How to Devise the Perfect End-of-Year Appeal (Free Samples)

About 30% of annual giving happens in the month of December alone. Organizations that hope to raise that and more must plan for a successful campaign and use as many fundraising tools as possible to reach a larger audience, and that includes writing impactful end-of-year appeals. This article shares seven steps to amp up your nonprofit’s year-end appeals and bring in more funds!

9 minutes read
How to Devise the Perfect End-of-Year Appeal (Free Samples)

End-of-year appeals can bring in a good chunk of a nonprofit’s annual revenue – approximately 30% of annual giving happens in December (source)! But writing impactful fundraising appeals, plus choosing the right fundraising tools and tactics – and the appropriate messaging for each – can seem daunting.

In this article, we discuss how to write and send a compelling year-end appeal and what you can do to evolve your appeals across various channels. Plus, we share multiple samples to inspire your writing!

7 Steps to Devising an Excellent End-of-Year Appeal Strategy

Devising a successful end-of-year appeal strategy takes time and effort. There are seven crucial steps nonprofits must take to ensure that their giving season campaign reaches a larger audience and raises more money.

But, first, let our nonprofit experts Jena Lynch and Cara Augspurger help you with year-end fundraising fundamentals, tips, and tools to execute a successful end-of-year campaign. These will help you hone your skills for crafting the best appeal.

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1. Segment donor lists

Nonprofit donors have various income levels, interests, and histories with your organization, so why would you send them all the same appeal?

At the start of your campaign plan, you’ll want to segment donors based on their average gift size, campaign interests, fundraising activities, and when they last donated. You don’t have to create segments for each of these. Instead, find the best way to segment donors based on your organization’s needs.

Add these segments to your donor database to create better reports and automate future donor communication.

Donorbox lets you segment your donors based on a number of advanced filters such as location, donation amount, donation frequency, time frame, number of donations, and more as shown below. We also offer Donor Reporting Templates that help you build three critical reports, including New Donors, a Donor Overview, and LYBUNT reports.

end of year appeal

2. Research past successes or failures

Before you start your end-of-year appeal, you must define your campaign fundraising goals. The best way to do this is to review past years’ campaigns to determine key performance indicators like –

  • Appeals sent
  • Donations received
  • Major gifts
  • New donors
  • Any challenges faced

Use these performance results to develop realistic goals for this year’s end-of-year appeal.

3. Find compelling stories

Establishing a culture of storytelling is vital to creating impactful donor communications and appeals. To find the best stories, ask board members, staff, and volunteers to connect with beneficiaries and long-time donors who may be willing to share their personal experiences.

People respond best to stories, especially stories about other people. A personalized story that speaks to your donors’ passions and interests raises awareness, encourages more donations, and spreads the word about your organization. You should also add real images and videos to digital appeals to boost giving – but they don’t necessarily belong in a mailed appeal letter.

4. Prepare a donation form

You may want to prepare pledge forms as well as an online donation form before writing your end-of-year appeal. This way, you can ensure you are prepared to accept donations as soon as your appeal is sent and your campaign is launched.

Online forms must be mobile-friendly and match your nonprofit’s brand identity. You’ll also want to add donation suggestions according to your segmentation results, concise explanations of the impact different levels of gifts will have, a virtual donor wall to promote social proof, and a donation thermometer to encourage urgency toward reaching your goal – learn more about donation form best practices in this blog.

The below end-of-year donation page and form were both created using Donorbox. As you can see, the nonprofit – Winter Growth Inc. – has added its logo, choice of color, and a campaign description for its year-end appeal. The link to such a fundraising page can be added to your appeal emails and social media posts to redirect donors to complete a donation.

end of year appeal

Create a Donation Form

Your mailed appeals should also include a link or QR code to your online donation form, as well as a printed pledge card – it’s important to offer donors several options when it comes to giving! You can add the pledge card to a self-addressed paid envelope and use the post office’s National Change of Address (NCOA) registry to ensure your database remains updated.

