6 Helpful Tips for Nonprofit Giving Season

On average, nonprofits raise a little over a quarter of their annual revenue in December - which is why having a solid plan for the giving season is so important! If you’re not giving your fundraising efforts an extra push at this time, you risk missing out. This article will help you with six essential tips to make your season of giving a successful one.

10 minutes read
6 Helpful Tips for Nonprofit Giving Season

The last quarter of the year – often called the giving season – is a great time for fundraising. December is often the busiest time of year for donations. Around 31% of total donations are made in December alone and 12% come in the final three days of the year.

This article will help you with the six essential tips to make your season of giving as successful as possible.

*Annual revenue statistic source: M+R Benchmarks

Why Giving Season Needs an Action Plan

Just because donors can be more likely to give at the end of the year, doesn’t mean you should automatically assume they will. You need to have innovative but fast-to-implement ideas for days like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, etc. Along with that, prior planning and a fundraising strategy are needed to make those ideas successful.

Many nonprofit organizations hold back a sizeable chunk of their marketing budget for giving season. Allocating 30-35% is reasonable because donation rates are much higher in the last quarter of the calendar year. This budget and a corresponding plan can help your organization make the most of donor generosity throughout this season of giving.

But don’t panic if you don’t have a plan in place yet! We’ll walk you through how to maximize donations.

6 Tips to Maximize Donations During The Season of Giving

Not sure how to make the most of your year-end fundraising drive? Use these tips to guide your efforts.

Tip 1: Create an Effective Campaign

To get the most from the holiday season, look at it from a complete campaign perspective. This can help your organization plan ahead and take advantage of the giving spike.

1.1 Look Back at Last Year’s Numbers

Did your nonprofit get involved in Giving Tuesday last year? Look back at your successes and where you could improve.

A few helpful questions to ask include –

  • What was the theme of your campaign last year?
  • How many supporters did you reach out to during the fundraising season?
  • How many donations did you receive?
  • How often are these supporters engaging with your organization?
  • How much did you raise in total during this time?
  • How many donations came through your donation page?
  • How many donations came through other channels? (And what were those channels?)
  • How many major gifts did you receive?
  • What type of channels did you use to promote your campaign last year?
  • How did you follow up with donors afterward?

If your donation page didn’t attract and convert many donors last season, look at how you can improve this. Are you making the donation process too complicated? Was there not a clear call to action or a compelling story?

Also, think about the donor demographics your nonprofit organization targeted last holiday season. How successful was this targeting? Where could you improve?

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1.2 Set Fundraising Goals

How much do you plan to raise? Set some SMART fundraising goals to help plan your year-end giving campaign.

Your goals should be –

  • Specific – Is your year-end giving goal specific and not vague? Tying your giving or holiday season goals back to your mission can help make them more specific.
  • Measurable – Is it easy to tell when you’ve reached your goal(s)? Setting a target amount can make it simple to track your progress.
  • Attainable – Is your target a realistic amount that you might raise by the end of the season? Referring back to previous totals can help.
  • Relevant – How does your fundraising season goal link to your organization’s work? What impact do donors have when they give to your campaign?
  • Time-Based – SMART fundraising goals always have a deadline. That’s easy here – this campaign finishes at the end of the year!

1.3 Tell Emotional Stories Through Your Campaign

Powerful fundraising campaigns create empathy with your donors. Storytelling can play a key role in this. Promote the human aspects of your work to appeal to the emotions of your supporters. High-quality images, videos, and descriptions of your nonprofit’s work can also drive emotions.

Also, pick a theme for your year-end campaign – this helps nonprofits stay consistent with the messages sent in the last quarter of the year. Note that your theme may be completely different from campaigns you’ve run during the rest of the year!

And be sure to use “you” language to put your donors at the center of your campaign, instead of focusing on what your nonprofit does. This helps them feel they can make a real difference through their year-end giving.

The best place to use storytelling is directly on your fundraising page. Donorbox makes it easy to upload images and videos to your donation page so that you can tell an even more compelling story. Just look at this example from Sentient Media! They put thought-provoking text and a video right up front to grab visitors’ attention and surpassed their fundraising goal for the giving season.

Sentient Media's 2022 Year-End Campaign

1.4 Set Out Your Campaign Timeline

Your campaign plans need to start early to take the stress out of your year-end fundraising goals.

This allows your nonprofit organization to take the time to effectively plan your communications, especially around Giving Tuesday. You don’t want to be scrambling to do everything last minute – this makes it more likely you’ll miss out on donations.

