Year-end giving is a great opportunity for nonprofits to meet their fundraising goals.
Approximately 31% of all annual giving occurs in December and approximately 12% of all annual giving occurs in the last three days of December. 28% of nonprofits raise between 26 – 50% of their annual funds for their year-end ask.
This is why the year-end giving season is a big deal.
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 year-end fundraising campaign can be complex.
Luckily, there’s a ton of information out there to help you connect to your donors and meet your fundraising goals.
To make sure you’re making the most of your year-end appeal, we’ve created this guide.
This is how to nail year-end giving in 2018:
Step 1: Start Planning Early
Approximately 52% of nonprofits start planning their year-end ask in 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 (e.g. donation system, text giving tools, matching gifts etc.).
September is the ideal time to start planning your end of year giving campaign.
Step 2: Review Your 2017 Year-End Campaign
Before you start working on your 2018 campaign, review your 2017 efforts. Sometimes, this is the most important step a nonprofit can take when planning their year-end campaign. Data can be a powerful guide as to what direction your organization should take and which tools to use.
It’s smart to, at this point, refresh your memory:
– How did the last year’s campaign go?
– How much was raised? Who contributed?
– Was this above or below the expected?
– What went really well? What didn’t? Why?
– Which strategies and tactics did your supporters respond to?
– Which ones weren’t successful?
If you have time, it could be helpful to also review how those 2017 funds helped further your nonprofit mission in 2018.
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?
This will provide a solid foundation for 2018 year-end giving.
Step 3: Look At Where You’re At
Once you reviewed the things of the past, 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 year-end fundraising).
You can also use this information to phrase 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 2018 goals? Which programs are doing really well? In which areas are you lagging behind?
This can help you have a clearer perspective over your year-end fundraising.
Step 4: Set Goals
To succeed and progress, nonprofit organizations must set specific, incremental goals and 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 KPI.
Measurable – The goal should be measurable, not subjective.
Attainable – The goal should be ambitious, but remaining 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 goals for your end of year giving campaign. Setting SMART goals helps your nonprofit have clarity, stay on track, and it aids the staff to stay motivated and on track.
Don’t be afraid to get creative though – end of year giving can help increase your public profile, help you acquire new donors, and establish yourself as the leader in your impact area.
Step 5: See What You Have
Now that you are familiar with the last year’s campaign and you have a clearer idea of where you’re at as an organization, you can start planning the 2018 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 disposal, you’ll be able to create a more informed and realistic plan to get all those 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 for?
– What is success 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 year-end campaign 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’ materials 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. 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 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.
To do this, having a donor management system is essential.
7.2. Identify Target Donors
Many nonprofits, during this process, choose to identify big donors (those who have given large gifts in the past). 60% of the funds you’ll raise during your annual campaign will be from major gifts, according to DonorSearch.
Take time to craft personalized messages and appeals to these individuals.
Your campaign team might also choose to focus on recurring (monthly) donors.
This step is really an interplay between investment and return on that investment. Will the efforts towards your target donors pay off in the future? It’s up to you and your nonprofit team to make the judgement call.
Step 8: Decide on Theme and Messaging
Once you’ve figured out who you’re messaging, you can start creating your fundraising messages. 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.
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. And emotions trigger individuals and inspire giving. Think about how you’ll tell the story to incite giving this giving season.
Once you start working on the messages, remember to keep them short, clear, and interesting.
Your messages should always be about how donors will be making an impact, how they will be helping change lives, how their donations matter. Read more about other fundraising trends here.
When you share stories, share stories of impact; and try to focus on a single individual who represents the beneficiaries you’re helping. It’s much easier for people to connect and empathize with a single individual than it is with a group.
Step 9: Create Your Timeline
Audience – check!
Theme and messaging – check!
Now is the time to start working on that timeline. Your end of year campaign should last no longer than 6 weeks. It is true that #GivingTuesday extended 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 (most of it in the last three days) – so have that in mind when creating your timeline.
Naturally, you’re the one that knows your audience the best – so you will know which timeline will work best.
Our suggestion is to start off with Giving Tuesday and start getting your supporters excited about giving. If you’re worried that Giving 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 (deptending on the size of your nonprofit), should have access to the year-end 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:
– Social Media
– In-person Meetings
Whatever channel or combination of channels you end up choosing, triple check they’re appropriate for your audience and then start crafting the channel-specific asks.
Design KPIs (metrics) for each of the communication channels you selected so that you can measure success during and at the end of the campaign.
Let’s recap the 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, donations.
– Go visual:
Visual content – like photos and videos – is much more effective than text in pulling the heartstrings.
– Include a clear call to action:
In most, if not all, messaging – include a clear call to action. This helps increase the number of donations.
– 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.
Make sure you create content for each communication channel. Don’t repurpose the same content and post it across all channels. For example, the type of content that’s successful on Instagram Stories is not the same one that you should put on flyers. This sounds obvious, but can be forgotten when the team is short on time or in a high-stress environment.
Make sure your donation system and your donation page are in tip-top shape. With online giving increasing every year, 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 enables fast checkout, safe and secure giving, multiple payment methods, and so much more.
Once you’ve selected your communication channels and crafted customized appeals, as well as created most of the necessary content, make the ask!
Step 11: Follow Through
The work doesn’t stop when you make the ask. After you sent out the 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 5 to 1 (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 the campaign, even down to the last minute. Don’t become idle – a lot of donations pour in the very last day of the year!
Step 12: Thank, Thank, Recognize
Ideally, you would 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. Thanking 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 your donors. Donors that 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 publically 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.
Don’t forget to thank your staff and volunteers too. They helped make everything happen, but can sometimes be left out of the ‘thank yous’. End of year campaigning can be very labor-intensive and stressful, so you want to make them feel recognized and appreciated. Regardless of the results of the campaign, take some time to celebrate the hard work with your staff and volunteers.
Step 13: Measure and Analyse
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?
Once you reeled all the data in, you’ll want to debrief the results with your team and reflect on the campaign. Think about what you learned and what you can implement in the next year’s end of year 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 year-end campaign is one of the most important initiatives a nonprofit will tackle in any giving year. It requires planning, hard work, commitment. It also requires a lean and agile approach to work, learning fast, and listening to supporters and donors.
It needs innovation, courage, and creativity.
End of year giving also requires a nonprofit team to come together and work on a common goal. It thrives of communication and transparency. It’s one of, if not the best opportunity to meet your nonprofit’s financial goals.
However, the year-end giving 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 a ‘cherry on the cake’.
Good luck from the Donorbox team! We hope that this guide will help you to outline and develop a year-end fundraising campaign that works for your nonprofit.