Year-End Giving: Best End of Year Fundraising Strategies & Ideas
Learn How to Plan a Year-End Campaign Strategy for your Nonprofit
Craft a Year-End Appeal with Best Practices for Year-end Giving
Implement New Year-End Fundraising Ideas and Raise More Money Than Ever Before
The last six weeks to a month of the year is vital to most organizations’ fundraising efforts. Kicked off by #GivingTuesday and running through December 31, the year-end giving season simply cannot be ignored by nonprofit fundraisers. Many organizations receive 30% or more of their fundraising dollars for the entire year during this period.
But how does this happen? Why do donors give so generously at this time of year and how can your organization tap into end of year and holiday giving?
Year-end giving is important because:
- This is the time of year when people want to give back and share. Most traditions, whether it’s Hanukkah, Christmas Day, or Kwanzaa all include gift-giving, and many also emphasize kindness and charity.
- People celebrate Thanksgiving and are grateful for what they have. Maybe your organization is a part of their sense of community or has directly affected their lives over the year.
- Many people are looking for unique gifts. What do you give to the person that has everything? How about a gift that benefits someone else.
- The end of the year also represents the last chance for donors to make tax-deductible gifts. This is the reason that the closer you get to New Year’s, the more people are donating.
Craft the Year-End Campaign Message and Timeline
Since year-end giving is such an important fundraising strategy, you need to start early. You likely won’t contact donors until mid-October or November, but you need to have your entire year-end strategy in place before that time. Don’t worry, once you have an established year-end plan in place you can work from there moving forward each year.
Crafting the year-end campaign message or theme is an essential first step. No matter what channel you’re making your appeal through (direct mail, email, Social Media), the core message and overall narrative should translate across channels. This is where the power of storytelling comes in. You need to create a message that resonates with your audience. Just sending out a letter telling them that you really need money to make the budget work is not going to be enough. You need to clearly convey how their donations will make a difference and why you are the best organization to make this impact. So start collecting stories and pictures from your beneficiaries now.
Set Fundraising Goals for the Campaign
As with any fundraising campaign, you need to have a specific fundraising plan and goal in mind for your year-end giving campaign. Yes, this means a specific dollar amount as well as a goal that can be accomplished with these funds.
Start by assessing your current financial situation. How has the financial situation changed since last year’s year-end giving? How close (or far) are you to meeting your financial goals for this year?
Understanding where you are can help your team set goals and understand the best strategies to employ for the year-end campaign. Many year-end appeals and campaigns require a fundraising budget – so you need to understand how much money is available.
You will also use this financial information in your year-end fundraising appeal letters. Donors want to know and see transparency in your fundraising and organizational budgets.
You may also want to set some additional goals, besides the big fundraising total goal. These extra goals give your team something concrete to work towards and help you reach your main goal. Additional fundraising goals for year-end appeals could include:
- Establishing a monthly giving program or getting a certain number of supporters to commit to recurring donations
- Winning a specific number of new donors
- Increasing volunteers or engagement among volunteers
- Increasing year-end donations by a specific percentage over last year
Personalize Your Year-End Appeals for Specific Supporters
Next up, you need to target your year-end donors. Prospects for your year-end appeal should include everyone associated with your organization:
- Major gift donors
- Other/all current donors
- All those that have donated in the past
- Business and corporate sponsors
- Organization volunteers and peer to peer fundraisers
- Paid staff
- Your organization’s vendors or suppliers
- Those who benefited or were affected by your organization
- Any individuals who have expressed interest in your organization, ie those that receive your newsletter
But get this – you cannot send the same appeal out to everyone. Perhaps the most important part of a successful year-end campaign is to be sure to segment and target donors appropriately. Major donors do not want to see the same information as new supporters. If they do, they may just turn into $50 donors.
As well, you need to know the demographics of your donors, since different age groups like to donate and engage differently.
Millennials Fundraising Trends
These young donors are most likely to donate via mobile giving and to friends, via peer to peer crowdfunding campaigns. They are ultra-connected to their devices, and as such, they respond to text fundraising campaigns and are active daily on social media.
Generation X Fundraising Trends
These supporters are most likely to fundraise on behalf of your organization and volunteer to engage in other ways. They respond to email, phone calls, and text campaigns.
Baby Boomers Fundraising Trends
Baby Boomer donors are most likely to make larger and/or recurring gifts to your organization. You may wish to contact them via phone calls. Many check email and texts regularly.
Greatest Generation Fundraising Trends
It’s no surprise that age 67 and up donors are most likely to respond to direct mail campaigns and give by check. Many also donate by credit card and stay digitally connected, but direct mail should still be used to target these older donors.
