Your Biggest Year-End Giving Season Starts Now


by Rod Arnold

Can you believe it’s almost over?! The end of summer means school is back in session and cooler weather is on the way. And for nonprofits, it also means something else: Year-end giving season is just a few months away!

If you’re like most nonprofits, you rely heavily on November and December fundraising to meet your annual goals. And with so many of your eggs in that year-end basket, you can’t afford not to get it right.

Last year, we worked with three nonprofits specifically on messaging and strategy for their year-end campaigns, and these were the results:

  • Nonprofit No. 1 raised 60 percent more than the previous year.
  • Nonprofit No. 2 brought in 72 percent more donations than the previous year.
  • Nonprofit No. 3 raised 193 percent more than the previous year.

Not too bad, right? Want to know how we did it? Keep reading.

Key No. 1: Get Your Story Straight

If you read my posts, listen to my podcast or join my webinars, you’ve undoubtedly heard me talk over and over again about the importance of telling a powerful “brand story.” And how you tell that story is absolutely critical.

Remember, no one cares about how great your organization is. However, people do care about the people you help and how their lives are being transformed.

When you tell a clear, powerful story of transformation, your message will resonate with donors.

So many nonprofits focus their year-end giving around a holiday-themed campaign or a catchy tagline. But there are two problems with only relying on that approach: 1) everyone else is doing it, so they all sort of blend together; and 2) a slick campaign can actually detract from your core brand story.

If you want to have record-breaking results this holiday season, work on getting your story straight.

Key No. 2: Get Your Marketing In Sync

What is your year-end fundraising strategy? Do you have a detailed calendar and plan that your team is working from?

Planning out your entire year-end campaign helps you think more strategically and be better prepared for success. It also gives you more lead time for creating content and other assets.

When we work with our clients, it’s not uncommon for us to plan dozens of communications throughout November and December. So coordination is critical! An integrated plan that includes all your events, channels and tactics in a single matrix helps ensure your communications are in sync and working together. Otherwise you could easily confuse donors and miss an opportunity for deeper engagement.

An integrated marketing calendar should include a day-by-day breakdown of every marketing tactic, such as:

  • Home page banner
  • Landing pages
  • Events
  • Emails
  • Direct mail
  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Social media posts
  • Media outreach
  • Digital ads (Google, Facebook, etc.)

Once the calendar is built out, identify the details for each tactic, including things like:

  • Purpose/objective (e.g. is it to make a direct donation appeal or just to get people to engage with a piece of content?)
  • Audience segment(s)
  • Send/post date and time
  • Subject line/title
  • Call-to-action
  • Link destination (e.g. landing page)
  • Images/assets needed

This may seem like a lot of extra work, but this level of detailed planning can make the difference between mediocrity and record-breaking success.

Key No. 3: Get Started Now

There is always an excuse to put off planning for year-end giving. Maybe you have a back-to-school campaign or a fundraising event that is occupying your team’s attention. But let’s think about that for a minute…

How important is year-end fundraising for your organization? What percentage of your annual goal is at stake? Can you really afford to put it off?

If you want to have your biggest year-end giving season ever, it won’t happen by accident! It will happen when you put the work in early and do it right.

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