Skip to Main Content

Find Your Baby Yoda: 4 Nonprofit Fundraising Tips from Star Wars

7 min read
May 02, 2022
Alex Huntsberger
A lifelike doll of Baby Yoda looks into the camera with a serene expression

Every year on May 4, Star Wars fans take the opportunity to celebrate all their favorite things about the franchise and wish each other a hearty “May the Fourth be with you!”

If there was one thing from Star Wars that you could make real, what would it be? The Force? Lightsabers? The Millennium Falcon? If you’re a nonprofit fundraiser, the old Jedi mind trick sure would come in handy when making your next appeal.

But even though Jedi mind tricks and the Millennium Falcon aren’t real, the Star Wars films and TV shows still have a few crucial lessons that any fundraiser would do well to learn.

1. How Did The Rebels Blow Up the Death Star? Personalization

In the climactic scene of A New Hope, Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance blow up the Death Star. It’s a battle that, on paper, they have no shot at winning. So how do they prevail? 

Since the rebels’ target is a small thermal exhaust port on the station’s surface, they don’t send a massive fleet of star cruisers. Instead, they send a few dozen small X-Wing and Y-Wing star fighters that can slip past the Death Star’s defenses and attack the opening.

Sure, Luke still needs to use The Force to make the shot, but the rebels won the day by personalizing their plan of attack to focus on the Death Star’s weak point. 

When you’re executing a fundraising campaign, personalization is key. Instead of taking a broad approach, focus on targeting your communication and fundraising efforts on specific segments of donors. Different messages and communication methods are going to work for different types of donors. If you’re not personalizing your pitch to get people the message they want in place where they want it, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

Donor segmentation allows your organization to better target your appeals and engage your donors by dividing them into discrete audiences. Segmenting your donors by giving level, for instance, allows you to refine your pitch for each group as you encourage them to increase their giving and move to the next level. For more information on donor segmentation, check out our post on 4 Donor Segmentation Strategies That Drive Results.

2.Unlike the Jedi Order, Stay Up to Date

Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III are about the failure of the Jedi. Namely, these films tell the story of how the Jedi Order’s lack of curiosity, reliance on outdated info, and inability to analyze ongoing events lead to their fatal downfall.

The case against the Jedi is ironclad. First, they are overconfident that the Sith died out long ago, which makes them slow to react to Darth Sidious as he launches a full-blown separatist movement against the Republic. Next, they show a disturbing amount of faith in Chancellor Palpatine, he of the sweeping wartime powers and the curious interest in young Anakin Skywalker. Heck, the Jedi barely question the massive clone army that conveniently shows up one day with no real explanation given.

By the time the Jedi learn that Sidious and Palpatine are one and the same, it’s too late. The clone army executes Order 66 and it’s goodbye Jedi, hello Empire.

Don’t be like the Jedi—make sure your fundraising activities are informed by current data instead of relying on old best practices. If you want a successful, sustainable fundraising strategy, you can’t rely on last year’s data or what your nonprofit has done in the past. With a steady stream of new studies, reports, and methods out there to help you hone your approach, you’ve got to stay well-informed. 

Neon One’s 2022 Donor Report is a great place to start. Donors: Understanding the Future of Individual Giving synthesizes industry trends into a single report to help nonprofit professionals create informed strategies. To download the report, click below.

Donors: Understanding The Future of Individual Giving

To get expert analysis on the latest nonprofit industry trends, download a copy of our report.

Get the guide

3. Fill in Your Donor Data Gaps like Clone Wars

From 2008 to 2020, the animated TV Series Star Wars: The Clone Wars filled in the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The series not only introduced fans to new characters like Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano, clone army soldier Captain Rex, and Mandalorian fighter Bo-Katan Kryze, it also fleshed out the characters of Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi far beyond what the dialogue-challenged prequel films had achieved. 

If you were to watch the properties in order, starting with Attack of the Clones, all of Clone Wars, then finishing with Revenge of the Sith, you might find that Anakin’s tragic fall to the Dark Side in the final film hits a lot harder than it would if you’d only watched the movies’ incomplete story arc. By filling in the gaps between Episodes II and III, Clone Wars provides the audience with the vital context they need to appreciate George Lucas’ original story. 

Likewise, using data to create context around your donor base will make your appeals and other communications more hard-hitting than they would be otherwise. If you’re launching a fundraising campaign with an incomplete picture of your existing and prospective donors, you’re going to have a hard time connecting with them. 

Take a page from the Clone Wars playbook and fill in the gaps. The more donor data you can gather, organize, and synthesize, the better your appeals will land. 

A donor’s philanthropic history—one that includes donations to your organization as well as donations to other charities and nonprofits—is a great place to start. A wealth screening that includes information on wealth markers like real estate and stock ownership will help you assess a donor’s potential giving capacity.

But those are just the beginning. Other types of donor data you should gather include:

  • Age
  • University affiliation
  • Profession and employer
  • Business affiliations
  • Hobbies and interests 
  • Favorite campaigns, causes, or programs
  • Communication preferences
  • Giving and engagement history

Once you have all this data, what do you do with it? This is where you’ll need a CRM to keep your data stored and organized. The best nonprofit databases, like Neon CRM, also come with a full suite of tools to help you analyze your data, gain valuable insights, and use that information in your fundraising.

Want to know more? Schedule a Neon CRM Demo today!

4. Connect Emotionally by Finding Your Baby Yoda 

If you were charting the most important Star Wars moments of the past decade, you’d be hard pressed to find any more seismic than Baby Yoda’s first appearance in The Mandalorian. Star Wars has always had its share of adorable creatures, from R2-D2 to the Ewoks to the Porgs and Babu Frik. But Baby Yoda (whose actual name is Grogu) melted so many hearts that he turned into a legitimate pop culture icon.

The lesson for fundraisers here is simple, even if it isn’t easy: Finding your Baby Yoda means finding that emotional story or asset that will connect donors to your work and your mission. Maybe it’s a heartfelt client testimonial or a video of your volunteers in action. Whatever it is, use it to create a compelling narrative of how your work creates good in your community.

Making an emotional appeal doesn’t mean ignoring data or vice versa. In fact, data on your nonprofit’s work is the best place for you to find the kinds of compelling stories that donors and potential donors will respond to. 

If you are unsure about using emotional appeals in your next campaign, we recommend you read our guest insight 4 Myths About Emotions in Fundraising by Asha Curran & Woodrow Rosenbaum of GivingTuesday.

May the Fourth Be With You

In The Last Jedi, Yoda schools Luke one last time by telling him, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” While that’s true, from a certain point of view, there’s no shame in learning your lessons ahead of time. 

These four nonprofit fundraising tips might not be as handy as a Jedi mind trick, but they will serve you well on your next campaign. 

Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Fourth be with you!

Join the discussion in our Slack channel on connected fundraising

Looking to become a more connected nonprofit leader?

Join 73,000+ of your peers getting industry news, tips, and resources straight to their inbox.