10 Tips for a Solid Year-End Fundraising Campaign

September 15, 2020

According to CanadaHelps data, the average charity’s donation revenue between October to December can make up half of their annual fundraising revenue. And 9% of their annual revenue is raised during the final 4 days of the year!

That means the year-end fundraising season is critical. A successful year-end campaign makes the difference between growing your organization’s initiatives and starting the new year scrambling for additional funds.

Here are 10 essential tips for executing a year-end fundraising campaign that will effectively reach your donors, drive more donations, and let you jump into the last quarter with confidence.

1. Review Previous Year-End Data to Find Gaps and Opportunities

How did things go, this time last year? Look back to get the bigger picture by reviewing concrete numbers of what can be improved and what opportunities you should tackle next.

Reflect on your last year-end fundraising campaign to find out:

  • What was successful, such as: growth in your number of donations, annually, for the fourth year in a row.
  • What could be improved, including red flags, such as: stagnation or decline of your donor base for the second year in a row.

Then, dig into data to find out why you were successful or not: which tactics helped drive your positive results and which tactics didn’t perform as well as you hoped. This year will be stronger if you take the time to understand what worked well and what needs to be improved.

2. Set Financial and Non-Financial Goals You Want to Meet this Time Around

Once you’ve taken a look at your past year-end data, decide which targets you’d like to meet this year, and how you’re going to track results.

First, ask what type of organizational initiatives you want those goals to build up to: whether they involve raising more donations, building your donor base, or seeking more revenue for resourcing.

Use the SMART system to determine your goals by asking:

S – is it specific (significant)?
M – is it measurable (meaningful)?
A – is it achievable (attainable)?
R – is it relevant (realistic)?
T – is it timely (time/cost limited)?

As you look towards your year-end fundraising campaign, your goals should take into account both your short-term needs and the long-term milestones you need to hit for the success of your charity. By using the SMART system, you’ll be able to ladder every decision up to the results that matter to your organization.

3. Make Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign Meaningful

At a time of year when so many charities are asking for support, it is vital to create a campaign that connects with your donors. One way to build this connection is through developing a compelling theme.

A campaign theme is the overarching message that ties each piece of communication together and sets the tone for your donors to empathize with your campaign.

Here are the components of an engaging theme:

  • It is clear and simple for your donors to immediately understand the need by putting your campaign’s purpose front-and-center.
  • It includes a clear call-to-action asking your donors to do something  to help.
  • It is consistent with your organization’s brand or identity by incorporating elements that your donors can recognize and connect with who you are and what you do.
  • It relates to both your campaign goals and overall organizational goals by reaffirming who or what you’re seeking help for.

When done well, a meaningful campaign with a clear theme can incite interest and inspire your donors to take action in supporting your year-end campaign.

4. Build Out Your Timelines to Track Your Progress

After you decide on your campaign and theme, create timelines you can track your progress against.

This allows you to:

  • Set expectations that are communicated across your team and stakeholders.
  • Know what tasks need to be done (and when) in order to stay on track.
  • See at a glance when you’re going to hit your milestones (and when to adjust if it isn’t happening!).

Once you have a plan in place, along with actionable items and deadlines, you can double down on the tactics without getting lost in the details while mid-campaign.

5. Develop Messaging That Matters to Your Donors

Before jumping into your ask, consider how your year-end campaign’s messaging can be crafted to resonate with your donors.

Start by considering these three key messaging elements:

  • Conversation: Use a conversational tone to make your message personable with words like “I”, “you”, “we”, and “us”. It also helps make your message easy to read.
  • Emotion: Nonprofit research shows writing with emotions helps donors become invested in what you have to say. This is because you are connecting with them on a human level.
  • Storytelling: Stories encourage people to give by letting them visualize who or what they are potentially helping. By incorporating emotion, stories give your donors the chance to connect with your cause and realize the impact of their donations on those you serve.

Some other tips for effective messaging are to:

  • Always thank your supporters so they know they are valued and valuable to your organization.
  • Demonstrate the impact their donation can make by providing tangible examples.
  • Create an emotional connection between your donors and whom or what needs their help.
  • Make your donation ask as clear and concise as possible so your donors know exactly what you need.
  • Add an attention-grabbing (but appropriate) call-to-action so your donors know exactly how to make their donation.

6. Enable Different Donation Options to Offer Flexibility

Offer different donation options so you can cater to as many different donation styles as there are donors.

