Five Tips to Make the Most of Your End-of-Year Fundraising
One of the most critical elements of every organization’s fund development strategy is its end-of-year giving campaign. Individual donors donate more often and tend to make their largest donations around the holidays and the year’s end. If you haven’t started planning your end-of-year appeal—it’s time! Here are five tips for making the most of it.
Ask! The number-one reason why people give is that they are asked. So ask with confidence, and be specific. Don’t just send a mass email about your great work with a “Donate Now” button at the bottom. Tell your donors about your great work—and also tell them how much you need, when you need it, and what impact it will make on supporting your mission.
Segment. Review your database and segment your donor and prospect lists based on past giving amounts and your research about prospects. If you are asking for more than a few hundred dollars, a phone call or in-person meeting will be more effective than a mailer. Divide your list into people you will meet with in person (the highest current donors and best prospects), people you will schedule a phone call with (the next highest donors and warmest prospects), those who will receive only print mailings and email, and those who will receive only emails because that’s the only contact information you have.
Make it personal. I’d be delighted to never see another appeal letter signed by a development director! For written communications, the letter should come from whoever holds the highest stature with the donor or prospect. This is usually the board chair, the executive director, or both. On printed letters, a handwritten signature is a nice touch. You may also add a note. It is very effective for board members to write personal solicitation letters to their personal contacts. As a general principle, the more personal the ask (a personal handwritten note, addressed to the person directly, mentioning their connection to the organization), the better the response rate and higher the gift amount you will receive. And if someone else at the organization has a personal connection to the donor or prospect, have that person add a handwritten note to the letter.
Make it timely. Avoid sending the appeal Thanksgiving week, when donors may be away on vacation or returning to a giant pile of mail. Same with late December. I recommend sending your first mailing around the end of October and a follow-up letter the first week of December. October is a good time to meet with your best donors and warmest prospects to ask for an end-of-year gift.
Follow up. Often, one ask is not enough. Cultivate the relationship throughout the year and build up to the big end-of-year ask. Before the ask, you could send a postcard to all your donors and prospects announcing your upcoming campaign; then send an email or two about the campaign and post about it on social media. Now your donors will be primed to meet with you, speak with you by phone, or receive your appeal letter. After the ask, you can send a postcard or follow-up letter in early December. Then send email reminders and post on social media during the last week of the year. Of course, once the gifts come in, send personal thank you notes. And continue to nurture the relationship throughout the year ahead.
Implemented well, an end-of-year campaign can grow your organization’s individual support and help fund its strategic goals.