Year-end giving is a critical source of fundraising that can have an immense impact on your total annual revenue.
As an individual, you’re probably among the millions of people who look forward to the holiday season for its feelings of cheer, reunions with family or friends, and the promise of the New Year. However, as a nonprofit professional, there’s an added incentive to get excited, start sending out messages, and begin planning your activities in advance—year-end giving.
The aptly-named season of giving isn’t exclusive to children sprinting down the stairs to see their haul of presents for the year—for many nonprofits, year-end gifts make up a substantial amount of their annual revenue. From October to Giving Tuesday to the winter holidays, the end of the year is a critical time for nonprofits to make the most of donors’ generosity and receptivity.
That’s exactly why we’ve prepared the following topics to increase year-end fundraising success, better steward and engage your donors, and take full advantage of this important time:
Eager to learn more about how you can optimize your year-end campaigns? Let’s begin with the basics of year-end giving by taking a look at a few frequently asked questions.
Year-End Giving: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a year-end giving campaign?
A year-end giving campaign is the fundraising strategy that nonprofits launch throughout the months of October, November, and December to capitalize on the seasonal tide of increased donor generosity.
Year-end campaigns are one of the most critical fundraising pushes that take place throughout the entire fundraising calendar. Additionally, beyond fundraising, they’re also ideal opportunities to strengthen donor relationships and boost acquisition through various kinds of non-fundraising outreach.
Why is year-end giving important?
Year-end giving makes up a large portion of many nonprofits’ annual incoming donations. In fact, approximately 37% of annual giving occurs in October, November, and December. More specifically, a whopping 12% of annual giving occurs in the last three days of the year, and over 50% of nonprofits collect the majority of their annual donations during the last three months of the year.
In conjunction with Giving Tuesday, it’s clear that the end of November and December can have an incredible impact on your yearly revenue. That’s what makes it so essential to understand best practices to perfect your end-of-year appeals, letters, and outreach.
What is an end-of-year appeal?
End-of-year appeals are the special solicitations and fundraising appeals created to take advantage of the year-end-giving window between Giving Tuesday and the end of December.
Generally speaking, many nonprofits’ end-of-year appeal strategy is to create their appeals around a single year-end campaign, which they market across multiple channels. This helps to maximize their fundraising potential while reaching the widest possible audience and engaging donors in unique, interesting ways.
What should an end-of-year appeal include?
There’s no hard and fast rule for what necessarily makes a good year-end letter or appeal. However, the following characteristics are some of the most tried and true methods that countless nonprofits have used for their end-of-year messaging:
A personalized greeting—no nondescript “dear donor” introductions
An honest, warm, and personable tone that builds a rapport with the recipient
Demonstrations of your nonprofit’s impact and how a donor’s actions can keep pushing the mission forward
Clear calls to action
Gratitude for how the donor might have helped your cause in the past
Multiple options or methods for donors to give
Utilize a challenge or matching gift to inspire giving
These elements work together to ensure that when a donor unfolds or clicks into your year-end appeal letter, they’re greeted with a personal, heartfelt, and impactful message that helps them feel good about giving.
Of course, it’s going to take more than just a strong appeal letter to reach the right donors at the right times, strategize the various elements of your year-end campaign, and maximize your fundraising success. Let’s take a look at a few top end-of-year campaign strategies that will further empower you to make the most of year-end giving.
8 Year-End Giving Strategies to Raise More
1. Don't wait—start planning early.
Think of a typical fundraising campaign with modest goals that you might host sometime during the middle of your fundraising calendar. Consider how long the planning period for this average, middle-of-the-way fundraising push might be. A month? Two months?
Now, consider the importance of your year-end giving campaign, by far the single most important fundraising push throughout the entire year. In order to fully capitalize on this giving window, you’ll want to plan anywhere between three to six months in advance.
After all, you’ll need ample time to:
Establish your year-end campaign goals.
Identify your target audience.
Organize your mailing lists and segment donors.
Strategize your various year-end messaging, programs, and events.
While reserving half the year towards the planning of your year-end giving campaign might sound excessive, keep in mind that an effective year-end giving campaign has the potential to more than double your total fundraising revenue for the entire year.
2. Take an integrated, multichannel approach.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of multichannel fundraising to year-end giving.
While a strong end-of-year fundraising appeal is essential, it’s going to take far more than a well-crafted appeal letter to successfully engage and persuade your audience to give. By leveraging the power of different channels, you increase your chances of reaching the greatest possible audience through their ideal mediums of communication, with a diverse and engaging set of content.
This is exactly why the most successful year-end giving campaigns tend to be complex initiatives with a large scope across various channels, including:
Your nonprofit website, which can be used to promote online giving, engage and inform donors of your mission, and market your year-end campaign and events.
Direct mail, which is an ideal channel for year-end fundraising appeals.
Social media, which can be a powerful tool to host peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives, reach new audiences, and market your year-end campaign.
Email, which is an essential channel for regular donor communications, event and program marketing, and digital end-of-year appeals.
If you’re struggling with how you might build out a complex, content-rich multichannel strategy, keep in mind that a professional communication and fundraising agency, such as Meyer Partners, can guide you through every step of the process to create a sophisticated and effective year-end giving campaign.
