Holiday tunes, snowfall, and ringing in a new year—that all seems far away, doesn’t it? But whether we like it or not, the end of the year will be here before we know it.
The holiday season is busy for all kinds of reasons. If you’re involved with year-end fundraising for a nonprofit organization, you know how hectic the last few weeks of the year can be. Nearly 1/3 of annual giving occurs in the month of December, with 12% of all giving occurring on the last three days of the year.
This creates a lot of pressure for nonprofits, as things get down to the wire. Just a few days can mean the difference between meeting annual fundraising goals or missing the mark, and being unable to ensure your nonprofit can still offer the same programs and services it currently does.
But even though a large portion of fundraising occurs in a short time period, the strategic planning for year-end giving can start at any time, even as early as January 1st!
Over 50% of nonprofits begin their year-end fundraising efforts in October. But the earlier you begin asking your donors to contribute, the sooner you can make a compelling ask. And starting early gets you ahead of the flurry of appeals appearing in mid-Fall.
Whenever you decide it’s time to begin your year-end appeals, here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for this critical time.
Develop Targeted Fundraising Goals
It’s critical to have targeted benchmarks to refer to throughout your year-end fundraising efforts. Your goals can be focused on the amount you hope to raise, as well as which donors you’re looking to target. You may be looking to increase your average gift size or donor base, or better reach your recurring donors. It’s also important to nail down early in the game what channels you will use to reach your audience as well as how often they will be used.
Center your campaign around a specific number. This can be a dollar amount you hope to raise or the percentage of donors you hope to increase. These numbers are helpful for measuring the progress you make throughout the fundraising period. Knowing your numbers also signifies what adjustments you may need to make to stay on target.
Maintain a Consistent Marketing Sequence
Starting your campaign early gives you more time to develop a compelling sequence of appeals. It’s effective to connect with donors using a multi-channel approach, including direct mail, email, phone, and social media.
Though each of these pieces will be somewhat different, they should all echo the same theme, including colors, images, and key words. You want to inspire emotion in your donors. Frequently including an image and story of someone who has benefitted from your organization’s services could help tie your campaign together.
Donors often need multiple touches before they commit to a donation. Keeping your message and visuals consistent helps them stay connected to and develop a conversation with your organization, moving them along the path to making a gift. Using multiple points of contact over time allows you to introduce your fundraising plans without immediately asking for a donation, while still expressing your appreciation for your donors.
For some ideas of print appeals, check out our post comparing the use of appeal letters and greeting cards to connect with year-end donors.
Urgency and Personality
Two key ideas should be at the forefront when developing copy and design for your campaign. First, give your donors the sense that your message is vital and pressing. Second, instill the notion that that donor’s particular contribution is imperative to your nonprofit’s fundraising success.
To indicate urgency, write in short sentences using powerful verbs. It may seem like giving your donors as much content as possible will aid them in making the decision to give. But readers will get lost in large paragraphs of text. Your words should create an emotional connection and inspire them to take action.
As a fundraiser, you probably know that fundraising letters are all about the donor. But it’s not always easy to find the right combination of words that will make your letter donor-centered. It’s tempting to make your communications about the needs, successes, and goals of your organization, and donors will want to have information about those.
But, in order for a donor letter to accomplish its goal, it must lead to a gift. The letter should be focused on crediting the donor for your organization’s achievements. Play to what the donor believes in and wants to accomplish by giving to your organization. Using the words “you” and “your” many times throughout your donor communications is critical.
Printing and data techniques allow you to personalize your letters with names and send different letters to different mailing lists. Our digital printing capabilities at Paw Print & Mail enable you to personalize an appeal in highly detailed ways that demonstrate your organization’s connection with your donors. Metrics like giving history, ask amounts, program preferences, and pre-populating remittance coupons are all possible and will add an appreciable lift to your campaign response rates and revenue.
You can also look at your donor base using an RFM scoring system. This indicates how recently a donor gave, how frequently they give, and how much they give. This will help you to better target your messaging. To be extra personal, send personalized appeals to the top 1% of your donors. If they’ve given large amounts in the past they are likely heavily invested in your organization. It never hurts to show them how important they are to you and how you understand their hopes and objectives.
Make it Easy to Give
The purpose of your fundraising campaign is to raise funds. Your materials should make the donation process as easy as possible for donors. A multi-channel approach to fundraising includes the presence of digital resources that further educate your donor base and make giving simple.
Digital sources should connect seamlessly to other communications, so that donors can easily transition from one source to another. Ensure your website is easy to navigate. Since donors are using mobile devices, you’ll want to use a responsive template for your website to encourage mobile donations, or at least make the text large enough to be readable on smaller screens. And keep the donation page simple, so that donors don’t have to think about what they need to do.
Any steps you take now to plan, create resources, and connect with donors will make things easier when December rolls around. If you have your year-end appeal strategy in order early, you can take more time to focus on events, personal visits with donors, and other end of year tasks.
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