Making the Most of Year End Fundraising Appeals


The end of the calendar year can (and should) be a bonanza for non-profit organizations looking to raised small and medium-sized gifts to round out their fundraising numbers. Whether your non-profit works on a fiscal or a calendar year, most “regular folks” in the work-a-day world work on a calendar year, and make a significant portion of their yearly donations at the end of the year.

Today, we’re presenting some tips for maximizing your non-profit’s revenue from year end appeals. We’ll start with the basics, and then move on to the advanced tactics.

The Basics of Year-End Fundraising

It’s a simple fact that has been proven time and again in fundraising studies and research: people give to charity at the end of the year. They do this for several different reasons. For individuals, the end of the year is often a time to make up for not giving during the rest of the year, or it can be a time to spend the remainder of your charitable giving budget before the start of the new year. For other folks, the end of the year is simply a time of gift giving, including giving gifts to charity.

For businesses working on a calendar year basis (most do), the end of the year is the time to spend down their charitable giving budgets by making donations, as well as a time to spend down their marketing budgets by purchasing sponsorships for upcoming fundraising events and charitable golf tournaments. As the saying goes, if they have to spend it or lose it to the clean slate of a new budgetary year.

For non-profits, the result of all of this is very simple: if you aren’t making year end fundraising appeals, you are missing out on a potentially large pool of fundraising revenue. Every non-profit, no matter how small or large, should be reaching out at the end of the year.

Generally, you’ll want to stick with your current donors at the end of the year – meaning that, for most organizations, your year-end appeals should be going to current donors, asking them to up their gift or to give again one last time before the year is out.

While some organizations have found success with prospecting at the end of the year, I have found that most givers don’t want to change allegiances at the end of the year… they want to keep giving where they always have, at least through the holidays. Your mileage may vary, but for me, I usually stick to current donors for year-end appeals.

Advanced Strategies for Maximizing Year End Gifts

When planning year end appeals, your goal should be to make an ask (through a letter, call, or other means) to every single current donor – you never know who has money left over at the end of the year to give, so my suggestion is that you try to make sure that every donor gets at least one fundraising communication, or perhaps more (e.g. an e-mail and a piece of direct mail) with your year-end ask.

I have found that diversifying my year-end appeals maximize revenue. Here’s a simple year-end fundraising strategy that I have seen work time and again at small and medium-sized non-profits:

1. First, send out a year-end fundraising direct mail piece to your entire housefile (your entire donor database) asking for gifts.

2. Second, send out a year-end e-mail solicitation to your entire e-mail list, asking for gifts (and tied, thematically, to the direct mail piece). A week later, follow up with another e-mail to all of those on your list who did not open the first e-mail (this is possible with e-mail list servers such as Constant Contact or AWeber). Depending on your tolerance for repeat solicitations, you can also send out a third and final e-mail to the entire list (whether they opened the other e-mails or not) making one last pitch.

3. Finally, have your team (staff and board, or simply staff) make follow up calls to some percentage of the donors who received your letters. You could decide to call only those donors above a certain giving level, or, you could do my favorite: divide your donors into three groups, and call 1/3 of them each year – that way, donors don’t get tired of your year-end fundraising calls or grow to avoid you at the end of the year.

Photo Credit: Andiona

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