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!
2. Segment Your End-of-Year Appeal Mailing List
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 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 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
4. Prepare Your Year-End Donation Forms
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
7. Focus on the Donor in Your End-of-Year Appeals
Instead of lauding your own accomplishments, frame the letter so that the donor is actively responsible for your nonprofit’s impact. Show your donors you value their generosity on an individual level by specifically referencing what they’ve already done for your cause. Remind donors that their donations, volunteer efforts, and advocacy is what makes your mission possible, and they’re likely to get involved again!
Instead of lauding your own accomplishments, frame the letter so that the donor is actively responsible for your nonprofit’s impact.
Show your donors you value their generosity on an individual level by specifically referencing what they’ve already done for your cause.
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 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 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.
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
Matching gift programs are a type of corporate philanthropy wherein corporations match gifts their employees make to eligible nonprofits. 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. 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.
Matching gift programs are a type of corporate philanthropy wherein corporations match gifts their employees make to eligible nonprofits.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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
12. Offer Multiple Ways to Make an End-of-Year Gift
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.
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!
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
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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
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
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
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.