13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies to Boost Year-End Giving

13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies
Plan your year-end campaign strategy.
Craft a compelling year-end appeal.
Raise more money than ever before.

13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies

What Is End-of-Year Fundraising?

A nonprofit’s year-end giving campaign is often one of the most important fundraising efforts they take on throughout the year.

Because 30% of all annual charitable donations take place in December, the end-of-year fundraising push is a crucial chance to connect with supporters and secure vital fundraising dollars.

What Are End-of-Year Appeals?

End-of-year appeals are specific donation requests sent out during the year-end giving season as a way of stewarding donors and soliciting contributions.

You can send your year-end appeals in a variety of formats and through almost any channel. Direct mail letters, postcards, emails, and videos are all common types of appeals.

Why Do End-of-Year Appeals Matter?

Just because individuals are more likely to give at the end of the year doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to make their donations to your organization. You’ll need to ask them!

Your appeal is your chance to put your nonprofit at the front of your donors’ minds. That way, when the year-end giving mood strikes, your cause will benefit!

Planning Your End-of-Year Appeal Strategy

1. Create a Year-End Appeal Timeline

The first step to your year-end appeal strategy is to develop a timeline that encompasses the many steps that lead to a successful batch of appeals.

Remember: though you might not send your first letters until November, your end-of-year appeal planning should start much, much earlier! 

The more time you give your staff to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and revise your year-end appeal strategy, the more successful your letters are guaranteed to be!

Create an end-of-year appeal timeline to outline your strategy month by month.

2. Segment Your End-of-Year Appeal Mailing List

Segment your year-end appeal list by average gift size.

Segment by Average Gift Size

The thought process behind making a $10,000 donation is different than making a $10 donation, so why would you send those donors the same appeal? You wouldn’t!

Segment your list by a donor’s average gift size so that each supporter receives a relevant solicitation through the right channel.

For example, it’s appropriate to send an email or direct mailing appeal to a list of small-to-midsized donors, but you should always reach out to major donors or other high-quality prospects in person or over the phone.

Segment your year-end appeal list by supporter type, including volunteers, major donors, and prospects.

Segment by Supporter Type

You’ve got a number of different types of constituents stored in your donor database, and it only makes sense to tailor your letters to appeal to each type.

You can create as many segments as you want to send the most specific types of appeal letters possible.

Volunteers, members, and donors can serve as your primary supporter types, but you might also consider event attendees, volunteer committee members, recurring donors, and any other important supporter type.

Segment your year-end appeal list by date of last gift.

Segment by Date of Last Gift

If a donor has given in the past month, it may come off as tone-deaf to approach them asking for another gift. Similarly, it wouldn’t make sense to thank a donor who hasn’t given in years for their ongoing support.

Don’t lose a potential donor because of a simple mistake!

For donors who’ve given recently, send a message that’s focused on thanking them and extending their impact (e.g., with matching gifts). For lapsed donors, you may open with “We miss you!” rather than “Thanks for your help.”

3. Draw From Prior Year-End Campaigns

Your year-end campaign strategy needs attainable, ambitious goals in order to be successful.

A great way to develop strategic goals for your end-of-year appeals is to look to the results of past campaigns.

In order to build out comprehensive reports, you’ll need to use nonprofit software that allows you to tap into all the areas that make up your multifaceted year-end campaign, from email marketing and direct mail to donor management and accounting.

It’s important that all of these systems can speak to one another to generate a full picture of your efforts! That’s why we recommend using a comprehensive CRM or integrated nonprofit software solution to tackle your year-end analytics.

Year-End Campaign Metrics to Track

  • Appeals Sent

    How many individuals received an appeal from your organization?

  • Donations Received

    How many individual gifts did you receive, either through the mail or via an online channel?

  • Total Fundraising

    How much money did your year-end appeals raise? Did you meet last year’s end-of-year fundraising goal?

  • Major Gifts Received

    What percentage of your year-end appeals resulted in major gifts from new or existing major donors?

4. Prepare Your Year-End Donation Forms

Integrate Your Donation Forms with Your Website

You’ll be collecting a lot of donor data during the year-end giving season. Cut down on manual data entry by integrating your online donation form with your nonprofit website so that all information can seamlessly flow into your donor database.

Make Your Donation Form Mobile-Responsive

Let donors make their year-end gift whether they’re at home by the fire or out making a last-minute shopping trip. Working with mobile-friendly online donation software can ensure supporters can easily submit a donation on a smartphone or any other mobile device.

Brand Your Year-End Donation Form

You should create a unique online giving form that corresponds to your year-end campaign, with distinctive branding such as colors, fonts, and images. Your year-end fundraising campaign has a story, and it’s important that you visually convey that message at every point, including your donation form.

