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When it comes to the end of the year, many nonprofits find themselves scrambling to find the best and most effective strategies to boost their fundraising.

They try amping up their classic donation asks in emails, conversations, events, direct mail, social media, and more. However, they don’t adjust their regular strategy to take into consideration what makes the end of the year different. 

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. We draw from some year-end fundraising statistics in order to craft 5 brilliant holiday strategies for nonprofits to raise more. The statistics from this webinar result in the following strategies: 

  1. The most popular months for making year-end asks are November (46.2% of nonprofits) and December (30.8% of nonprofits). Therefore, it’s important to get started planning early to execute these asks effectively. 
  2. Almost 60% of nonprofits make up to three different touchpoints when making a year-end ask. Therefore, your nonprofit should carefully consider the information to include in each of these touchpoints. 
  3. The most popular medium for year-end asks is direct mail, then email, website, and in-person asks. Choose a medium for your asks depending on the preferences and history of interactions with donors.
  4. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to year-end campaigns than non-volunteers. Craft an outreach strategy specifically for your organization’s volunteers. 
  5. 28% of nonprofits raise between 26% and 50% of their annual funds from year-end giving. Maximize giving by conducting prospect research to ask for the right amount from donors. 

Let’s dive deeper into each of these strategies and what impact each can have on your nonprofit’s holiday campaign. 

1. Start planning early. 

Most nonprofits are making their year-end fundraising asks in November and December, meaning they should be planning throughout September or October to craft their strategy for these asks to be successful. 

By the time Halloween rolls around, your organization should be ready to implement your end-of-year strategy. Consider this spooky holiday your strategizing final cutoff for your organization. Sending your Happy Halloween emails should act as a good kick-off point for your end-of-year campaign. 

When it comes to crafting this strategy, we suggest getting organized with the following suggestions: 

  • Analyze data from your CRM showing information from previous end-of-year campaigns. Consider how many people donated, how they donated, and what previous strategies were effective for your nonprofit. 
  • Create a calendar to construct hard deadlines for your organization. If you’re hosting end-of-year events, these make great natural deadlines. For instance, you may want to have raised half of your total end-of-year funding by your Giving Tuesday event. 
  • Take software inventory to make sure you have everything your nonprofit needs to succeed. From a comprehensive CRM to an effective email marketing campaign solution, you should keep track of how every solution advances your strategy. 
  • Conduct research to be sure your strategy isn’t missing any fundamental components. Guides like Double the Donation’s end-of-year appeals article can be very informative both to start planning and to check your work for any gaps in strategy.

When you combine these organizational components together, it may look something like this: 

  1. You analyze your data and research to realize you raised the most money with a drip-stream email campaign leading up to your Giving Tuesday event. 
  2. Therefore, you create a calendar with an email campaign leading up to the event with hard deadlines and fundraising and attendance goals for the event itself.  
  3. For each aspect of the event campaign, you take note of what software solution you’ll use. You’ll use your email marketing solution to craft the emails, CRM segmentation to send it to different groups of people, and registration tools for attendees to sign up. 
  4. You conduct research and realize you can make your event more successful by incorporating an auction element to it. 

Early planning is key to a successful end-of-year campaign. You never want to feel like you’re scrambling to keep up with the calendar, so think about what you’re going to do ahead of time. This helps you make sure no important tasks fall through the cracks. 

2. Consider the content for different touchpoints with your donors. 

Simply asking your donors for funding over and over again can get old for your donor and will eventually lead to them ignoring your future touchpoints. 

Therefore, in order to maintain the engagement of your supporters, you should vary the content of your touchpoints throughout the end-of-year campaign. 

Some ideas for your nonprofit to adopt in your touchpoints include:

  • Include a fundraising thermometer. This is a gamification tool that can help you and your supporters track the fundraising progression during your end-of-year campaign. It provides a visual representation of progress, encouraging donors to make a bigger impact by giving more. Bloomerang offers a free fundraising thermometer template to help you get started. 
  • Write compelling anecdotes. Emotion is the driving force behind donations for many donors. Providing a compelling story about the impact your nonprofit has or who needs your help and why engages people and makes them feel closer to your cause. Pick a single subject about whom you can write the anecdote in order to form a connection between the subject and reader. 
  • Incorporate video in communication. Video is a useful tool to show your donors the same types of anecdotes that you write. Instead of explaining the peril of a situation or verbally explaining the urgency of a situation, you can display the need you have for support with a well-crafted video
  • Write a holiday newsletter. In your regular newsletter, write donation appeals to entice your supporters along with other updates about your organization. This is a more text-heavy document, which provides the opportunity to remind your supporters about the advantages of giving before the end of the year, such as tax incentives. 

