by Callie Flack, Account Director

In the world of nonprofit fundraising, there is no rest for the weary. While the rest of the world is focused on ghosts and goblins and the impending sugar high sure to last until Thanksgiving, if you are a nonprofit fundraiser, your fright is focused on meeting your annual fundraising goals by the end of the year. Communicating with your supporters is a year-round effort, but there is no more important time to do so than at the end of the year. And the time to start thinking about the best approach is now. Why is year-end fundraising so important?

  • Nearly 1/3 of annual giving occurs in December
  • 28% of nonprofits raise between 26-50% of their annual funds from year-end asks
  • 12% of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year


At Forum, we work with lots of nonprofits to create communications plans that tell their story and get questions about how to reach more people and raise more money through marketing efforts. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a secret sauce to guarantee more dollars through the door but there are a few key marketing strategies you can employ for your year-end appeals to help you effectively tell your story.

  1. Promote a special year-end appeal – This one seems simple, but just because people are more likely to give at the end of the year doesn’t mean they will automatically make a donation. You have to ask them! And the ask should be direct and specific. Your regular communication efforts such as quarterly newsletters are wonderful tools for highlighting the great work your organization is doing – not for asking for donations. Believe in the importance of your mission and craft a story that conveys the importance of receiving donations at this time of year. Effective stories are authentic and connect the donors with how they are helping solve a problem. What’s at stake if they do not support you? Make them the hero to your story – not your organization.
  2. Create a multi-channel campaign – Direct mail is the most popular medium for year-end appeals and e-mails are quick and simple, but one channel alone will not be effective in helping you reach your goal. People receive information in myriad ways, and the average person needs to hear a message at least seven times before taking action. So you must plan for several touches using a variety of channels such as direct mail, e-mail, social media, phone calls, and texts. Create a campaign theme with a specific look and message, so the messages across all channels are tied together. Then make sure your messages get sent by creating a campaign calendar that outlines the channel and the frequency. Consider boosting the frequency as the Dec. 31st approaches (remember 12% of giving occurs on the last three days of the year).
  3. Reach the right people with the right message – Someone who gives $10,000 is different than someone who gives $10, and the message to someone who recently gave will be different than the message to someone who hasn’t given in years. They don’t want to and shouldn’t hear the same message. Tailor your message and communication channel to each audience. Fitting the message to the donor segment increases the effectiveness of the message. In order to so do, segment your master donor list into smaller lists based on giving history of psychographics. Going back to our example above, a direct mail is appropriate for small-to-midsized donors but personally reaching out to major donors is a more appropriate approach. And a blanket direct mail appeal to a donor who recently gave may fall on deaf ears. A message focused on thanking them and highlighting how they can extend their impact would be appropriate. Be sure to demonstrate an understanding of your supporters.
  4. Make it easy to donate – Make sure if you are asking people to donate that it is easy to donate. Make your call to action clear. People need to quickly and easily see where to donate whether that is through your direct mail piece or online. With direct mail appeals, consider a package with your appeal, a simple donation form and a reply envelope. And also let donors know how they can give online. For online donations, create a giving form branded to match the year-end campaign. It’s important to visually convey your message at every point – including your donation form. And it is imperative your donation form is mobile responsive. Mobile devices account for more than half of all Internet traffic, and in 2018, 25% of donors completed their donations on mobile devices – up 205% from the previous year. Also help your donors decide on the right gift amount by providing suggested giving amounts that correspond with your year-end campaign goals. Donors will abandon donation pages if it is not easy to give. Source
  5. Say thank you – It goes without saying that thanking donors is an essential piece to an effective appeal. But it isn’t just nice; it reinforces your connection with your donors. Donors who receive a personal thank you within 48 hours are four times more likely to give again. So take full advantage of this important communications piece and don’t simply acknowledge receipt of the gift but also consider creative and thoughtful approaches that express your appreciation of the gift and continue to demonstrate the impact of their giving. Source: MobileCause

We hope these tips will ease the fright of getting started on developing a successful year-end appeal campaign. Just be sure to enjoy some of the Halloween leftovers while you do it. We hear a little chocolate never hurt the creative process!