lets you make a difference to your cause.

When the season is over, start planning for the next one

Professional race teams know to start preparations for the next event as soon as the car rolls into the mechanic’s tent. Let your past donation successes inform your strategy for this season, and use your competitive drive to beat your expectations. Say what you want about video games, but they teach you how to win, even if you’re just playing by yourself.