5. Choose the tools for sending out your appeals

Whether you’re sending out a mailed end-of-year appeal, emailing your appeal to your donors, or some combination of the above (which is what we recommend), you must make sure your tools are top-notch and ready to go! There are several email marketing tools available and some even offer discounts or free plans for nonprofits. Some great choices are Sendinblue, MailChimp, Active Campaign, etc.

Donorbox enables you to integrate with MailChimp and utilize the donor data stored in Donorbox to send out personalized marketing emails. You can also use our Zapier integration to connect with Active Campaign and send out your end-of-year appeal emails to your donor lists.

If you’re going for mailed appeal letters, be sure to form relationships with a local printer or use helpful tools like AppealMaker. You can also create handwritten notes using websites like Simply Noted! Add a special note from your board director or a message from a beneficiary to give your letters a touch of reality and raw emotions.

Watch this webinar, featuring AppealMaker’s Joe Leach, to learn 10 Direct Mail Hacks for Nonprofits.


6. Finally, write your year-end appeal

Now that you have your beneficiary stories, a donation form, and donor segments all in place, writing your year-end appeal letter will be simpler. Be sure to personalize your letters with salutations, ask amounts, and an impactful closing.

In the below podcast episode, Donorbox Senior Content Writer Kara Schmid and Fundraising Coach Cara Augspurger discuss how to write an awesome ask for your year-end campaign. Give it a listen for tried and tested tactics –

You’ll want to remind donors of their past involvement with your organization and inspire them by sharing how their gifts have made a difference. If you get stuck, let your beneficiaries speak for themselves through quotes!

In addition to your mailed appeal letter, you’ll also want to communicate with donors through email, cards or postcards, and social media so that you are creating as many touchpoints as possible. You must also use compelling images or videos in all these communication pieces to help tell your story.

In email appeals, be sure to use a catchy and personalized subject line. You can also try adding the donor’s name in the subject line, or at least in the salutation.

When you send cards or postcards, include a QR code or URL that directs donors to your donation page and form. With Donorbox, you get a free QR code for every fundraising campaign you create!

Finally, we encourage you to post updates throughout your year-end campaign on social media. Many people rely on social channels for feedback and testimonials before spending money on products, so use this mindset for your appeals as well.

7. Add exciting giving options to your appeals and donation form

Donors are used to receiving a lot of year-end appeals and they likely don’t read them all – and they especially don’t give to each one! You can make your end-of-year appeal stand out by including some fun, unique, and simple giving options like a matching gift program, text-to-give, or recurring donations.

Many companies have matching gift deadlines that end in December or January. You’ll create a sense of urgency by reminding donors about this deadline. Donorbox partners with Double the Donation to give nonprofits a donation matching widget that can be added to the Donorbox donation form or embedded in their websites to help donors increase the impact of their donations with the help of their employers.

year end appeal

Donorbox Text-to-Give is another option you can enable and add to your year-end appeals. All your donors have to do is send your unique campaign ID or shortcode to a phone number provided by Donorbox. Then, they’ll receive a text with a link to your secure, mobile-optimized donation page. This is a great idea to include in your videos and when promoting your campaign through public relations opportunities such as television or radio news broadcasts.

Offering recurring donation options is also a great way for you to get your donors to give again. There’s no harm in including this option and seeing how many one-time donors you’re able to convert to recurring donors! However, be mindful of creating a special strategy to engage and retain these donors.

5 Simple Ways to Amp Up Your Nonprofit’s End-of-Year Appeals

Your year-end appeal shouldn’t stop at a mailed letter or an email. There are several ways to increase your outreach, engage and involve donors, and raise more money.

1. Crowdfunding campaigns

Crowdfunding campaigns have been a must for many nonprofits for a long time, and even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic. These campaigns use the power of storytelling, urgency, and social proof to bring in new donors and boost their fundraising efforts.

Instead of just creating a basic year-end donation form for your appeals, consider starting a crowdfunding campaign. These campaigns enable you to share heartwarming impact stories, fundraising updates, and more.

Donorbox Crowdfunding lets you create crowdfunding pages with a detailed – yet easy-to-use – donation form, an updates tab, a virtual donor wall, social media sharing buttons, and a subscription option for visitors. You can email campaign updates to your donors and subscribers right from the page!