Include Specific Year-End Giving Levels

Your donors don’t have time to ruminate on the right gift amount. Do the hard work for them by providing suggested donation amounts that correspond with your year-end campaign goals. For example, a $50 donation might provide 10 meals out of the 100,000 you’re hoping to achieve by end of year.

Writing Your End-of-Year Appeal Letters

5. Take a Multi-Channel Year-End Appeal Approach

Use paid advertising as one of your year-end fundraising strategies.

Promote Your Year-End Appeal Using Paid Advertising

Paid advertising is an emerging trend in the nonprofit sector. You can use it to increase visibility for your cause, target specific audiences, and drive year-end fundraising results.

Google and Microsoft alike make it easy for nonprofits to leverage paid advertising for free. Using programs like Google Ad Grants and Microsoft Ads for Social Impact, you can promote your web content and have it placed at the top of search results for the terms your prospects are looking up on search engines.

You can use paid ads to boost your fundraising results, including during the year-end giving season. Create year-end fundraising ads that urge users to get involved in your cause by visiting your donation page.

A Google Grants manager can step in and help out here. These experts know how to craft ads that drive results for your cause, which includes boosting year-end donations. They can figure out what your prospective donors are searching for on Google and craft ads that persuade them to get involved by making a year-end donation.

End-of-year appeal letters sent through direct mail are a classic, reliable strategy.

Write a Year-End Appeal Letter

The most classic end-of-year appeal style out there, the direct mail appeal letter is a standard because of its personal touch and reliable success rate.

For best results with end-of-year fundraising letters, use direct mail marketing software that allows you to design, write, send, and track your appeals all in one place. Trust us: you’ll save trips to the post office and plenty of time trying to determine who has received or responded to your appeal letters.

Almost all of your constituents have an email address, so email end-of-year appeals are a smart choice for most nonprofits.

Send Year-End Appeal Emails

The end-of-year email appeal is as efficient as can be. All you need is trusty email marketing software and a list of donors!

Keep in mind that your supporters likely receive dozens of emails per day (if not more!), and you’re probably not the only nonprofit soliciting their inbox come December. Keep your email appeal short and sweet, with an eye-catching subject line and several clear calls-to-action within the body of your message.

A well-designed end-of-year appeal post card can add a fun touch to your year-end fundraising.

Design Year-End Appeal Postcards

Similar to an appeal letter, the end-of-year postcard appeal is the perfect option for catching donors’ attention as they retrieve their mail.

You’ll want to focus heavily on design and branding for your postcard appeals. Using bright imagery, a high-quality photo or two, and heavy, professional-quality cardstock will go a long way here! No matter what, don’t forget to prominently place the URL or QR code for your online donation form so donors don’t miss it.

Posting end-of-year appeal messages on social media can inspire some donors to give or share your nonprofit with friends.

Post Year-End Appeals on Social Media

If your nonprofit has a major social media presence, make sure all of your Facebook fans and Twitter followers are well aware of your year-end campaign by posting year-end social media appeals.

These posts shouldn’t be your only end-of-year solicitation effort, but they can be a great way to raise awareness and boost donations. Use highly visual mediums (like photos and videos) to stand out on a news feed, and don’t forget to link to your online donation form or provide your text-to-give phone number.

6. Personalize Your End-of-Year Appeals

Donors know that they’re not the only person receiving your end-of-year fundraising appeal, but that doesn’t give you a license to send out hundreds of identical canned letters or emails!

By personalizing your appeal in a variety of ways, you’ll emphasize how highly you value your donors. 

Your supporters are much more than just a name on a mailing list, and adding personalized elements to your appeals can remind them of that and make it easier for them to instantly connect with your letter.

Use the donor data you store in your CRM to make each solicitation unique to its recipient. Of course, before you start sending, you’ll need to do a thorough cleanup of your database to make sure all names, contact information, and giving histories are complete and correct.

Elements to Personalize in Your Appeal

  • Salutation

    Add some warmth to your appeal by use your donor’s first name rather than the generic “Dear Friend” or the too-formal “Mr./Ms.”

  • Ask Amount

    Use your fundraising data to see how much this donor has previously given to solicit a gift that’s in line with their donation history.

  • Closing

    Always sign your letters personally. If possible, you should also add a handwritten post-script or a note from a board member in the margins of your closing.

7. Focus on the Donor in Your End-of-Year Appeals

Use "You" Language

Instead of lauding your own accomplishments, frame the letter so that the donor is actively responsible for your nonprofit’s impact.

Reference Past Involvement

Show your donors you value their generosity on an individual level by specifically referencing what they’ve already done for your cause.