For example, consider these materials from the thriving, effective multichannel campaign that our team helped to orchestrate for Children’s Home & Aid:
3. Create multiple ways for donors to engage.
For this tip, we’ll refer back to the same argument for using a multichannel fundraising approach: More ways to engage means you’ll reach more people, more effectively, in ways that best suit them.
For example, the 55-year-old school teacher who’s given to your mission for 10 years might be delighted by a direct mail appeal and the chance to attend a local event. However, the Millenial donor living three states over who you’ve only just acquired through a recent social media campaign may need a different approach to properly engage with your year-end giving campaign.
On top of your fundraising appeals, consider these different programs to widen your campaign’s reach, boost engagement, ensure that every donor has an interesting way to interact with you:
Virtual peer-to-peer campaigns
Year-end social media challenges
Small, community events
An in-person gala for local and high-value donors
A virtual, live-streamed gala for your wider audience
Even if donors aren’t giving in droves during these extra events and programs, these are great engagement opportunities that can help to boost donor acquisition and retention—which will be critical for you in the long-run!
4. Leverage effective nonprofit storytelling.
Effective nonprofit storytelling is not only important for your mailed year-end appeals, but it should be a central part of your nonprofit website and the promotional campaign messaging you splash across social media, your email communications, and beyond.
Nonprofit storytelling allows you to demonstrate the impact of your nonprofit’s work, share the story of your organization, relate to your supporters on a more emotional level, and call donors to action by showing them how they can drive positive change.
Storytelling can be especially important for major donors, who will need to be more thoroughly stewarded, engaged, and drawn into your nonprofit’s mission to continue dispensing such big contributions.
5. Create special solicitation strategies for top donors.
Your “top donors” (that is, your major and mid-level donors) provide a high level of value not only in terms of their individual donations, but also in their lifetime value (LTV)—the sum total that they will donate during their entire relationship with your nonprofit.
Because of this, you’ll want to give a bit of extra attention to these donors to guarantee their continued support, and your year-end giving campaign is the perfect time to do this.
As you’re building out your year-end fundraising communication plan and stewardship matrix, remember to create a variety of highly personalized messaging to thank, communicate with, and solicit top donors. You should reach out via:
Recorded and live video
Exclusive event invitations
These donors are more invested in your mission and have the giving capacity, affinity, and potential to seriously impact your cause, making it essential to get their continued or increased involvement.
6. Get your board involved.
Donors aren’t the only ones who should step up their involvement—your board members are some of the biggest advocates and leaders of your mission, and they can enhance your year-end giving campaign by publicly rallying around your organization.
To boost your campaign’s visibility and increase donor engagement, encourage your board members to share their stories through personalized phone calls and videos to donors, reach out into their personal networks, and boost their personal support for your cause.
7. Remember to thank your donors.
The power of gratitude is nothing to snub your nose at. Thanking your donors is a crucial stewardship strategy to ensure their future support and even secure additional gifts during your end-of-year push.
Just like with your campaign marketing strategy, you should take a multichannel approach to your acknowledgment of gifts.
This is the time to double-check that all year-end donors have received their donation receipts and acknowledgments, as year-end tax breaks are a huge driver of end-of-year giving for mid-level and major donors. Additionally, higher-level donors should receive more personalized messages through more intimate mediums—like by phone or hand-addressed thank you notes.
Remember to make these messages personal, heartfelt, and prompt. After all, it won’t do you much good to send out a belated “thanks!” long after the donor has forgotten they donated to you in the first place.
8. Seek out professional help.
When in doubt, you can always defer to the expertise of a trained professional.
For the best results implementing our year-end giving strategies, turn to the help of professional fundraising consultants. These experienced fundraising experts not only understand the ins and outs of successfully carrying out a year-end giving campaign, but they can also help to enhance your other fundraising, marketing, and stewardship efforts throughout the entire year.
Of course, before you make the jump and invest in a particular consulting firm, you’ll want to take a careful look at the services they offer and how they can add value to your organization.
Meyer Partners: Top Year-End Fundraising Consultants
If you’re on the hunt for a reliable, effective team of fundraising professionals to optimize your year-end giving strategies, then look no further. Meyer Partners is not only a top fundraising consulting firm, but a full-service nonprofit marketing agency that can supercharge your year-end giving through our multichannel fundraising, storytelling, and data analytics services.
For example, just take a look at a few of the many tools in our fundraising, communication, and stewardship arsenal that can be leveraged for the good of your mission:
Predictive analytics and data modeling
Integrated, multichannel campaign creation
Direct mail and email marketing and fundraising
Impactful nonprofit storytelling
House file maintenance and data audits
Landing page optimization
From faith-based charities to prestigious higher education institutions, the Meyer Partners team can empower any fundraising organization to exceed its financial goals, inspire new audiences, and retain long-lasting support.
Are you curious to learn more about year-end giving and the top strategies, tools, and professional resources available to aid your year-end campaign? Take a look at a few of our other valuable resources on these subjects:
Professional Fundraising Consultants: Find the Right Firm. Eager to find the right team of professionals to enhance your year-end giving campaign? Use our guide to the top professional consulting forms to narrow down your search.
What's Your Year-End Fundraising Strategy? Continue to learn more about best practices and tips to optimize your year-end fundraising strategies.
The Importance of Multi-Channel Fundraising at Year-End. Explore why and how you should leverage multichannel fundraising strategies to engage more donors and increase your year-end gifts.