13 year-end fundraising tips to help nonprofit bring in more donations, engage donors, and hit year-end fundraising goals.
December is the biggest month of the year for nonprofit donations. An estimated 31% of all charitable giving happens in December, with about 12% of donations being made on the final three days of the year. Why the spike in year-end giving? It could have something to do with the holidays getting people into the mood to give, but it also has a lot to do with donors wanting to make their tax-deductible donations before the year comes to a close. Nonprofits can tap into all of the reasons donors give with a solid year-end fundraising plan. These 13 steps will help your nonprofit tap into why donors give, and make the most of this pivotal month.
13 Steps to Year-End Fundraising Success
- Tap into why people give
- Ride your #GivingTuesday momentum
- Set your year-end fundraising goals
- Determine your key messages
- Choose a campaign theme
- Build a timeline
- Build a strong content strategy
- Leverage the power of social media
- Email well, and email often
- Focus on retention
- Work to increase your average gift size
- Reflect on your accomplishments
- Look to the future
Sometimes in nonprofit work, it’s easy to get lost in the details and gloss over the basics. Why do donors give? What are you offering them? Is there something in particular that motivates them? While our instinct is to assume that donors give due to altruism, that isn’t quite true. According to The Donor Engagement Study, donors give for three main reasons:
- Donors are passionate about the cause
- They believe the organization is depending on them to give
- Donors know someone affected by the cause
Donors tend to give for very personal reasons. And that’s why it’s essential for year-end fundraising to focus on the donor’s relationship to your nonprofit’s work. Using “because of you” framing, personalization that underscores the donor’s personal relationship with your work, referencing past giving or involvement in your work, and making donors aware that your organization is relying on them for support is key to a successful year-end fundraising appeal. Tapping into these fundamental “whys” is the perfect place to start when preparing for a year-end campaign.
While the final days of the calendar year are dependably the biggest fundraising days, #GivingTuesday is hot on their heels! In 2019, Mightycause saw more than $6 million in charitable donations on our platform. That’s a lot of giving! And #GivingTuesday is the unofficial kick-off to year-end fundraising, so it’s smart to use #GivingTuesday to segue into your year-end appeal. You can do this by laying the groundwork for your year-end campaign in #GivingTuesday wrap-up emails, social media posts, and correspondence with donors, and preparing special follow-up and outreach about your year-end efforts to #GivingTuesday donors.
Without goals, it’s impossible to build a road map to success. And so, when you’re setting goals for year-end fundraising, it’s important to focus on SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. That means, when you are setting your goals, ask yourself:
- “Is this goal specific enough for my team to reasonably achieve, or is it vague and open to interpretation?”
- “What are the metrics or benchmarks we will be using to determine whether or not we succeeded?”
- “Is this goal something we can realistically achieve given the time, capacity, and resources available to us?”
- “What is the deadline for this goal, and tasks related to it?”
Looking at past campaigns and year-end metrics from previous years can help guide you. What worked, what didn’t? How much did you raise? Did you meet your goals? And while a financial goal is obviously important, we encourage nonprofits to look beyond dollars raised. Setting goals for donor engagement, retention, acquisition, and increasing your average gift size can help your nonprofit look at the bigger picture — which will help set your organization up for success in the new year as well.
We’ve talked about the importance of key messages on our blog before. Talking with your fundraising team about your key messages for year-end will help you stay focused on your “why” when you’re building your campaign, and help your nonprofit tap into the reasons donors will want to support your nonprofit’s work. This can also help you edit out any messages that might be confusing to donors, keep you from getting too bogged down in numbers and statistics, and edit language or information that dilutes the messaging you want to resonate most with your donors. Year-end messaging should be laser-focused and hammer home a few simple, effective points about your work.
Choose 2-3 messages you want to drive home about your nonprofit and the importance of supporting your work. (Remember, you’re trying to connect to the reasons donors give listed in Step 1.) Those messages will guide your team as you build your strategy, create your content, and communicate with donors about your year-end campaign. For instance, a food bank might want one of their key messages to be, “This year we fed 2,000 families,” or an animal shelter might want to emphasize, “Hundreds of animals are spending their first holiday with their new family this year because of our work.”