Emphasize the Value of Their Support

Remind donors that their donations, volunteer efforts, and advocacy is what makes your mission possible, and they’re likely to get involved again!

Examples of Donor-Focused Content

  • Generous supporters just like you provided over 10,000 warm meals to our community last year.
  • Thanks to your generous gift of $250 last year, 5 underprivileged children received school supplies.
  • Because of your ongoing financial support, we’ve raised $100,000 for families in need.
  • Without hardworking volunteers like you, we couldn’t keep our shelter running. Thank you!
  • Here’s how you can extend your impact and continue making a difference in our community.
  • We’re working to make a lasting change for homeless youth, but we can’t do it without your help.

8. Tell a Compelling Story Within Your End-of-Year Appeal

Make your end-of-year appeal personal by adding a real, detailed story.

Make Your Story Personal

When possible, use the real name (or a pseudonym) of the beneficiary you’re describing. Adding other details, such as age or location, can also help ground your story in reality and make it more meaningful for the reader.

Even better? Allow your subject to speak for themselves! Add a quote or, in the case of video appeals, let them narrate their own story to give your end-of-year appeal a heartfelt element you can’t fabricate.

Add visual elements like photos and graphics to enhance your end-of-year appeal.

Add a Visual Element

It’s tough to capture someone’s attention in a few black-and-white text paragraphs. To draw a reader in and help foster a connection with your story, you’ll need to add some visual aids.

A photo or video complementing your story can be much more powerful than text alone. Show your donors exactly what your nonprofit has done this year, whether that’s a healthy animal you’ve rescued or a beautiful community garden you’ve grown.

Your end-of-year appeal story should get to the point quickly.

Don’t Overdo It

You’re passionate about the work your nonprofit is doing, so it’s not hard to get caught up in the story you’re telling! But when it comes to storytelling, you need to get in and out fast.

Jump to the meat of your story in the first or second paragraph of your appeal, and don’t spend more than two short paragraphs telling your tale. The faster you can get to your call-to-action, the less likely your donors will lose their focus and move on to other things.

9. Include Matching Gift Information in Year-End Appeals

How can you educate donors on matching gifts?

To inform donors about their corporate giving program eligibility, place a matching gift database search tool on your donation page and in year-end communications.

Donors simply enter their employer’s name to learn all of the important deadlines and program criteria for their company.

Why do matching gifts and year-end appeals work well together?

Many matching gift deadlines fall at the end of the calendar year or the following January.

By reminding donors that they have a limited window of time to double their gift, you’ll create a sense of urgency that pushes them to fill out their matching gift paperwork as soon as possible.

Promote matching gifts by adding a Double the Donation widget to your end-of-year donation form confirmation screen.

See how the American Cancer Fund promoted matching gifts by embedding a Double the Donation search tool on their donation confirmation screen.

Executing Your End-of-Year Appeal Strategy

10. Search for the Right Software to Power Your Year-End Appeals

Integrated Features

As you should know by now, your end-of-year appeal strategy is made up of a lot of moving parts in multiple areas of your nonprofit. Software can help with all of your efforts!

Rather than working with separate software solutions to tackle each facet of year-end appeals, it’s best to find a comprehensive nonprofit tool that can help you manage appeals from start to finish.

You should search for software with integrated features to help you stay on top of direct mail appeals, email marketing, analytics, and (most importantly) the fundraising campaign itself.

Task Automation

You’ll be busy during the year-end season, but you can’t risk letting any important tasks fall through the cracks when it comes to sending, tracking, and following up on appeals.

When you use software that can automate a number of tasks, you’ll have a much easier time managing the diverse array of responsibilities that make up your year-end appeal efforts.

From follow-up or reminder emails to donor data entry, your software should make it easy to manage the minute details of your year-end campaign seamlessly (and with as little human error as possible).

Customization Capabilities

You want your end-of-year campaign to be unique to your nonprofit, and software with comprehensive customization capabilities can facilitate that!

Look for a software solution that can help your nonprofit create custom direct mailings, email campaigns, and year-end donation forms.

Remember: you shouldn’t have to be a coding expert or graphic design aficionado to create branded, professional year-end appeals. With the right software, your fundraising team should have all the tools you need to build a custom campaign that’s reflective of your brand and mission.

Reporting and Analytics

As we’ve already mentioned, there’s no way to improve your year-end efforts without first assessing what strategies have worked and which have fallen short.

Your fundraising and marketing software should have built-in reporting and analytics features that let you tap into the success of your year-end appeals in order to design more effective strategies going forward.

Most software solutions come with preset reports that track common metrics, but it’s equally important that you’re able to build out totally custom reports based on any conditions you need.