Here’s an example of a powerful year-end crowdfunding campaign created on Donorbox.

end of year appeal

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2. Give donors the opportunity to fundraise for you

A lot of supporters from your existing donor base would love to be more involved in your cause. Peer-to-peer fundraising enables you to turn these supporters into advocates for your mission! With peer-to-peer, supporters simply create a fundraising page and raise money through their networks.

Donorbox Peer-to-Peer makes the process a breeze for you. All you have to do is create a peer-to-peer campaign on Donorbox and invite supporters who agree to fundraise! Then, it’s easy for them to create and customize their fundraising pages to share with their families and friends.

Here’s how Macey Mayhugh helped Embraced International’s year-end campaign by raising money for them. Check out this guide for more peer-to-peer fundraising advice!

year end appeal

3. Video appeals

Video appeals are another way to catch your donors’ eyes and reach new people!  You can use a video to tell your beneficiaries’ stories, interview nonprofit leaders, and use creative storytelling to share the impact your organization has on the world.

Share these videos on your website, in your email appeals, and on your social media accounts. Just be sure to keep your video short – usually under three minutes long – to keep viewers engaged!

4. Website appeals

If you’re sending cards, postcards, emails, or posting on social media, you’ll want to add a dedicated year-end giving page to your website. Add compelling images, your beneficiary story, and a donation form to your webpage to encourage people to give.

You’ll also want to place a call-to-action button on your homepage with a link to your end-of-year giving page. Make sure your button is easy to see and use!

If you don’t want to create a new page, that’s fine – simply add a button to your homepage and link it to a pop-up year-end donation form. Donorbox makes it easy to add a pop-up donation form that is simple and quick for your donors to use.

5. Phone calls

Phone calls will give your end-of-year appeal another level of personalized communication. They are also the best way to connect with major donors.

As you start prospecting for major donors, find reasons to reach out and discuss their interests and impact on the organization. Remember not to ask for a significant gift until you’ve built a solid relationship! It’s also best for a board member or executive director to ask for that donation.

Besides major donors, a phone-a-thon can be a fun and creative way to reach out to donors. Ask volunteers to join you for an evening. You can make it a party, order some food, divide your donor list, hand out a script, and make calls asking for donations.

Samples of Engaging Year-End Appeals

Looking for inspiration? Check out this series of mailed, email, and social media appeals that combine to form a cohesive and impactful end-of-year fundraising campaign.

First, we recommend sending your mailed year-end appeal letter, like this one –

Sample mailed appeal letter

Then, launch your email campaign with an email appeal. Notice in this sample that we have adapted the messaging from the mailed appeal letter – no need to start from scratch!

Be sure to follow up your first email appeal with a second that increases the sense of urgency as your campaign winds down, like this one –

Follow-up end-of-year appeal email

Throughout your campaign, take your appeal to social media by breaking up your beneficiary’s story across several posts. This keeps your audience engaged and coming back for more – plus, it makes donors feel as if they are helping a beneficiary in real time. Be sure to add a campaign-specific hashtag to tie them all together!

Here’s a close-up of a social media appeal –

End-of-year appeal social post

And here is a sample of what a series of social posts could look like as part of your year-end fundraising campaign!

Social Appeal Series of Posts

Finally, you should always thank your donors throughout and following every campaign! Here’s an example of a thank-you email –

Thank-You Email example

Final Thoughts

Your end-of-year appeals are some of the most vital you will send all year. Nonprofits that create a plan and choose a realistic fundraising goal often see success. Plus, you can raise more money by segmenting donors, personalizing appeal letters, and including a matching gift option.

Organizations can also use campaign-specific hashtags, a website landing page, crowdfunding campaigns, and videos to create more excitement and inspire more gifts.

For more insights and tips on year-end giving, check out the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the best Donorbox resources in your inbox every month.

You’ve seen a number of examples of how nonprofits are using Donorbox to level up their year-end appeals and campaigns. To further explore the features and learn more about how we help nonprofits help others, click here.

Donorbox Premium is a success package designed to help elevate your fundraising efforts during the giving season and beyond! Get expert coaching, the best combination of tools for your organization, priority tech support, and more. Book your demo today!

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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