How to Plan Your End-of-Year Giving Campaign

A strong, end-of-year giving campaign is critical to a non-profit’s success, as 30 percent of all giving happens in December. Some statistics show as much as 10% of annual giving happens in just the final three days of the year. To achieve the greatest results, nonprofits must execute a plan for year-end giving that includes segmenting donors and writing a compelling nonprofit end-of-year appeal. You know it is crucial to have a plan, but you may not be sure where to start. To use a football analogy, it’s the fourth quarter, the game is on the line, and you can’t afford to fumble. Your team is counting on you for a win, or in this case to reach your end-of-year campaign goal.

To see the greatest results, your team must execute a plan that includes writing an impactful fundraising appeal letter, segmenting donors, and well-thought-out donation processing logistics.

Plan Your End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign

The end-of-year season is incredibly busy for nonprofits. Early planning can help your team avoid stress and rushing to finish everything in time. We recommend you start planning during the summer months. By planning this far in advance, you will have plenty of time to make sure everything is accounted for well before November and December.

Your end-of-year fundraising campaign should include a multi-channel approach that includes direct mail, email, and social media strategies. Start with a nonprofit end-of-year appeal and add other elements to the campaign based on your goals.

Review last year’s end-of-year letter results

Before you establish goals for year-end fundraising, it is vital to review last year’s end-of-year fundraising appeal results to see what you can learn. What went well? Where are areas of improvement potential?

Query results from your database to see how much was raised, who contributed, and whether you met your end-of-year giving campaign goal. What can last year’s results show you that may impact your appeal this year? Consider what methods of communication you used to reach donors. If your appeal was not as successful as you hoped, adapt, and try something new. If your organization did not send donors personalized emails or use social media, start there to increase communication with your donors. If you did not personalize letters or ask amounts, consider doing so to make your outreach efforts even more personalized.

Many nonprofits also admittedly use the same pledge card year after year. If you’re one of these nonprofits, you are leaving money on the table. Use our free pledge card guide to help you design a pledge card that will raise you more money.

Determine what your fundraising campaign aims to accomplish

When making an end-of-year fundraising plan, it is important to know where you are going. Consider your goals for your year-end appeal. Is there a specific dollar amount you hope to raise? Do you want to reach a certain percentage of donors retained?

While considering where you’re going, you must also evaluate your audience. Who will you send your nonprofit end-of-year letter to and who will receive emails or phone calls? Hint, your audience is not “everyone.” It is important to consider donor segmentation.

Once the goals for your end-of-year campaign are finalized, create your timeline. Remember that plan you built? Use that plan, plus your financial goals, to assign dates to your strategy.

Plan for year-end donation processing logistics

Gift processing is complicated for many nonprofits. It takes time to enter gifts into your donor database or custom relationship management system. Each gift type must be coded correctly, and then all of that must flow into your accounting system.

Your end-of-year campaign processing may be the most important thing you do all year. You need a plan for it all to run smoothly. Don’t wait until December 23 to determine if your staff will be available to accept walk-in gifts or phone calls from donors. As part of your plan, build in a deadline for donations. Will you accept donations until December 31 at 5 pm? Also, plan for processing gifts that are postmarked before the end of the year but arrive in the new year.

Have an Integrated Strategy and Timeline for Your End-of-Year Campaign

The best end-of-year fundraising campaigns include an integrated communication plan and timeline that is finalized well ahead of sending a direct mail fundraising letter. Your end-of-year appeal should arrive in homes by Thanksgiving to arrive in homes prior to the “noise” of the holiday season. Carefully consider what communication you will send before and after the letter arrives in mailboxes.

Remember the 60-30-10 rule. Sixty percent of donations will come the month you send the letter, 30% the following month, and 10% the next month. Your team should plan to send emails and make follow-up calls in December because the most successful campaigns pair email with social media and/or phone calls to top donors. Think about who on your team could get involved. It may not simply be the fundraising department; other directors, managers, or even your board of directors can help with this.

As you draft email messaging and social media posts think about scheduling some at the beginning of December and again the last couple of days of the month with the message, “There’s still time to give!”

End-of-Year Donor Segmentation

Your database is overflowing with data about your donors. A one-size fits all approach to your end-of-year campaign will not work. You’ve most likely been segmenting donors throughout the year, but when it comes to November and December, there are a few more segmentations you should consider.

End-of-year fundraising campaigns should consider these donor segments for direct mail appeals, e-mails, phone calls, and events:

  • Major donors
  • LYBUNTS (Donors who gave Last Year but Unfortunately Not This year) & SYBUNTS (Donors who gave some year, but not this year)
  • First-time donors either current or previous year
  • Donors who typically give to your organization at year-end
  • Other- consider what other donor segments make sense for your organization, such as event donors or those who made a memorial gift

Write an effective end-of-year fundraising letter

In our webinar, Writing the World’s Greatest Fundraising Letter, our team reviewed the necessary aspects of what some call “ugly letters.” Letters should begin with one, short sentence of ten words or less and be heartfelt and informal, using family language. Use indented paragraphs and 13–14-point font. Don’t be afraid to underline and bold important pieces to call attention to them. These letters can be longer than you might think; 2-4 pages in length. In addition, a call-out, or Johnson box, and a P.S. line will help grab the reader’s attention and personalize the letter further.

Nonprofit end-of-year letters should follow all our best practices for writing the perfect letter. Additionally, make sure you communicate clearly to donors when the last day to give is this calendar year.

Supplement direct mail with other communication

Donors who receive a personalized, heart-felt end-of-year fundraising email from a real person are more likely to give. It’s that simple. If you aren’t emailing your donors, start today. Use a multi-channel approach to tell your nonprofit’s story. Involve your staff and board by providing fundraising letter examples, easy-to-use email templates, and social media posts that they can share with their networks.

Before you send that fundraising letter, make sure you are ready to thank donors when donations arrive. Your thank you, or acknowledgment letter, is one more way to personalize your efforts using donor segmentation. Your end-of-year giving campaign may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

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