11. Get Your Board Involved with Your End-of-Year Appeal Strategy

Your board members are an important part of your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. By serving as powerful advocates for your cause (and often, as the face of your nonprofit), your board members can elevate your year-end fundraising appeals and persuade donors to give and give more than ever before.

The best part? Your board members want to help!

You already know that your board members are devoted to your cause and looking for ways to engage themselves. However, it’s up to your nonprofit staff to delegate the right responsibilities and equip board members with the training and tools they need to follow through effectively.

You’ll need to come up with clear tasks that you want board members to take on, as well as a set timeline for completion. Just like any other volunteer, the more direction you can provide a board member, the more likely he or she is to succeed!

Want to learn more about engaging board members (and other key volunteers) during the end-of-year season? Check out our volunteer management guide!

Ways Your Board Can Help During Year-End Fundraising

  • Thanking Donors

    Encourage board members to craft handwritten thank-you notes to your year-end donors. Or, ask them to personally sign or add post-script notes.

  • Connecting with Major Donors

    Board members can meet one-on-one with major donors (and prospects) to educate them on your cause and persuade them to become part of your mission.

  • Promoting Year-End Giving

    Board members can use their community influence to inspire year-end gifts by posting on social media, hosting their own fundraising parties, or implementing corporate giving programs at their workplaces.

12. Offer Multiple Ways to Make an End-of-Year Gift

Accept end-of-year gifts through mobile channels like responsive giving forms and text-to-give software.

Mobile Giving and Text-to-Give

Your online donation form is a good start, but to maximize giving opportunities, you should create mobile-optimized giving forms that supporters can quickly complete on any screen size.

You can take mobile giving to the next level through text-to-give software! With text giving tools, your nonprofit can set up a designated phone number and campaign-specific keyword to accept year-end gifts. Donors simply text their donation amount to make a quick and easy gift.

Pair your end-of-year fundraising event with a peer-to-peer fundraiser.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

If your nonprofit is hosting a year-end fundraising event, why not add some friendly competition to the mix through peer-to-peer fundraising?

With peer-to-peer fundraising software, your supporters can set up their own fundraising pages to solicit year-end donations from their peers. You’ll be able to extend your online reach to new prospects and raise more money and awareness during the end-of-year season!

Promote different types of corporate giving throughout your end-of-year appeals.

Corporate Giving

We’ve already discussed the importance of matching gifts during end-of-year fundraising, but there are even more corporate philanthropy opportunities your donors should be aware of.

Through volunteer grants, in-kind donations, corporate sponsorship, and many more corporate giving programs, your donors can make their year-end gift go even further. Educate your supporters on these options to make sure you’re meeting your full year-end fundraising potential.

13. Follow Up on Your Year-End Appeals

Confirm the Donation

Immediately following a donor’s gift, send an acknowledgement email that confirms their donation and provides a tax receipt. Especially for year-end gifts, donors will need this information for their own financial records, so you’ll want to automate these messages so they get out hastily.

Thank Your Donor

Show donors how much you appreciate their gift by sending a personal thank-you note. If possible, send a handwritten note signed by a board member, particularly for high-quality donors or supporters you have long-standing relationships with.

Call Unresponsive Donors

If a donor doesn’t respond to your first (or second) appeal, it may be time to follow-up over the phone. You can coordinate with volunteers to call a list of donors at once, or segment your list by gift amount and have board members follow up with high-quality prospects first.

Store Donor Data for Future Use

After your donors give, make sure you’ve got their data accurately stored within your database. If you need more data than your giving form collects, you can send out a follow-up email a few weeks after their gift to request more information to fill out their donor profile.

Additional Year-End Fundraising Resources

Tips for Writing Year-End Appeals

Head over to Giveffect to learn the top tips for writing year-end appeal letters.

Crafting the perfect end-of-year appeal can be difficult. But when year-end giving is so important, you can’t waste this opportunity!

Beat writer’s block by checking out Fundly’s trusted ideas for writing year-end appeal letters that your donors can’t say no to.

Annual Fund: The Ultimate Guide

Learn the best practices for developing your annual fund.

Your end-of-year giving plan is a major part of your nonprofit’s overall annual fund strategy. Our guide will show you why!

Read up on annual fundraising and learn how to make the most of your fundraising efforts by checking out our essential guide to annual funds!

Must-Know Nonprofit Software

See our favorite nonprofit software picks for sending year-end appeals and much more.

You’ll need smart software to help with every aspect of your year-end fundraising strategy. Where do you start?

Our top picks for nonprofit software can guide your search for the perfect end-of-year fundraising and marketing tools.