Like a party, year-end fundraising campaigns do best with a theme. It doesn’t need to be ultra-contrived, but like choosing your key messages, it’s about focusing your communications with donors. Think about the story you want to tell, and work from there. A simple theme like “year in review” where you revisit some of your highlights from the year can work extremely well! You can also focus on a specific program, a specific case or story from the past year, or a specific thing you’d like to raise money for (such as improvements to your building).
Need some fundraising ideas? We’ve got you covered. And there are even more in our Guide to End-of-Year Fundraising!
What are you sending, posting, or doing, and when are you doing it? The great thing about year-end fundraising is that a timeline is built in. So, this should be a fairly easy exercise! Keep in mind that the vast majority of donations for end-of-year will come in on the final days of the year. Here are a few things you’ll want to think about as you build your timeline:
- Email schedule. When are you planning on sending out emails?
- In-person events. Do you have anything scheduled in-person?
- Social media. What are you posting, and when?
- Volunteers. Are you planning on tapping volunteers to help with anything? Such as phone outreach or writing thank you cards? Get ’em scheduled!
- Donor support. With so much giving going on, your development team might see a spike in requests from donors! Do you have people in the office ready and able to help them (especially on December 31st)? If paid staff are scarce because of the holidays, consider looping in volunteers!
- Direct mail. Do you have any mailers going out for year-end fundraising?
This timeline doesn’t have to be fancy — a spreadsheet with a few different tabs can do the trick. But having your timeline built will help you assign tasks, ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, and that you’re communicating with donors on key days.
Year-end is the time to go hard with your content. And what we mean here is photos, graphics, videos, and copy that make a strong case for supporting your nonprofit. A strong content strategy will include a variety of different types of content that can be used in multiple ways, such as:
- Video. This should be a cornerstone of your campaign. And you don’t need to be a professional videographer, splicing together smartphone camera footage with still photos and some text in a free video editor can work just as well as a professionally-made video. The video can be used on social media, in emails (via a link), on your Mightycause profile, your website, and beyond. You may want to have a few different cuts available that are optimized for each social media platform’s requirements.
- Photos. Pull together a collection of photos that fit with your campaign’s theme, or help you tell the story of the work you did this year! If there are photos you need or want but don’t have, take them! (Again, smartphone images are great, but you can also put out a call for volunteer photographers if you want something more polished.)
- Graphics. Things like infographics, social media graphics built for sharing, tying your social media avatars and cover photos into your year-end fundraising campaign, and adding pizzazz to your emails can make your campaign pop and feel more cohesive. Sites like Canva can be a great resources for these types of graphics!
Creating this type of content helps donors connect with the stories you’re telling, and can help punch up the quality of your social media posts, emails, and more. And colorful, attractive graphics can make it more compelling to read through your end-of-year stats!
According to the 2019 M+R Benchmarks Report, the social media landscape is changing. Instagram saw the most growth for nonprofits with a 34% increase in the number of followers, with Twitter coming in second at 26%, and Facebook trailing with a mere 6% growth. And on Facebook, just 4% of each post reached a nonprofit’s fans — but 29% of the audience reached were new to the nonprofit. So, it may be time to rethink your social media strategy, and try a few new tricks!
- Instagram is where it’s at. Are you utilizing Instagram at your nonprofit? Do you know how to use it? With the incredible growth nonprofits have seen on Instagram, it’s a mistake to dismiss it! The photo-sharing app is growing steadily each year, and it’s a great place to use the great content you built from Step 7! And if you’re not sure how it all works, you may be able to find volunteers who can help you make the most of the app.
- Reconsider how you use Facebook. So, this is nothing new, but your Facebook posts really don’t seem to be reaching your audience these days. (And the numbers back this up.) Using ads, or trying to entice people on Facebook to sign up for your email list, may be more effective than chronological posts. Doing Facebook Live, Stories, and Watch Parties might also help you grab the attention of the people you want to see your posts!
- Enlist your supporters. Ask for a little help from your friends! Get volunteers, staff members, and supporters to give you a boost on social media by telling their friends about your campaign. (And help them out by providing shareable content!)
And remember: Be wary of the Facebook donate button!
