Now is the time to start planning your end-of-year fundraising campaign. Learn how to craft a successful strategy for your nonprofit ahead of the big year-end giving season.
Picture this: You’re watching your favorite team compete in a game that will determine their championship status. They are down by a few points in the last seconds of the game, but one final play secures their victory. The win wasn’t merely a stroke of luck—months of training and planning led them to this moment.
When it comes to securing the funds your nonprofit organization needs to fulfill your mission, end-of-year (EOY) giving campaigns aren’t so different from that championship game. In fact, 28% of nonprofits raise between 26% and 50% of their annual funds from end-of-year asks–and it’s not uncommon for most of that revenue to come in at the last minute.
To better ensure you hit your fundraising goal for the year, plan a year-end strategy that will compel longtime and potential donors to support your cause during the pivotal November-December giving season. Learn what it takes to market a campaign that will be a resounding success.
Why Are End-of-Year Fundraising Campaigns So Important for Nonprofits?
It’s no secret that private donations are a critical source of revenue for nonprofits. In 2022, monthly giving accounted for 28% of all online revenue. Those extra funds can go a long way to help small organizations stay afloat and keep their initiatives intact. A 12-month content strategy that routinely calls for supporters to donate can help you maintain a steady flow of donations throughout the year. However, the last few weeks of the year—the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—are a huge turning point for the financial health of many nonprofits.
The end of the year is a significant fundraising opportunity for nonprofits in part because this time of reflection and holiday celebrations with loved ones puts people in the giving spirit more than any other season. Giving Tuesday (a global day of philanthropy following Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday) brought in three percent of online year-end revenue for nonprofits last year.
A robust EOY campaign that incorporates a focused theme and the top three fundraising marketing mediums—high-production video, email and social media—can attract new supporters to your mission, engage longtime donors and convince them to donate to your cause as the year comes to a close.
Pick a Theme for Your EOY Campaign
Before you jump into your year-end giving strategy, you need to nail down your campaign theme. A compelling theme will tie into your brand, embody the voice and tone of your organization and demonstrate its impact. It can also help you stand out from the crowded EOY and Giving Tuesday space.
Start by thinking about the story behind your cause and the people who benefit from it. A theme that weaves these two things together will be personal to your organization and more compelling than a generic holiday campaign theme. Once you have a theme in mind, brainstorm your core brand elements such as a campaign name, campaign logo, and color scheme so people can quickly ID every part of the campaign as coming from your organization.
Leverage High-Production Video to Create an Emotional Appeal
There’s a reason “people give to people” is a popular phrase in the fundraising world. When a person decides to donate to a cause, it’s human connection that persuades them to open their wallet—not an organization. Video is one of the best mediums for forging these personal connections with your audience because it allows you to put front and center the faces and voices of those your organization is serving. Who better to speak to the direct impact of a donation?
Your year-end fundraising campaign is an optimal time to budget for high-production video in your overall content strategy. Unlike the simple short-form videos you might see on TikTok or YouTube Shorts, high-production videos use carefully-crafted visual and auditory storytelling that elicits strong emotion and moves an audience to act. Research has shown that people make financial decisions based 90 percent on emotion, and giving season naturally produces a sense of urgency to help those in need. For latent donors and supporters who are on the fence about giving to your cause, a well-produced, hard-hitting impact video can appeal to their emotions and prompt them to press “Donate.”
Impact videos featuring people served by your organization also generate content that can be repurposed for other focal components of your EOY strategy. For example, our 2022 year-end campaign video for the American Brain Foundation tells Courtney’s first-person account of living with brain disease and is paired with an urgent message about the impact of funding research. Courtney’s story was also incorporated into the Foundation’s EOY fundraising appeal letters and social media campaign to remind its target audience how their donations can make a difference in real people’s lives.
Use Email to Send Targeted Fundraising Appeals to Specific Donor Groups
Appeal letters are a routine element of nonprofit fundraising and are typically sent out at intervals throughout the year. However, many nonprofits focus the most effort in the final months of the calendar year.
Direct mail is a common approach for sending fundraising appeals, but email is a much faster and often more cost-effective way to reach donors. For every $1 you invest in email marketing, you earn an average of $36 in revenue. Plus, a strategic EOY email campaign can appeal to different audience segments with personalized messaging that aligns with their donor status.
For example, you may create slight variations in your appeals for non-donors, latent donors and active donors. These variations can include a personalized greeting that recognizes the relationship you have with each segment and shows your appreciation for their prior or ongoing support. For latent or active donors, you may even want to call out specific ways their past donations have made an impact. This gives you an opportunity to make an emotional appeal and can drive home how valuable their contributions are to your cause.
As you strategize and create a timeline for your EOY email campaign, it’s a good idea to factor in follow-up appeals and thank-you emails for your respective non-donor and donor audiences. Be sure to create a sense of urgency in your follow-up emails by emphasizing the critical need for donations and your impending donation deadline.
Keep Your EOY Campaign Top of Mind With a Social Media Campaign
Social media is a powerful EOY campaign tool for maximizing the reach of your fundraising ask and attracting new supporters to your cause. It’s also a convenient medium for tying together all the different parts of your campaign in one easily digestible, sharable format.
For example, we planned a 2022 Giving Tuesday campaign for a national healthcare nonprofit that repurposed an impact video and appeal letter into a series of social media posts to keep followers engaged throughout November. During the social media campaign, followers heard a personal story of a patient, and learned how donations to the organization can help people like her have a better quality of life. Each post included a link to the organization’s Giving Tuesday landing page, where followers could donate and share the campaign on their own social media.
As you craft your EOY social media campaign, it’s also a great idea to reserve some posts for peer-to-peer fundraising appeals. Encourage your followers to start their own peer-to-peer fundraising on platforms like Facebook, and provide some sample posts and messaging they can use to tie their efforts into your EOY campaign. This is an easy way to spread the word about your own campaign and compel people outside of your community to include your organization in their year-end giving efforts.
Do’s and Don’ts of Fundraising Appeals
Before you get a head start on planning your year-end campaign, familiarize yourself with the do’s and don’ts of fundraising writing:
- Strong fundraising appeals will demonstrate the tangible difference donors can make in other people’s lives. Don’t position your organization as the solution to a problem you are trying to solve. Do paint a picture where donors see themselves as the solution. One way this can be accomplished is by telling the story of someone who benefits from your cause.
- Don’t use vague phrases such as “Your donation will bring hope to people in need.” Do clearly articulate how donors’ money is being used by saying “Your donation will fund critical research for X” or “Your donation will fund new programming to help X.”
- Recent data show that 30% of annual giving happens in December, with about 10% of all annual donations coming in the last three days of the year. In other words, don’t give up on sending appeals to your donor base—even if you’ve been hearing crickets for a while. Do set up automatic follow-up emails to re-engage supporters and remind procrastinating donors to get their donations in before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
Are you ready to hit the ground running with your year-end strategy, but need help putting together the pieces? Yakkety Yak fuses strategy and content production to craft high-impact stories for brands and businesses that care about doing good. Contact us to learn how we will help you strategize, produce and roll out an EOY campaign to meet your fundraising goals.