14 Steps to the Perfect End-of-Year Giving Campaign
The giving season is a great opportunity for nonprofits to meet their fundraising goals. Between deciding which channels to use, which donor segments to focus on, and creating all necessary fundraising materials and tools, crafting a good end-of-year giving campaign can be complex. Check out these steps to help you make the most of your year-end appeal.
The end-of-year giving season is a great opportunity for nonprofits to boost their annual fundraising.
Approximately 30% of all annual giving occurs in December and around 10% occurs in the last three days of December. 28% of nonprofits raise between 26 – 50% of their annual funds for their year-end ask!
Between deciding which channels to use, which donor segments to focus on, and creating all the fundraising materials and tools, crafting and executing a good end-of-year giving campaign, however, can be complex.
Luckily, there’s a ton of information out there to help you connect to your donors and sharpen your fundraising strategies and tactics. For example, this step-by-step guide will help you plan and execute your year-end appeal!
You can also watch this webinar recording to see fundraising experts Jena Lynch and Cara Augspurger discuss how to plan and create the most successful year-end giving campaign –
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First, let’s outline why the end-of-year season is such a popular time for donors to give.
Why is Year-End Giving So Popular?
The increase in end-of-year donations has to do in part with the holiday season, which inspires more generosity and good will. Many nonprofits use Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., as the kick-off of their end-of-year giving campaigns. Also, many donors choose to give their last donations for the tax year before the cut-off to increase their tax deductions. All donations made before midnight on December 31st count!
How to Nail Your End-of-Year Giving Campaign in 2023 (Step-by-Step)
Step 1: Start Planning Early
Approximately 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end fundraising campaign by October. It makes sense to start planning early if you want to ensure the success of your year-end campaign – especially since so many fundraising appeals go out at the same time (which can overwhelm donors and staff).
It also makes sense to plan early so that you can prepare all the tools needed to accomplish your objectives. Here are some basic tools you should have in your toolbox for end-of-year giving –
September is the ideal time to start planning your end-of-year giving campaign.
Step 2: Review Your Last End-of-Year Giving Campaign
Before you start working on your 2023 fundraising strategy, review your 2022 efforts. Sometimes, this is the most important step a nonprofit can take when planning its year-end campaign. Data can be a powerful guide as to which direction your organization should take and which tools to use.
It’s smart to refresh your memory on the following –
How did last year’s campaign go?
How much was raised? Who contributed?
Was this above or below your expectations?
What went really well? What didn’t? Why?
Which strategies and tactics did your supporters respond to?
Which ones weren’t successful?
As time allows, it could be helpful to also review how those 2022 funds helped further your nonprofit mission in 2023.
If possible, get as many relevant stakeholders as possible on board with this review. Discuss successes and challenges, and brainstorm how to do better this year. How will you surmount the challenges this time around? Pro tip: Use this free Rose, Bud, and Thorn worksheet to evaluate your 2022 end-of-year giving campaign and see how you can improve this year!
This will provide a solid foundation for your 2023 year-end giving.
Step 3: Look At Where You’re At
Once you review your past campaign’s performance, it’s time to take a look at where you’re at in this present moment.
3.1. Fiscal Situation
How’s your budget? How has the financial situation changed since last year’s year-end giving? How close are you to meeting your financial goals for this year?
Understanding where you are finances-wise can help your nonprofit team set realistic but inspiring goals and understand which strategies to employ (e.g. how much money is available to invest in your end-of-the-year fundraising).
You can also use this information as you write your fundraising appeals.
3.2. State of Operations
In addition to looking at your fiscal situation, take some time to look at the overall state of your nonprofit. How close are you to achieving all of your goals? Which programs are doing really well? In which areas are you lagging behind?
This can help you have a clearer perspective on your end-of-year fundraising.
3.3. Opportunities Available to You
Take stock of the opportunities available to you right now. Are you waiting to hear back on any grant proposals? Is there a foundation you haven’t connected with yet? A prospective major donor you’re currently cultivating?
The fewer opportunities identified, the more dedicated you may need to be to your end-of-year giving campaign. While you should be ready to give this campaign your all either way, it’s important to have a clear picture of the possibilities for your contributed income moving forward.
Step 4: Set Smart Goals
To succeed and progress, nonprofit organizations must set specific, incremental goals, stay resilient, and keep themselves accountable.
One of the most popular goal-setting methods is the SMART method. In 1981, George Duran outlined a helpful objective-setting system in his article, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Since 1981, variations of the SMART model have made their way into organizations, businesses, schools, and even into the personal development arena.
SMART is an acronym for –
Specific – The goal should deal with a specific area of performance or a specific nonprofit KPI.
Measurable – The goal should be measurable, not subjective.
Attainable – The goal should be ambitious but remain within the realm of possibility.
Relevant – The goal should be connected to the overall mission and vision of the organization.