Email is a direct line to your supporters. And your email list is your most powerful asset for year-end fundraising! Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re making the most of your email list for end-of-year:
- Create email segments. Segmenting your email list simply means breaking the full list into small groups that are more specific: past donors, people who have never given, recurring donors, volunteers, lapsed donors, etc. Depending on how much you know about them, you can even create groups based on interests. (For instance, an animal rescue could have segments for cat adopters and dog adopters, and tailor their emails accordingly.) Then, you make small tweaks to the emails to speak more specifically to who the donors on each segment are. (For example, acknowledging that volunteers donate their valuable time, and reminding people that they have used your services in the past.)
- Optimize for mobile. Does anyone check their email on a desktop or laptop anymore, outside of work?! Most people are checking their email on their smartphones. And that means it’s essential to ensure your email is mobile-friendly, and looks good on a smartphone. That means using shorter subject lines, and testing your email on different mobile devices to make sure there’s no funky formatting!
Got year-end email fear? Check out this post and start building those emails! (And as a bonus, there’s also a schedule of can’t-miss days for emails!)
A quick win for year-end fundraising is getting donors who have contributed to your nonprofit in the past to come back and make another donation. They’re low-hanging fruit! They already support your mission! So, make sure to target these donors specifically. And the good news is that we’ve made this easy as can be: all nonprofits on Mightycause have access to a donor retention report that shows you which donors have not been retained, for whatever period of time you choose. That means you can find donors from December who have yet to give, and can also target donors from the past year who have not yet been retained.
We’ve actually got a whole guide to year-end donor retention:
But retention goes beyond targeting donors and asking for donations: it also means doing a quick and sincere thank you. (The quick part is super important — waiting more than a few days to thank donors makes them less likely to donate again.) So, think through your thank you strategy too! Some great ways to thank donors are phone calls, handwritten thank you cards, and emails from leadership at your nonprofit. (And volunteers are often eager to help with these things, so loop them in!)
How do you increase the amount you raise in your year-end fundraising campaign? You increase the average amount donors are giving. And of course that’s easier said than done, but a few simple steps can help you increase the average gift size:
- Edit your suggested donation amounts & descriptions on your Mightycause profile. This is simple, but effective! While people can certainly enter a custom donation amount, donors look to these amounts to determine how much to give. These suggestions catch donors just as they’re deciding how much to give and can be an excellent way to bump up your average gift size. If your suggested donation amounts start at $20, try moving that up to $30, and provide a compelling explanation of what $30 helps you provide in your description. Now, it’s important to keep these amounts approachable so you don’t price out smaller donors, but increasing these amounts ever-so-slightly can help your total amount raised grow.
- Include an increase in your ask. While targeting past donors for a donation this year, take a look at what they gave last year… and bump that up by 10% or around that amount. So, a donor who gave $30 to last year’s campaign would be asked to give $33 (or you can bump that up to $35). And a donor who gave $100 would be asked to give $110. These small increases aren’t much money for most donors (since someone who gives $30 can usually comfortably afford to give $33) but collectively, these increases can be a game-changer.
Leading up to a new year, people commonly reflect on what they accomplished in the past year. And your nonprofit should too! Donors want to hear about your organization’s successes, and to know that they were part of that. So, in your year-end fundraising, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a little! What did you do this year? Did you have any big wins? Share some relevant statistics, since you’re likely pulling them for your board of directors anyway!
The important thing here is using “because of you” framing with donors. You’re not simply listing your accomplishments and saying, “Hey, aren’t we great?” You’re communicating to donors that these accomplishments were only possible because of them. And because of their support. So, weave that messaging into emails, social media posts, and even your Mightycause profile’s description area!
Year-end fundraising isn’t all about looking back on the year you had. It’s also about looking at the year ahead, and what you hope to accomplish. And making it clear that your donors are an integral part of your nonprofit’s ability to reach those goals. Wrapping this messaging into your communications sets the stage for the upcoming year, and helps donors connect with the idea of providing ongoing support. (It can also be a great opportunity to ask for a recurring monthly donation!)
And one area where this can be especially effective is in your follow-up. Once you’ve got the donation, share some of your goals for the upcoming year in your thank you, and tell your donors that you are counting on their ongoing support and contributions to make all of these things possible.