It’s hard to believe, but the end-of-year giving season is here. And since nearly one-third (31%) of annual giving occurs in December alone, preparing an impactful year-end fundraising campaign is mission-critical. So, how do you do this while also pushing your mission forward? Keep reading, and we’ll give you our top 10 tips and best practices that can help set your nonprofit up for financial success.
Everyone has a magic formula for maximizing repeat donations and tapping into that mythical jackpot of new ones. Yes, be willing to rethink and refine your campaign strategies (from the stories you tell to the platforms you use to reach out and connect), but don’t just try the next big thing without taking time to really analyze what you already know about people who choose to give specifically to you.
Look at the data you’ve collected about your existing supporters. Who are they? Why have they chosen your specific cause and organization? How and when are they most likely to give? What inspires them to increase their giving? As you spend time really studying and understanding those who are already giving, you’ll discover what seems to work best for generous people who share your interest and are committed to supporting the work you’re doing.
It might go without saying that a year-end fundraising campaign is a perfect time to check-in and make sure you’re board has met their giving or fundraising benchmarks. And, if board members and staff know that their networks will be receiving a solicitation, they can add a personal note, send a personal heads up or follow-up one-on-one with key donors. Board members and staff can identify which donors might be willing to substantially increase their annual gifts.
Remember, year-end fundraising campaigns should be an organization-wide effort. So, reach out to your service-side team as you’re developing your campaign. Staff and board members will ensure you have the best stories, facts and outcomes data to include in your solicitation. Plus, if all goes well, you will need all-hands-on-deck to process and send out thank-yous for the large influx of donations.
Use your end-of-year donation letter to showcase the impact generated by the money already given throughout the year. For example, identify meaningful outcomes data you can share, talk about that successful project launch or highlight how you’ve been able to expand your reach. In fact, a lot of successful organizations use their end-of-year donation letter as a test run for content that will eventually be included in their annual report.
Putting a human face on your impact data will ensure that your end-of-year donation letter will hit people’s hearts and their minds—and, in turn, their checkbooks. The internet is full of sample fundraising letters that will give you a starting point, but nothing compares to a real story from your on-the-ground efforts. Talk to your program staff, volunteers and constituents about their success stories. Not only will it make your campaign more compelling but collecting success stories can also help inspire staff and volunteers as they reflect on what was accomplished over the year.
All it takes is a click for your donors and other supporters to become your army of fundraising volunteers. So, package your online fundraising materials in a way that makes it easy to share and repost on social media. Take the best content from your end-of-year donation letter, highlight a few key numbers, pull out a concise call to action, and spin it into a compelling picture, infographic or short video.
We know people are more likely to give when they can see a direct link between their donation and your outcomes. Packaging year-end donations as a tangible item that will benefit your constituency makes that simple and easy. Set giving levels to correspond with specific programs or services. For example, “For $35, you can send a classroom kit of supplies to one after-school program!” Don’t forget—you can even “gift-wrap” the intangible. Instead of providing schools supplies, maybe a $200 donation provides one week of bus transportation for 15 participants. That also puts the focus less on dollars and more on impact—which, at the end of the day, is what you’re really trying to sell your donors.
Your donors are just as busy with year-end and holiday crazy as you are. So, if you want giving to make it to the top of the to-do list, make it as easy as possible.
Every other group is hitting up your stakeholders for their end-of-year efforts. Make sure you are setting yourself apart from them somehow. This is important because many organizations also take advantage of #GivingTuesday and other local super giving days. Don’t rely on collective publicity efforts and generic sample fundraising letters—find the story, event, angle or marketing channel that turns your campaign into the destination of choice.
You probably already know that no gift is complete until the donor has been thanked. Year-end giving adds an extra requirement to make sure donors know you’re looking out for them. The bottom line is, if donors are rushing to mail the check by Dec 31st, it’s probably because their accountant told them they need to give a few more dollars to get a better tax deduction. Make sure your internal system and processes are set up for a quick turnaround so thank-yous and tax acknowledgments get sent out as soon as possible. If you can, make sure your fundraising letter includes a few key details about when and how your donors will receive tax documentation so they can plan ahead.
Take the same data-driven, outcomes-oriented mindset that makes your programs successful and apply it to your year-end fundraising campaign. It might go without saying, but make sure your incoming donations are tracked along with key demographics of the donor. Are they a past constituent? Have they given before? How did they find you? Even basic information collected over several weeks and correlated with your efforts will ensure your year-end campaign contributes to year-round success.
No top-10 list can make a difference if you don’t put some of these ideas into practice. If you want to end the calendar year with an influx of gifts, we suggest you try at least 3 of these tips in the coming months. Since nearly one-third (31%) of annual giving occurs in December, your mission depends on it. With a little effort in the right places, you’ll be celebrating a very happy New Year.
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