Sharing the Love: 5 Tips for Gathering New Email Addresses and Donors with Valentines

Back in 2014 the donor relations team at Cincinnati Children’s was getting a lot of requests. Our generous community – including lots of schools – wanted to send our patients paper valentines. As hard as it was to say no, we cannot accept paper valentines due to infection concerns. Imagine all of those germs…

So instead we created an online form using our online fundraising software. Community members could enter their first name, last name, email address and choose from one of our adorably designed valentines. Our team would then match the first name with the valentine chosen, print the valentine in-house and work with other teams at the hospital to deliver them. The patients and families loved being thought of in a safe way.

Going Viral

Fast forward to 2018 when a thoughtful, kind teenager tweeted about our valentines. She didn’t include a link, just a plea for others to join her in helping the kids at our hospital. The response was overwhelming! We received more than 220,000+ valentines and raised more than $68,000!

Watch a video featuring the Valentines campaign.

Why was this campaign so successful? Below are my five tips for creating something similar at your shop.


Tip 1: Highlight a Treasured Childhood Memory

Many people remember receiving valentines at school. Each student and often the teachers would buy or make a valentine for every student in the class. At my school, we decorated the boxes to hold our valentines and ate so much candy! It was a great day!

Part of what we believe makes our valentine campaign successful is that memory of getting a valentine. What is an activity that your nonprofit does or can do for the group you serve that brings to mind a shared memory?


Tip 2: Build a Connection

So many of our donors and community members want to do something extra special for our patients and their families. Because of our priority to keep our patients safe and respect their privacy, we are limited in the amount of direct contact many people can have.

This campaign helps build a connection between the person sending the valentine and the patient receiving. What a wonderful feeling for both!


Tip 3: Make It Easy

As much as people want a deeper connection with our patients, many don’t have the time to visit the hospital with toys to drop off or commit to volunteering regularly. Sending a valentine can take a few seconds and each person can still get that joyful feeling of helping someone in need.


Tip 4: Let Someone Else Be Your Advocate

What made 2018 so special was our team didn’t send out the viral request. It came from a teenager who has a big heart and shared that giving spirit with others. If possible, find someone else to talk about your opportunity in her or his voice.

When our team first saw the post from the teenager without a link, we didn’t think much would come from the tweet. However, people found our website without a link. And the lack of a link made the tweet more authentic.


Tip 5: Add an Ask

Our ultimate goal is to welcome as many people as possible into our family of donors.

Our team set up this campaign so that anyone with internet access and an email address can submit a message. After the person submits a valentine and is receiving that warm feeling of doing something good, we provide a soft ask.

On the confirmation screen or through a pop up, we ask: “If you’d like to do even more for our patients, consider giving a gift today.” with a donation form below it. Those most likely to become our donors convert at that time. We still follow up with everyone asking for more contact information. As with any acquisition funnel, not many provide that information during the follow up.


Our campaign has continued to grow – in 2019, we received more than half a million valentines through organic sharing! Best of luck creating an engaging campaign for your community of supporters that becomes viral!