Time-bound – The goal should have a deadline.
Set SMART goalsfor your end-of-year giving campaign. Setting SMART goals helps your nonprofit have clarity, stay on track, and stay motivated. As you finalize your goals, highlight the fundraising goal on your online giving page. It helps educate people on how much you need and also creates a sense of urgency among them to help you meet the goal.
Look at howUnited Sound highlighted their fundraising goal and surpassed it with only 53 donations!
Now that you are familiar with last year’s campaign and you have a clearer idea of where you’re at as an organization, you can start planning your 2023 year-end giving campaign.
Before you start brainstorming ideas for activities and tactics, it’s good to recap which resources you have access to at the moment –
Recap your goals (from Step 4). What amount of money are you hoping to fundraise?
What’s your budget for this campaign?
How much time do you have?
How many people can and will be working on the end-of-year giving campaign?
Which materials can be reused?
Can your board help?
What about your volunteers?
Once you have a better idea of what you have at your disposal, you’ll be able to create a more informed and realistic plan to get all those end-of-the-year donations flowing in.
Step 6: Figure Out The Big Picture & The Team
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the activities (e.g. designing your social media posts or creating a promo video), it’s helpful to look at the scope of your campaign to figure out the big picture.
Who are you trying to reach? Why?
Where are you going to find them?
How long will your campaign last?
What does success look like to you? How are you going to track it?
Who is on the campaign team? What are their main responsibilities?
Again, don’t go into too many details just yet (we’re getting to that). This step is only meant to provide an overview of your end-of-year giving campaign.
Step 7: Think About Your Audience
In order to execute the most effective and successful end-of-year marketing campaigns possible, you’ll need to think about your audience first.
It’s impossible to craft a good message if you don’t know who the message is addressed to!
Pro tip: Before the campaign officially launches, you’ll want to have your thank-you letters ready to go for later.
7.1. Create Donor Segments
To craft a really good message, your supporters should feel like you’re in their shoes – like you’re speaking directly to them and their experience. However, it’s not realistic for any organization to create individual messages for every single donor and supporter.
This is why it’s essential to segment your audience for your end-of-year campaign communications. Audience segmentation basically means that you’re dividing your donors into groups based on their behavior or traits. There are many different ways in which you can segment donors. How much segmentation you’ll do will depend on the resources you have at your disposal (primarily time and human resources available).
For example, you can segment your audience into three main groups: current donors, lapsed donors, and prospective donors. You can also segment your donors based on gift sizes.
Use your existing data to make your appeal sound like it was written just for each reader.
For example, you can include constituent data (like names, last gift amounts, or last gift date) to let your donors know that you care about them.
Utilize Donor Management
To do this, having a donor management system is essential. Donorbox Donor Management lets you segment donor records based on a number of filters such as location, donation amounts, donation frequency, campaign, time frame, and more and personalize your messages accordingly.
During this process, many nonprofits choose to identify big donors (those who have given large gifts in the past). However, it is a good idea to also reach out to donors who usually give in smaller amounts.
For lower-level donors, you should ideally run acrowdfunding campaign. The whole idea of crowdfunding depends on meeting a fundraising goal based on small donations from a crowd of people. Nonprofits that have a lot of such donors should definitely opt for this fundraising method for their end-of-year giving.
Donorbox Crowdfunding lets you create a crowdfunding page and add the essential elements of success to it. These elements include an updates tab, a virtual donor wall, a popup donation form, a subscribe button for potential donors and visitors, social media sharing buttons, the ability to send emails to subscribers, and a goal thermometer. You can also add images and videos to the campaign description for more effectiveness.
You can also turn on peer-to-peer fundraising for your fundraising campaign. This helps boost donations and outreach even more. It’s rather simple with Donorbox Peer-to-Peer. Just toggle a switch on an existing campaign to enable this feature and invite your supporters (volunteers, board members, donors, staff members, friends, and family) to fundraise. They receive email invitations to sign up and get guidance on the tool to create their own fundraising pages.
You see, targeting the right audience has many perks. Some will make donations while also getting you more donations from their networks (and new donors!).
Who you target will vary based on your current donor base, the local community, and your prospective donor research. The type of end-of-year campaign you should run will also depend on your target audience. You will have to personalize yourcommunications accordingly and reach out to each type of donor with the right suggested donation amount. Read on to learn more about this.
Step 8: Decide on Theme and Messaging
Once you’ve figured out who you’re messaging, you can start creating your end-of-year fundraising content. Before you dive into creating these specific messages and targeted appeals, decide on your theme. Your campaign theme will tie everything together – it’s the narrative that will be present in all of your fundraising appeals. It’s what your campaign is about!
Also, remember to keep your appeals and all other messaging short, clear, and interesting.
8.1 Tell a story of impact
Your messages should always be about how donors make animpact, how they help change lives, and how their donations matter.