Take a Multi-Channel Approach to Year-End Appeals
While direct mail is the traditional year-end appeal method, it’s not the only one you need to employ. As with all fundraising campaigns, you need to reach your supporters wherever they are. This means that mobile and online giving need to be offered and virtual fundraising options are key during COVID.
A Complete Year-End Fundraising Campaign Calendar
Determining your year-end campaign calendar is a vital part of year-end giving strategy. Build out your calendar by scheduling important dates. For example, appeal dates, non-ask activities, stewardship touchpoints, and production dates (when your letters or emails need to be completed and sent) should all be carefully considered.
If you want to capitalize on final quarter giving, treat your year-end campaign calendar with special care. Let’s dive into how to most successfully plan your end-of-year fundraisers by month.
Guidelines for Writing Successful End of Year Fundraising Letters
End of year fundraising appeals sent by direct mail are still important. With direct mail, the letters can be much longer and fuller, as long as the content is engaging. Assume that direct mail recipients are not going to your website and will make a decision to make a gift or not, based on the information you are providing in the year-end appeal letter. The tone is often a bit more formal here as well, stating statistics and perhaps financials. Be sure to include a donation envelope as well as mention of online donation channels here, as many people will still prefer to donate via a credit card.
Follow these guidelines for end of year appeals by mail:
Keep It Simple.
Be explicit with explaining your cause and needs up-front, and reiterate them in the closing of your year-end giving letter. People often read only the opening and closing paragraph of these letters and decide whether or not to give based on that reading alone.
Don’t request donations due to negative cash flow at the end of the year. Donors are motivated to change the world through positive contributions and gifts to help your organization accomplish its goals, not as a financial rescue mission.
Make it Easy to Donate.
Include a link to your fundraising website and text to donate keyword, so people can easily make financial contributions. Also, include a reply slip and self-addressed envelope for those who prefer to send in checks via mail.
Tell Your Story.
Storytelling is essential to year-end campaigns, as people are motivated emotionally to give. Offer them a story of your impact or work, that they cannot resist. Make it warm and fuzzy!
Follow the Basics for Easy Reading.
Be sure to utilize white space by using bullet points and no long paragraphs. Call out important information with bold fonts.
Reach Out to Supporters with a Final Year-End Appeal
Don’t give up early! The last three days of the year are the most important for annual giving campaigns. Your team may be on vacation, but your software and technology can still work for you. Schedule automated emails or send out quick social media posts, during this time. Ask your supporters to make a last-minute donation before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, to help your organization reach your annual appeal goal.
Don’t Forget to Thank Your Donors
Be sure to recognize donors for their contributions by sending a thank you letter, listing donor names on your website, and recognizing them at fundraising events. You can usually wait until early January for this, and cite the success of your year-end giving campaign in the letter.
Always remind donors that annual fund gifts are tax-deductible in accordance with IRS and CRA guidelines.
Kick-Off a Strong Year-End Giving Campaign with Giving Tuesday
Each year, Giving Tuesday is hosted around the holiday season. It is a global fundraising campaign aimed at transforming the holiday season from receiving to giving. The goal is to try to get people to give some of what they typically spend during the busiest holiday shopping days following Thanksgiving, Black Friday & Cyber Monday towards charitable causes.
Giving Tuesday has become the official kick-off of the year-end giving season. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to start your campaign with a bang. You’ll have lots of help, as the #GivingTuesday movement provides free publicity and resources. You can officially join the Giving Tuesday movement here.
Ideas for Year-End Fundraising Campaigns
So we’ve talked about creating a timeline and goals for year-end giving, crafting a steller message, personalizing that message for specific donors, and proving easy ways to give. Incorporating specific fundraising ideas can also help in meeting your year-end appeal goals. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Holiday Sales Fundraising can be included as part of your year-end fundraising. Sell wrapping paper, wreaths, candles, sweets, and other festive goods. Our Simple Stores make it easy to sell online and even combine these campaigns with P2P fundraising pages.
- Nonprofit Crowdfunding Campaigns such as holiday walkathons or Turkey Trots are popular and fun year-end fundraising events. Use our crowdfunding software to ignite the spirit of fundraising competition.
- Community Serve-a-thons – Schools and charities alike can help spread the season’s message of giving by hosting a serve-a-thon. This event encourages supporters to raise money in support of a community service project.
- Recurring Donation Campaigns – Promoting monthly membership and recurring donation campaigns is a solid strategy to boost year-end fundraising. Recurring donors generally end up giving much more over the course of the year than one-time donors. Entice them with a gift for first-time members.
- Find Matching Gifts Donors – Here is another way to raise more money from donors without asking them to give more of their own money. Matching gifts is a type of corporate giving program that can be one of many strategies to boost all of your year-end fundraising goals with little additional effort.