Your campaign timeline should look something like this –

  • September – Set your goals, confirm your campaign theme, and look back at past campaigns. This is also the prime time to ensure you’re fit to fundraise and that you have all the tools you need. 
  • October – Write your year-end campaign and optimize your donation channels. Choose which types of campaigns you will launch – crowdfunding, peer-to-peer, text-to-give, etc.
  • November – Launch your campaigns. Start reaching out to donors through mailed appeals, emails, and social media. Many organizations choose to kick off year-end campaigns on Giving Tuesday!
  • December – Evaluate progress and assess the need for more outreach. Remember the five-to-one rule – it takes at least five touches to receive one donation. 

Your initial outreach can show the impact your campaign will have. Follow this up with a second round that specifically asks for donations. Lots of people are also looking for ways to reduce their taxes in the last quarter of the year and your year-end campaign can cover this topic as well.

Tip 2: Promote Your Campaign

Ready to put together your year-end campaign? Try these tips for writing and promoting it!

2.1 Segment Your Existing Donors

Leveraging your existing donors is a simple way to get more from fundraising season.

You can use donor management tools to see when they last donated. People who have only just donated may not want to give again during this season, for example.

This can help you focus more of your efforts on people who may donate at this time of year.

You can also segment by average gift size and recurring donors versus one-time donors. This can help personalize your emails in line with donor history.

Pro tip: If certain donors have a history of year-end giving, first send them an email sharing the impact of last year’s donation and thank them for giving. You can introduce them to this year’s campaign in your next set of communications.

Pro tip: Segmenting your donors helps you see if you have good candidates for year-end giving. You can reach out to these donors, especially if they have a history of above-average gifts. With Donorbox Donor Management, you can segment your donors by important filters such as locations, donation amounts, donation frequency, campaign, time frame, and more. Here’s what it looks like –

Get Started With Donorbox

2.2 Sharing Stats on Donations

While storytelling will provide donors with a sense of the qualitative value of their donations, some donors like to see the quantitative data too. That’s where infographics come in. 

Because infographics are in visual form, they’re easy to digest. People can understand important information at a glance. Infographics are ideal for showcasing facts, statistics, and lists. Typically, you’ll include infographics in your annual report, but you can also share them on social media and in email campaigns.

Pro tip: Create infographics that include key information about how donations are spent. Take a look at our infographics template post for more ideas on how you can put these visuals to work.

2.3 Use Online Communications Effectively

Email, blog posts, and social media can be great ways to keep in touch with donors and encourage them to give.

Focus your nonprofit communications on your donors and the impact their donations will have. You can also reference how donations were spent in previous years.

First, introduce your campaign and then ask for donations later on. This warms up your donors and helps build stronger connections before you ask them to give.

Pro tip: It’s tempting to ramp up your communications as the season comes to a close, but it’s a fine line. If your emails and social media posts are too frequent, it can be off-putting for donors. Limit your communications to once per day and make the most of those messages.

2.4 Consider Offline Communications

Not everything needs to be online! In fact, fundraising appeal letters still bring in a good portion of giving season donations for many organizations. Check out this blog to learn more about writing an effective appeal. 

Fundraising postcards can also grab donors’ attention when they collect their mail. Physical mail is becoming less common these days, so these postcards and letters will stand out. Sure, your donors are probably getting holiday cards but many organizations will do things online!

Keep your appeal messages heartfelt – remember, you don’t have much time to grab and keep a donor’s attention, so you’ll need to stand out! In the letter, include a QR code linking directly to your donation form. This makes giving quick and easy – all donors have to do is scan and pay! A free QR code is automatically generated for every Donorbox campaign, so simply download it and add it to your letter or postcard design.

Pro tip: As you’re sending out communication pieces, remember to keep track of any takeaways, feedback, important suggestions, etc. Online or offline, Donorbox’s donor management tools let you keep track of all communication notes in detailed donor records. Whenever you communicate with your donors, you can open the respective donor record on Donorbox and add any communication notes to it. Choose the channel of communication and the direction (as shown below) while adding notes. This helps keep track of all details to personalize communication pieces and better manage your donors in the long run.

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2.5 Promote on Social Media and Google

This time of the year is a great time to reach out to new donors. Many people are looking for an organization to support and – if your mission resonates with them – they’ll likely jump on board and donate.

Facebook and Instagram ads can help you reach your goals, but it’s crucial to have a plan and budget before you get started. Ad costs can spiral if you don’t set a budget or have a specific idea of what you want to achieve. During this season, your end goal is likely donations or encouraging potential donors to visit your website – make this the primary focus for your call-to-action.