This is where storytelling will come in handy. As we’ve highlighted multiple times on our Nonprofit Blog here at Donorbox, people respond to people. Emotions also trigger individuals and inspire giving.
When you share impact stories, try to focus on a single individual who represents the beneficiaries you’re helping through your mission. It’s much easier for people to connect and empathize with a single individual than it is with a group.
8.2 Personalization is key
Personalize your messages – letters, emails, thank-yous, surveys, every single communication piece. Address your donor by their name as you start writing your appeal letter. Mention how much they donated in the past and the specific impact that donation helped you make. As you make a donation appeal, mention suggested amounts that match their giving ability to make them feel comfortable. All this will ensure your appeals are effective in bringing in more donations.
Now is the time to start working on that timeline. Your end-of-year giving campaign should last no longer than six weeks. It is true that #GivingTuesday extends the year-end giving period by a bit, so you can use it as a benchmark of when to start with the year-end campaign appeals.
It’s important to note that most giving happens in December (and most of it in the last three days), so have that in mind when creating your timeline.
Our suggestion is to start off with Giving Tuesday. If you’re worried that theGiving Tuesday campaign will distract from the year-end push, work through different channels and address different audiences. For example, you could promote your Giving Tuesday campaign solely through social media and exclusively to recurring donors with small gift sizes. Focusing on unengaged and low-end donors could help make sure that your target audience and your major donors are “saved” for later.
The entire campaign team, if not the entire nonprofit team (depending on the size of your nonprofit), should have access to the end-of-year campaign timeline. Responsibilities and deadlines should be clearly indicated. Consider having weekly check-ins – daily towards the final push – to review progress and check in.
Step 10: Make the Ask
Now is the time to select your communication channels. Depending on your target audience (Step 7) and the theme you decided to go for (Step 8), choose appropriate channels for delivering your end-of-year fundraising appeal.
Here are a couple of communication channels you could consider:
Whatever channel or combination of channels you end up choosing, triple-check that they’re appropriate for your audience, and then start crafting the channel-specific asks.
Also, be sure to select KPIs (metrics) to track for each of the communication channels you selected so that you can measure success during and at the end of the campaign.
Main ingredients of a successful year-end ask –
Keep it donor-centric: This is not about your financial struggles, it’s about how the donor can help make an impact.
Keep it human: People respond to people, not organizations. Focus as much of your ask as possible on a single story.
Use the power of storytelling: Stories engage and evoke emotions. This inspires action – in this case, year-end donations.
Include a clear call to action: Be sure to include a clear call to action in most – if not all – messaging. This helps increase the number of donations because you are telling the reader exactly what you want them to do.
Establish giving levels: It’s crucial to provide suggested giving levels to increase the likelihood that you reach your fundraising goals. Look at your past donations to see if there are certain levels that come up frequently and choose that as your suggested amount. However, always be sure to leave a blank amount for those supporters who would prefer to give a different amount. Include these levels in your donation form as well so when you redirect donors to the donation page, they can choose the amount and complete the donation. Here’s how Winter Growth Inc. does this with their year-end donation form.
We love how they include descriptions for each donation level that demonstrate the impact of that amount!
Pro tip: Don’t use the exact same content across all channels, as each one has a different target audience as well as a different style. This may sound obvious, but it can be forgotten when the team is short on time or in a high-stress environment! Instead, you can repurpose your content to save time – just make sure you are adjusting it for each channel.
Most importantly, make sure you’re using the right platform!
Be sure to triple-check that your donation system and yourdonation page are in tip-top shape. With online giving increasing every year, the donation form on your website will be the place many donors seek out to make their gifts. Your website and your donation page must be sleek, fast, responsive, and trustworthy.
Check out Donorbox, a state-of-the-art donation system that will make your year-end giving campaign run smoothly and effectively. Donorbox offers fast checkout, safe and secure giving, multiple payment methods, andso much more. With Donorbox, you can easily start your end-of-the-year online giving campaign with crowdfunding, text-to-give, peer-to-peer fundraising, online event-ticketing forms, and more.
Once you’ve selected your communication channels and crafted customized appeals, make the ask!
Step 11: Conquer In-Person Giving
Part of your end-of-year fundraising strategy should include making the most of any in-person events or activities you have planned. Collecting donations in person is a great way to convert event attendees, volunteers, and others interested in your mission into donors!
To do this, you need to ensure you have the tools required for swift in-person giving. Donorbox has you covered!
The Donorbox Live™ Kiosk app turns a tablet and card reader into an easy-to-use donation kiosk. With this tool, donors can quickly give their end-of-year gifts with their credit cards, debit cards, smartphones, and smartwatches.
