Even the most seasoned fundraising professionals at nonprofit organizations sometimes wonder if they have captured the best strategies for asking for donations at year-end. With as much as 30% of all giving happening in the month of December alone, fundraisers often feel stressed to improve their fundraising efforts year after year.
A lot is riding on your year-end fundraising strategy.
Maybe your board is asking for a larger fundraising goal, or perhaps this is your first year working in nonprofit fundraising. With expanding costs, nonprofits may put more pressure on the fundraising staff to fill gaps in the budget.
Fundraisers may also get questions about how to be cost-effective. Remember, while direct mail can be expensive, it is still the king for year-end fundraising. The return on investment is highly positive when done correctly.
While a greater need for funds resonates with staff, creating a sense of urgency with potential donors may take additional work. Development staff must ensure they have all the tools for a solid year-end campaign.
Having the right, proven strategies can lead to fewer headaches and burnout for development professionals and build solid and lasting relationships with donors.
Fundraisers must plan a multi-channel communication approach that includes a direct mail appeal, online fundraising through email, social media, a well-designed donation page, and a practical timeline. Planning ahead is essential as there is a lot of competition for donors’ attention at the end of the year.
Plan a practical timeline for year-end giving
Begin by selecting the date you want donors to receive the year-end appeal letter and work backward from that date. Direct mail appeals should be in donor mailboxes by Thanksgiving in the United States or mid-November.
Donors may be thinking about philanthropy at the end of the year thanks to tax incentives or may be moved by the spirit of the holidays that fall this time of year.
Once you know the target date for the direct mail appeal, select key dates for each step in the process. Include these items in your year-end timeline:
- Date final files need to be at the printer- plan time for variable imprint and taking letters to the mail house
- Dates for social media posts – include a link to ask for donations on social media
- Dates emails will be sent to prospective donors- include a link to your donation page
- Timing of any other communication steps, such as calls from board members, which can strengthen the personal connection to the donor
- Dates for follow-up communication once letters are received
As the end of the year approaches, remind donors there is “still time to give,” which can help create a sense of urgency. Don’t forget to plan communication steps that inform donors of what they make possible and celebrate them as the story’s hero.
As your team plans the year-end timeline, remember the work doesn’t end once donations begin to come in. Plan for stewardship steps as well.
Stewardship steps might include handwritten thank-you notes from staff or board members, personal phone calls, or in-person meeting opportunities. Some organizations may pair direct mail appeals and online giving with live events such as cookies with the CEO or volunteer opportunities to engage with those you serve.
Think about experiential opportunities if time and budget allow. Helping donors see their giving in action can deepen the long-term relationship between them and your mission, especially for major donors.
Don’t forget to account for staff time off. If you plan to accept donations until December 31, will staff be available to process these donations? Can you only accept donations online until this date? What will happen if a donor comes to your door on December 25? Will there be a staff member available to speak with them?
Use technology to save time and increase fundraising effectiveness
Do you sometimes struggle with writing subject lines or the best wording to ask for donations on social media? Technology such as ChatGPT can help draft emails, direct mail appeals, or social media posts; make sure you edit the work, as these tools sometimes make errors. Writing effective emails takes more than knowing you don’t use all caps.
Here are some of our favorite tips for using technology and automation to save time:
- Schedule social media posts in Meta Business Suite or use another tool like Hootsuite to plan social media posts across multiple platforms
- Use a tool like ChatGPT to draft wording for emails, social media posts, or direct mail appeals
- Use an automation tool such as AutomateGenius to help with donor stewardship, such as a new donor welcome series of emails
- Use an app like AskGenius to set personalized ask amounts for every donor – the more you can personalize, the better!
Plan for donor segmentation
Create a plan for different donor segments, such as those who make major gifts or those who prefer to make donations online. Some nonprofit organizations may even know which donation requests must be made at an in-person meeting.
Smaller nonprofit organizations may have the capacity to meet with more donors or make personal phone calls. In comparison, larger organizations may need to focus on engaging via social media, emails, and even text messages.
Don’t reinvent the wheel; use tested best practices for the direct mail letter and pledge cards
The team at Prenger Solutions Group has done the testing and knows which direct mail appeal strategies and pledge cards perform best. Use the available resources to write engaging letters and set up a pledge card that will help raise more money.
When writing your direct mail appeal letter, check out this webinar on How to Write the World’s Greatest Fundraising Letter. Use this guide to help improve your pledge card: The Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Pledge Cards.
A pledge card should do the heavy lifting of asking for donations so you don’t take the donor out of the emotion of the story in the body of the letter.
This year-end, don’t get stuck spinning your wheels wondering how to ask for donations. Use this guide to help plan ahead, engage your donors, and utilize available technology. You know you have an important mission, and by using these tips, you can raise more donations than you thought possible.
Set aside time in your day to be thoughtful with your end-of-year giving campaign. Take stock of the tools you have in place. Is that donation page outdated? Do you need to revamp your pledge card? Have you tested the link for online giving? You got this!
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