Google Ad Grants are another low-cost way to put your organization in front of new supporters. Take a look at our Google Ad Grants guide for tips on how to apply and maximize your grant credit.

Note – many organizations allocate at least a third of their marketing budget to this!

Tip 3: Optimize Your Donation Page

Before your campaign launches, think about whether you can improve your donation page.

What if your donation page makes it too complicated or time-consuming to take action? You can miss out on the extra donations that occur during the giving season.

You also want to offer a seamless checkout process to maximize the number of donors who will give in the last quarter of the year.

Not sure if your donation page is giving donors a user-friendly experience? Some helpful questions to ask include:

  • Is your donation page mobile-friendly? A lot of donors use their smartphones to donate.
  • Can donors see the impact their contributions will have? Donation tiers are an effective way to do this and can encourage donors to give more.
  • Is your donate button easy to see? If donors have to hunt around for your donate button, they may decide not to give.

With Donorbox Donation Pages, it’s easy for nonprofit organizations to create a branded and optimized donation page that converts more donors. You can host your donation page on Donorbox, embed your giving forms on your website, or have them pop up on your website to grab donors’ attention. Plus, enable UltraSwift™ Pay to let donors check out even faster with the digital wallet of their choice.

You can further optimize your donation page by accepting donations of stock and cryptocurrency. Thanks to Donorbox’s integration with The Giving Block, you can easily accept these types of donations – meaning donors have even more ways to give.

Create a Customized Donation Page

Tip 4: Get Your Board Members Involved

Your board members can be great advocates for your year-end campaign.

A couple of ways you can get board members involved include –

  • Encourage board members to write thank-you notes to donors. You can also ask them to simply sign thank yous or add a postscript at the end of appeal letters. Or, ask them to sign holiday cards!
  • Arrange for board members to meet with major donors to champion your year-end campaign.
  • Have board members solicit their companies for matching gift possibilities.

Tip 5: Leverage In-Person Giving

People are busy at the end of the year – so making your ask in person at any end-of-the-year events or activities can sometimes snag a donation before someone forgets. But, in an increasingly cashless world, you need to have digital fundraising tools on hand! 

Donorbox has you covered with a suite of cashless giving tools designed to harness as many in-person donations as possible. 

The Donorbox Live™ Kiosk app turns your iPad or Android tablet and card reader into a nimble donation kiosk that you can use to collect donations at your year-end events. You can also place a permanent giving kiosk in your lobby or other location throughout the giving season! Donors use Donorbox Live™ to quickly give with just a few taps and a swipe, tap, or dip of a credit card, debit card, smartphone, or smartwatch.

For mobile giving, utilize Text-to-Give or QR codes. Donorbox Text-to-Give is super easy for your donors and for you! Simply enable it on your campaign and share the shortcode or ID with your donors. They’ll text it to the Text-to-Give number and receive a link to your online donation form, where they will complete their donation.

With QR codes, all donors have to do is scan with their smartphones and give! You’ll find your free, customizable QR code on your Donorbox campaign dashboard.

Tip 6: Follow Up On Donations

Once supporters have donated, act quickly with a receipt and thank you to confirm their tax-deductible donations.

You should also follow up later with a personal thank-you note to build stronger connections with donors. Sending holiday cards is a great way to do this during the giving season!

Pro tip: With Donorbox, a tax-compliant receipt is automatically sent to donors as soon as they complete their donation. You can customize these receipts in your Donorbox account settings.

Over to You

The final quarter of the year is very significant for charitable giving and many organizations find that it’s the time of year that’s most likely to bring in donations.

Producing an effective giving season fundraising campaign involves thoughtful and donor-centric communication with a clearly established timeline. But it’s also so important to have the right tools for the job! 

Donorbox has the products, features, and resources to be your one-stop shop for the giving season! Whether you’re just starting out or are looking to revamp your fundraising, we have you covered with sleek donation pages, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer functionality, in-person giving, and more.

Plus, our Nonprofit Blog is full of resources to help you conquer every step of your fundraising journey. We have tons of free, downloadable resources in the Donorbox Library and carefully curated courses in Donorbox Academy to help you get started. New episodes of The Nonprofit Podcast premiere weekly to motivate and inspire you as you launch your giving season fundraising strategy. And our YouTube channel is always stocked with useful info and how-to videos. 

Preparing for the giving season takes time, but when the donations start rolling in, you’ll be glad you laid the groundwork! Get started with Donorbox today.

Sally Aquire is a copywriter with a background in crafting communications and fundraising for a women's center. She writes about fundraising, nonprofit management, and wellness initiatives.

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