Make sure you’re collecting donations through a platform that enables:

  • One-time donations for quick and easy giving that directly benefits your year-end campaign.
  • Monthly donations to sustain your year-end campaign, possible future campaigns, and organization for the long term.
  • Suggested custom donation amounts that take the guesswork out of how much to give and could potentially inspire bigger donations (depending on the amounts you set).
  • Donations in honour or in memory of to allow tribute gifts in dedication of a loved one.
  • Gifts of securities for donors who have the capacity to donate in the form of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that can have a greater impact on your year-end campaign.

7. Share Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign Widely & Often

Reach out to your donors at the times that work best for them (another moment to look back at your previous data!), as often as you can. And don’t just stick to one channel. Use a mix, including:

  • Direct mail campaigns, like a holiday-specific letter to tell your donors the impact you’ve made this year and how their continued support is critical.
  • Email blasts and updates, such as news about a new program, testimonials and success stories, or a compelling call to donate to your year-end campaign.
  • Social media posts spotlighting a community or person whom your donors are helping through donating to your campaign.
  • Your website home page or landing page with a strong CTA to give, which drives visitors to your donate page and tells a compelling story that you know will emphasize your mission.
  • Targeted ads that are placed on relevant websites or media outlets visited by people similar to your donor audience.
  • Public relations (PR), newspapers, or radio if you have a timely angle tied to what you’re fundraising for.

The frequency of your donor communications will make your year-end campaign more visible to your supporters and ensure you’re top of mind when it comes time for their year-end donation.

8. Make the Most of Those Final Four Days

Remember how 9% of a charity’s annual donation revenue can be generated in the final four days of the year? There’s no better time to double down. So consider sending additional fundraising emails in those final days of December. It lets you drive urgency and lets your donors know you need their help immediately.

Increasing the frequency of your messaging needs to be done thoughtfully and strategically. If you’re taking this path, try to:

  • Resend emails with new subject lines to donors who haven’t opened your previous emails.
  • Include a personal message from your Executive Director to show how donations are crucial at this time.
  • Mention the tax deadline to increase the sense of urgency.
  • Promote a donation matching program to incentivize donations that can be significantly increased by a sponsor.

Anything you can say to motivate your donors—and make them understand that their support is critical—can help improve your year-end fundraising results.

9. Increase Donations By Using Online Donation Forms

Based on CanadaHelps data, charities can raise up to 21% more when they send their donors to an online donation form. If you haven’t started collecting online donations, you could be missing out on a substantial number of donors who are online and ready to give digitally.

Fundraising tools, like CanadaHelps’ Customizable Donation Form can support your year-end fundraising results by:

  • Conveniently providing instant tax receipts to your donors at the moment they donate.
  • Being seamlessly added to your website via an easy-to-use embed code.
  • Providing a smooth and convenient user experience for donating immediately, even from mobile devices.

And you get a reliable platform for raising money online, while reducing admin time on processing donations, issuing tax receipts, and paperwork.

10. Measure Everything, and Leverage the Results Next Year

We already know that you can’t learn what went well or wrong if you don’t have the data to back you up. Measuring success can feel overwhelming when you’re in-campaign, but it’s invaluable information to make sure you hit your targets in all the years to come.

Make sure you’re tracking all of these metrics:

  • Direct Mail Letters: Response rates and average donation amounts.
  • Email: Opens, open rate, clicks, CTR, donation conversions, and maybe even forwards (if your email platform lets you see them!).
  • Social Media: Number of impressions and engagements, such as likes, shares, and reposts.
  • Website: Site or page visits, number of site visitors, and conversion rates based on what you’re measuring as a conversion (i.e. completed pledge form submissions).
  • Targeted ads: Impressions and clicks to your site landing page or donation form.
  • Donation Reports: Donation by source, number of donors, number of donations, and donation amounts.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): When you spend on your campaign (mailing fundraising appeal letters, cost-per-click ads, etc.), how many dollars are you raising per dollar spent? This helps to determine the effectiveness of the money you’re spending on marketing.
  • Year Over Year (YOY) Results: Measure your campaign results on an ongoing basis by comparing the same metrics across different years.

When your campaign is over, you’ll know exactly where to invest or do more next year.

With these 10 fundamental tips, you can set up your year-end fundraising campaign for success and have a good foundation for a stronger start next year. You’ll have a clear roadmap for your campaign (that you can reuse!) and can make the most of your opportunities by setting your goals and tracking your results along the way. And by working on compelling messaging and sharing your campaign through different channels, you can connect with more donors—wherever they are, and when they are ready to help you.

Want more tips? Download our guide, “Boost Your Holiday Fundraising Results” for more knowledge on creating a strong campaign for the holiday giving season.

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