year-end fundraising tips

Did you know that nearly one-third of individual fundraising happens during the month of December and 12% of giving happens in the last week of the calendar year

You don’t want to blow this opportunity to raise what will likely be a significant amount of your nonprofit’s yearly revenue! With that in mind, here are some year-end fundraising tips to help you make the most of your online fundraising efforts.

Tip 1: Maximize your year-end fundraising emails.

Your year-end fundraising email strategy is critical to your overall fundraising success. Here are some tips to maximize your chances of raising the most funds possible: 

  • Send emails from an individual associated with your organization. Don’t use [email protected] or [email protected] for the sender email. People will be more likely to respond to your call to action or, at the very least, open your emails if they look like they’re coming from an individual. It also minimizes the risk that the email gets lost in another inbox that your staff doesn’t check often; should a recipient hit “reply” and not receive a reasonably prompt response, they’re likely to forget about making the donation. Instead, send emails from someone on your team or board and make sure the sender name and email address correspond to that person (example: Claire and [email protected]). 
  • Spend some time crafting your subject line. The subject line is like the envelope for a direct mail letter; it’s a critical part of your appeal “package” as 47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.
  • Add contact information at the end of the email. If someone wants to reach you by phone or email, it should be easy for them to do so. Don’t make them Google your information.
  • Add relevant tax information to the fine print. There are several reasons why you want to do this. First, this information reassures people that they can trust your organization. Second, it makes it easy for those who have donor-advised funds to make recommended distributions to you. Third, it gives folks who are considering making a legacy gift with information to provide to their advisors.

Tip: Plan to email your supporters more than once. Did you know the average nonprofit email open rate for nonprofits is 25%? The more appeals you send, the better chance you’ll have of reaching the potential donor when they’re feeling generous or have a moment to spare to open the email and make a donation.

Tip 2: Send online and offline appeals.

You need to reach your donors where they are. Although there’s been an increase in online giving over the years, some donors will still be more likely to respond to appeals if they receive them in person (like a direct mail appeal) than those they receive online (like an email). 

This means that you need a sequence of appeals, as well as follow up communications to people who haven’t responded. 

When creating an effective follow-up appeal, keep in mind that it should be:

  • Shorter. This appeal should be briefer than the first appeal. 
  • Cheerful. Focus on the opportunity to give, not on the fact that they haven’t given yet. 
  • Specific. Include an ask that appeals to their emotions and feels urgent. This will increase the possibility that they’ll respond to the ask.
  • Consistent. Repeat the theme, look, layout, message, and images they’ll have seen in your first appeal. 

Don’t worry about bothering people with multiple appeals. People are very busy at this time of year, so they absolutely need a reminder! According to direct mail expert Mal Warwick, the follow-up letter can boost your overall return by 15-25%. 

Send it to everyone on your mailing list who hasn’t responded yet. Before mailing the appeals, be sure to run a report that excludes anyone who already gave to your campaign so you’re not generating mailing labels for recent donors. 

Here are other segments I recommend reaching out to:

  • First-time donors
  • Donors who usually give a donation that is higher than the average gift amount 
  • Donors who make major gifts 
  • Donors who make multiple gifts during the year
  • Donors who have been loyal over a prescribed period

Tip 3: Call the lapsed donors you think will give again.

If you can’t call every lapsed donor, identify the ones you believe will be most likely to give again. 

Here are suggestions to determine which lapsed donors to call:

  • Pick the donation threshold that makes sense for your organization. For example, you may want to target donors who gave more than $100, $250, $500, or $1,000 in the past. 
  • Look at the donor’s current level of affiliation with your nonprofit. Keep in mind that, per the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, ongoing donors renew at a much higher rate (60%) than first-time donors (19%). Targeting first-timers assures all that effort you put into acquiring them last year doesn’t get wasted. Once they’ve made a second or “golden” donation, the likelihood of them giving again increases.

Tip: Train folks regarding what to say and when to call. For donors who pledge or make a donation, send them a donor acknowledgment as soon as possible.

Here’s a sample script you can use: 

“Hi! I’m Claire, and I’m calling on behalf of [your organization] to let you know how much your previous support meant! Thanks to your gift, last year, we [what the donor’s gift accomplished, perhaps as described in the story you told in your appeal letter]. I was wondering if you received our recent letter asking for your renewed support this year. [You did? Great! Let me remind you…] [You didn’t? Oh, dear! Let me summarize…]. In the letter, we described the story of [insert story]. They need your support, and because I know you care, and I wanted to reach out and let you know that there’s still time to give. I know it’s a busy time, and hopefully I can make it easy by taking your pledge or even your credit card payment over the phone.”

When to call: This is something that depends upon your constituency, so test it for yourself. Try three times. If no one picks up after the third call, leave a brief message reminding them of how much you appreciated their support last year and inviting them to give again. Include your contact information so they can get back to you if they wish.  Then, let them know that you’ll follow up with an email or note (depending on whether or not you have an email address). Finally, send the follow-up email with a link to donate online.

What to do when you get a commitment: Ask callers to update your database with commitments as soon as possible. After a supporter makes a pledge, send out an immediate thank you letter or email. Do the same for gifts given via credit card, even if you’ve not yet had time to process the gift. Plan to follow up with another thank you letter when the gift is received and/or processed.

Download our Year-End Fundraising eBook for more year-end fundraising tips!

Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.