Remember that there are several different methods of communication you can use to appeal to your supporters. This is key when you implement a multi-touch aspect to your campaign strategy. Keep them engaged by varying your approach for persuasion. 

3. Choose a medium for your asks depending on the preferences and history of interactions with donors. 

Just as you have several approaches to content and persuasion for your end-of-year touchpoints with donors, you also have a choice in the platform you want to use in order to reach those supporters. 

Different audiences work well with outreach from different mediums. Analyze data in your nonprofit CRM to see how people react to various communication platforms. 

In general, as we discussed in the introduction, direct mail tends to be the most popular medium for end-of-year asks, followed by email, website, and in-person. However, your CRM may indicate something different for your supporters. Every nonprofit is a little bit different. 

When crafting your communications, make sure you’re using the mediums that your supporters will respond well to. You can learn more about what people tend to prefer by segmenting your supporters based on:

  • Personal preferences. Some donors may indicate their preferred communication channel (usually by indicating what kind of communications they don’t want). Honor these preferences by segmenting supporters based on their survey results. 
  • Historic interactions. Keep track of what outreach strategies your supporters have responded to well in the past in your CRM. From this information, you can assume the preferred communication platform for each donor. 
  • Demographic info. If neither of the above options are available, you can make inferences about platform preferences based on the age of your supporters. Older generations may prefer more traditional methods of communication such as direct mail, while younger generations may respond better to text messages. 

No matter which platform you use for your outreach, be sure to customize the content to be end-of-year specific and communicate your nonprofit’s particular needs. If you’re looking for a guide specifically for donors who prefer email communication, check out this article by Robly

4. Reach out to your organization’s volunteers. 

Many nonprofits make the mistake of leaving out their volunteers when it comes to year-end fundraising strategies. This is a big mistake! As we learned earlier, volunteers are twice as likely to give than non-volunteers to your year-end campaign.

This way, you can include information in your communication about: 

  • The number of hours they’ve volunteered over the last year. 
  • Impact that they’ve already made for your organization. 
  • How donating will also help your organization achieve your shared philanthropic goals. 
  • More volunteering opportunities for year-end activities. 

Make sure to show your appreciation for everything your volunteers have done for your organization over the last year. They’re an incredibly important part of your nonprofit’s strategy to reach your goals. 

Even if they don’t want to donate, make sure you also tell them about the additional volunteer opportunities during the holidays. In such a busy season, it can’t hurt to have some additional hands helping your staff!

5. Conduct prospect research to determine the right amount to ask from donors. 

One key aspect of year-end giving that can make a huge difference in the total donation amount you receive is prospect research. Conducting prospect research can help you ask for the right amount from the best donor prospects. 

Because nonprofits raise such a large percentage of their funding during the end of the year, it’s important to maximize your fundraising opportunities during this time with additional research. 

This research is especially effective if you have access to fundraising software that integrates with a prospect research database. For example, Bloomerang’s fundraising CRM integrates with DonorSearch to generate a generosity score for each supporter profile. 

Between a generosity score and engagement score, your nonprofit should have access to enough information that indicates giving affinity and potential capacity. These are based off two prospect research indicators:

  • Wealth indicators: This is public information that provides insight into the potential capacity that a supporter may have to give to your nonprofit. Wealth data may include information such as past giving, real estate investment, and stock ownership. To learn more about this data, check out the complete guide, here.
  • Philanthropic indicators: This data provides insight into the affinity of a prospect to give during your nonprofit’s campaign. During your year-end campaign, you’ll likely be reaching out to past donors, so pay attention to the last time they gave to your organization, events they attended, gifts to other nonprofits, and other involvement with your organization. 

Rarely do nonprofits see major gifts from the “kind stranger” who has never given to the nonprofit before. Consistent stewardship throughout the year is necessary to cultivate donors for major giving toward the end of the year. 

Don’t stop your prospect research process after the holiday season ends. Continue learning more about each of your supporters and keep them engaged year-round. This will help your nonprofit get a boost for next year’s holiday fundraising strategy, too. 

Hopefully, this guide will help you get started. Good luck! 

Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang and Executive Director of Launch Cause. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to “Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition” and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and is an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member.

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