For the Small Shop: Five Strategies for Optimizing Your Nonprofit’s Year-End Fundraising
If you’re like most nonprofits, the end-of-year giving season seems to creep up on us each year. Summer fades, the leaves change, and before you know it, it’s time to kick your fundraising campaigns into high gear again!
December is a major month for fundraising, with nearly one third of annual giving occurring that month and 12% of those gifts occurring in the final three days of the year. If you want your organization to thrive, those statistics simply cannot be ignored! With 54% of nonprofits starting their end-of-year giving in October, now more than ever is a crucial time to refocus your organization’s efforts on donations and cultivating long-term donors.
However, knowing that your organization should be focusing on end-of-year fundraising isn’t enough. In order to make the most of this vital fundraising window, you’ll need to strategize to make sure your fundraising plan inspires gifts from new and existing supporters. In this article, we’ll dive into five year-end fundraising strategies to give your year-end results an extra boost.
Establish Your Campaign – and Your Campaign Goal
As any good fundraiser knows, your efforts are only as good as your campaign! Although wouldn’t it be great if one social media post or one email solicited thousands of dollars? That simply doesn’t happen! Creating a campaign will help keep you and your team focused, consistent, and driven towards targeted goals for your organization.
Entering into your year-end fundraising season without a goal is a lot like throwing spaghetti on the wall – blindfolded. It just creates a mess! A goal will help you direct your time and resources effectively during your year-end fundraising. To determine your goal, ask yourself these questions:
- Who are we targeting?
- What kinds of donations are you trying to receive?
- How will you communicate with your donors?
Once you have established your main goal(s), narrow down your focus to a specific amount or percentage. For example, you may want to raise $250,000 or increase recurring donations by 65%.
Then, use those numbers to measure your progress and readjust your strategy as the fundraising season progresses. If you’ve raised $150,000 by December 10th, you can celebrate with your donors before encouraging them to make up the difference in the final days of the campaign.
Engage with Empathy
Now, more than ever, is a critical time to engage with your donors in an empathetic way. Personalize your year-end asks by focusing on a tangible aspect of your mission. Put a name and face to a cause that those fundraising efforts will help support. Perhaps you saw an influx of donations due to Covid-19 that allowed you to help more families in need this year. Or, perhaps the pandemic forced you to cancel revenue-generating programs and additional fundraising is needed so you can keep delivering your mission. Either way, tangible, real life stories like this will help propel your donors to answer your ask for additional help.
As you prepare your campaign materials, follow these tips to deliver a powerful ask that will sway your donors:
- Tell a story – Is there a person that your nonprofit has directly helped this year? Let them tell their story in your email appeals and social media postings. Focus on the recipient of your nonprofit’s services, rather than your nonprofit. Your supporters want to hear about real life people and how they were helped, so be sure to use your recipients name (if permitted) and provide a direct quote.
- Choose high-quality photos – Remember the age-old adage, a picture can tell a thousand words? Make sure the photos you use in your campaign materials are high-quality, clear images that match your story.
Make Sure Your Data is Current, Clean, and Complete
Your campaign is rendered useless if your donor and prospect data isn’t current, clean, and complete. Misspelled names, incorrect addresses, and multiple entries for the same household can cause major issues for your nonprofit’s database. Take Bob’s story for example:
Bob is rushed to Grey’s Hospital with an injured arm. Bob has always been a generous donor at Grey’s, but due to patient data not being integrated with the hospital’s fundraising database, the hospital doesn’t know Bob is seeking treatment with them. After Bob leaves, he receives a generic email solicitation, with his name misspelled, causing the hospital to miss an opportunity for a donation.
Case in point? Your data needs to be current, clean, and complete to ensure that opportunities aren’t missed – and you don’t risk losing an existing donor like Bob.
Prepare Your Communication Strategy
Now that we’ve established your campaign, perfected your story, and cleaned up any erroneous data, you can begin crafting your communication strategy. You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to let it shine! In order to build an effective communication strategy, you’ll need to build off of your current donor relationships to develop the best approach, and use what you already know about your donors to reach them effectively.
In order to do so, you’ll want to tackle two major steps in the process:
- Segmenting your donor database
- Outline your message
Segmenting your donor database for your year-end fundraising, and any other fundraising campaigns, will help you craft targeted asks based upon your donor’s responsiveness, engagement, and interest in your organization’s causes.
You can use your donors’ RFM scores to guide your segmentation:
- Recency: When did your donor last give?
- Frequency: How often has your donor given?
- Monetary: How much does your donor give?
Segmenting donors by their RFM scores can help you organize your donor database and identify the donors that you’d like to target. For example, you can use RFM scores to help identify potential major donors based upon their past behavior, to target monthly donors to consider increasing their monthly gift, or to ask the best groups of lapsed donors to reengage with your organization again.
Now that you know exactly who you’re communicating with, you’ll need to determine when and how you’ll be reaching out.
Outline Your Communication Strategy
To outline your communicate strategy, you’ll need to:
Plan In-Person Contact and Phone Calls
Your major donors will need personalized contact if you’re seeking major year-end gifts. An email won’t be enough in this situation! Plan ahead so that you’ll have enough time to introduce your year-end case for support over the phone, make your ask naturally and when appropriate, and follow up with an in-person (or virtual) meeting.
Determine the Mailing Schedule
If mailings are a key communication strategy for your nonprofit, keep in mind postage costs when building out your mailing schedule. You’ll want to promote quality over quantity and send your mailings at key points during the fundraising campaign (such as the beginning and final few days). Additionally, consider sending your materials with as much personalization as possible, to give your letters a thoughtful and individualized touch.
Craft an Online Strategy
Long gone are the days of filling every aspect of your social media with one singular message. Donors will likely feel frustrated if all the receive are daily notifications to give. Instead, spread out your online communications while keeping the content relevant and informative. You may need to increase communications near the final days of the year, but do so sparingly (i.e. avoid sending more than one email per day) and take advantage of the holiday season by incorporating holiday greetings and themes into your emails and posts.
Once your communication strategy is in place, remember four key tips to keep your communications on track:
- Keep materials donor-centric
- Use donor segmentation to customize your communications
- Do not include an ask in the initial communications
- Vary your content
Are you ready to tackle the year-end fundraising season? These tips should help your organization orient your preparations for success. Once December arrives, and the donations start pouring in, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to plan ahead.
Looking for other resources to assist in planning a successful year-end fundraising season? Make sure you check out some of our bonus tips below!
Make sure your organization is ready for the influx of GivingTuesday donations. Register for our upcoming webinar on Tuesday, October 13th at 2 p.m. EDT to discover how Omatic Connector for Marketing Cloud can help your organization prepare for Giving Tuesday.
Don’t just limit your fundraising to year-end, capitalize on cause awareness days focused on your organization’s mission for additional fundraising days.