Text-to-Give is another great tool for fast, in-person giving in an increasingly cashless world. With Donorbox, all your donors have to do is text your custom keyword or unique campaign ID to Donorbox’s shortcode or Text-to-Give phone number. Then they’ll receive a link to your donation form, where they can donate. When they want to repeat their donation, they can do so over text!
Finally, QR codes are a fantastic way to quickly connect your in-person donors with your end-of-year giving campaign online. All they have to do is scan your QR code and make their donation. Every Donorbox campaign receives a free, automatically generated QR code, so you never have to worry about making one yourself. This saves you time during this hectic end-of-the-year season – and every second counts.
Step 12: Follow Through
The work doesn’t stop when you make the ask. After you send out your initial year-end fundraising appeals, it’s time to start following through.
Donors need to be reminded throughout the campaign to donate. Include a call to action in every message you send out via your selected communication channels. However, pay attention to the number and frequency of your asks. Donors should be reminded, but not spammed. Some suggest a ratio of five to one (five ‘touches’ maximum towards one person) during the year-end campaign.
Again, you’ll know your audience best. Focus on those donor segments that are the most likely to give, and constantly measure (as much as possible) the return on investment of your efforts.
Start your follow-up soon after your audience has received the original appeal, and vary your follow-up appeals across multiple channels.
Continue your follow-up appeals throughout the rest of your end-of-year campaign, even down to the last minute. A lot of donations pour in the very last day of the year!
Step 13: Thank, Thank, Recognize
Ideally, you should have your thank-you materials created before the start of the campaign. There aren’t enough words to highlight the importance of thanking donors for their contributions. Acknowledging your supporters makes them feel valued and appreciated, and shows them that their actions have a positive impact – which is why many people donate.
Giving out thank yous also increases the chances of donors coming back and donating again and helps set the foundation for strong and positive relationships with them. Donors who feel valued are also more likely to speak positively about your nonprofit and encourage their family and friends to donate too.
No matter the size of the gift, send a personalized thank you as soon as possible. This thank you should not include an additional ask. Instead, it should reiterate the impact of the donation and express gratitude.
You might also want to consider publicly recognizing your donors – either on social media or during various PR opportunities. This can be a tricky one because some donors would appreciate this and feel even more valued, while some would wish to stay more anonymous, so always ask first.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to thank your staff and volunteers too. They helped make everything happen, but can sometimes be left out. End-of-year campaigning can be very labor-intensive and stressful, so you want to make your team feel recognized and appreciated. Regardless of the results of the campaign, take some time to celebrate the hard work of your staff and volunteers.
Step 14: Measure and Analyze
You’ve done it! Your year-end fundraising campaign is done. After a lot of hard work, you’re finally at the finish line.
You and your entire team must be tired and ready for a break – but there’s still an important step to complete.
Now that the campaign is over, you’ll want to:
Go through your KPIs and track results for each channel and each donor segment.
Answer: What went well? What didn’t? Why?
Update your donor management system to make sure all the donations and all the donors are properly recorded.
Answer: Which call to action was the most effective? What about the channel? Message? Why?
You’ll also want to debrief the results with your team and reflect on the campaign. Think about what you learned and what you can implement in next year’s campaign.
It’s important to have these findings, data, and discussions recorded in one way or another – so that they’re accessible for next year’s planning. This is how an organization learns and improves, and this is how you’ll become more successful each year.
The end-of-year giving campaign is one of the most important initiatives a nonprofit will tackle in any year. It requires planning, hard work, commitment, a lean and agile approach to work, learning fast, and listening to supporters and donors.
End-of-year giving also requires a nonprofit team to come together and work on a common goal. It thrives on communication and transparency. It’s one of the best opportunities to meet your nonprofit’s financial goals.
However, the year-end giving season should not be solely relied on for meeting financial goals. Don’t wait until the end of the year to try and meet your fundraising goals in one go. It’s not only unrealistic but also creates a stressful environment for everyone involved. Keep your fundraising efforts steady and spread out throughout the year, and use the year-end campaign as the cherry on top.
Good luck from theDonorbox team! We hope that this guide will help you to outline and develop a year-end fundraising campaign that works for your nonprofit. If you need further help, you’rejust a click away from getting started for free! There’s no sign-up fee for Donorbox, no monthly contracts, and no need for documentation. Start fundraising in about 15 minutes from now!
Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Our Nonprofit Blog is packed with how-to articles to help you tackle year-round fundraising. Our Library has tons of free downloadable resources to share with your team. Check out The Nonprofit Podcast, where experts weigh in on today’s top fundraising concerns and possibilities. And take a course in our Donorbox Academy to learn more about fundraising strategy and using Donorbox. Plus, our YouTube channel is packed with webinars, how-to videos, and more!
Ilma Ibrisevic is a content creator and nonprofit writer. She’s passionate about meaningful work, sustainability, and social movements. If she’s not working, she’s obsessing over coffee or cooking. You can connect with her on Linkedin.