It may feel like the dog-days of summer, but this year's fourth quarter is right around the corner and that means end-of-year fundraising efforts are also right around the corner.
Nonprofits rake in hugely disproportionate levels of revenue at the end of the year. Various sources suggest that anywhere between 30% and 60% of most organizations’ annual revenue is generated and booked in the waning days of the year. At the same time, organizations must navigate increased competition for attention and dollars at this time.
The most effective model for year-end fundraising is a concentrated, multichannel, planned campaign that is executed in multiple stages.
The key to a successful end-of-year campaign is linking and coordinating multi-channel communications—mail, email, social, website, ads, etc.—around a unified theme and message that inspires donors and draws them—from various angles—deeper into the life of your organization.
Follow these steps to implement a well-conceived and well-executed end-of-year campaign that will help you cut through the noise, maximize revenue, and connect with your supporters in a meaningful way.
1. September: make a plan
- Review last year’s results—what was done, what worked, and what didn’t work—and set your goals for this year.
- Develop a theme and narrative—or story arc—for the campaign and some basic copy. With your design team, develop some visual ways to communicate this theme and narrative.
- Consider how you are segmenting your communications to various levels of your donor base and to other elements of your target audience.
- Consider matching gift(s).
- Construct a timeline that runs from October to January and outlines and assigns all tasks.
2. October: prepare your materials
- Begin engaging with your audience before the campaign itself with non-solicitation communications throughout the fall.
- Review the design and functionality—or lack thereof—of your online donation page.
- Review your thank-you and follow-up procedure and adjust as needed to give the donor the best experience possible.
- Consider non-solicitation holiday greetings—digital, print, or both. Thanksgiving is a natural opportunity to say “thanks for giving” to your donors.
- Draft and develop all print and digital content. Coordinate with printer and web developer as needed
3. November & December: launch and sustain your campaign
- Use email and social media to take advantage of Giving Tuesday. See givingtuesday.org for more information and resources.
- Drop direct mail solicitation letter 1-3 weeks (depending on class of postage used) prior to Thanksgiving so as to hit donors’ mailboxes in time for the holiday.
- Make a major digital push in the last two weeks of December through the 31st, utilizing the following components:
- 4-8 emails;
- light-box/house ads on website, as applicable;
- blog posts, as applicable;
- campaign-specific social media postings every 1-3 days;
- online advertisements (including paid/promoted content on social media), as applicable; and
- at least 1 post-campaign report and thank-you email and relevant social media reporting, within a few days of the campaign’s formal conclusion on December 31.
4. January: measure your results and follow-up appropriately
- Ensure that your thank-you procedures are firing on all cylinders.
- Consider a quick, follow-up direct mail solicitation and/or email solicitation in mid-January to catch people who intended to donate but didn’t/couldn’t.
- Analyze and review the campaign, its performance, and ideas for next year.
- Consider convening a small donor focus group, or doing a select survey, early in the new year to get donor feedback on the campaign.
Finally, remember to start small. You can't do everything, but don't do nothing. Try introducing a new campaign element or doing something differently to improve this year. Be agile enough to adjust in the midst of the campaign. It’s important to have a plan and stick to it, but don’t let slavishness get in the way of valuable creativity and spontaneity. Good luck!
It’s my personal and professional goal to strengthen civil society by helping purpose-driven organizations achieve their fundraising goals, craft clear and compelling communications, and achieve greater influence. Please let me know if and how I can be of help to you. Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our services online at AmericanPhilanthropic.com. We also have ongoing fundraising trainings and events throughout the year.