end of year gifts

The biggest donation day of the year for most nonprofit organizations is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER. It feels like December 31 is breathing down my neck. No pressure, right?

Stressing about what to get for everyone on your holiday shopping list? I know I am.  

What about your donors? I’m not talking about what to buy them, but I have some gifts you can give them that will inspire them to give you more. Also, they’ll love it. Did I mention these are free? 

So, what are we getting our donors, you ask? Two things: the gift of being known by you and the gift of feeling like their gift made a difference. Give them that and you stand an excellent chance to have them not just give again but make you their favorite charity. I made a list and I checked it twice. Every single item in my last-minute tips to boost end of year gifts will do that.

Let’s get started! Here’s your list of 5 last-minute tips to boost end of year gifts.  

1. After your donor donates to your end of year campaign take them off the merry go round of email appeals. Please, please, do this. I realize you may be sending out 2 emails on December 30th and 3 emails on December 31st. If I give to you on December 30th I should not receive one more ask from you, especially not three asks the next day. There is no excuse for this. Suppress donors who gave to your end of year campaign from getting additional appeals. You can easily add tags in your email program with simple rules for who to send and who to suppress. Automating this is simple and there are no excuses for not doing it. When I give and then a few hours later I get another appeal from you I feel like an ATM, but even worse, I feel like you have no idea who am I and frankly don’t care.  

2. Do not send me emails that say: “If you’ve given a gift thanks! If not there’s still time…” No. It doesn’t work this way. This is the laziest excuse for a fundraising ask that exists. This is like spraying your message with a high-pressure hose over an unsuspecting audience. This message makes everyone who gets it feel unknown and unappreciated. Invite the people who haven’t given yet to give. Thank the ones who just gave and suppress them from another end of year ask. This will put you on your donor’s naughty list. 

3. Mystery shop your organization’s website and make a gift. Closely examine three things: the process, thank you landing page and email thank you autoresponder. Please go online right now and make a gift to your organization. Better yet, make it from your phone so you can make sure your pages are in fact mobile optimized. First off, here’s hoping the process was seamless and easy and you didn’t have to wade through unnecessary fields, get distracted by pop up ads to sign up for your newsletter, or get stuck in a CAPTCHA hold that made you identify all the pictures with crosswalks in order to make your gift. What happens after you give? It might break your fundraising heart when you see a thank you landing page that lacks your branding or looks like a robot wrote it. Or one that tells the donor to “keep this page as a receipt for your records” but doesn’t include any information about the gift amount or date of gift. Buckle up, buttercup. Here comes the email thank you autoresponder! Or does it? I donated last night and never got an email thank you autoresponder, even though the landing page told me to keep my eyes out for it in my inbox. How does the email thank you autoresponder look? Does it contain my name and use donor-centered language that sounds like a human wrote it? Does it make me feel like the generous human that I am? Is it written by an actual person whose name and email address is included in case I want to contact them? Does the subject line celebrate my gift? Or is it addressed to “Dear [first name]” and does it come from “[organization]” because no one on staff has actually tested it and didn’t realize those personalization tags weren’t working? I made a gift this year where my thank you reply was addressed to “Dear [first name]” and another yesterday where the thank you came from “[organization]”.

4. Huddle your team to make sure everyone knows how to accept a gift over the phone and that everyone is prepared to thank donors. Why would a donor call, or come in, to make a gift personally? Maybe they want to or maybe they ran into trouble making it on your website. Who cares why, they are a donor who wants to give, let’s thank them warmly and help them do it! Remember, admin and program staff may feel intimidated to talk to donors. Don’t just send people to your voice mail, especially if you are out of town. Lead a how-to session loaded with scripts for saying thanks to make sure everyone is prepared to process a gift over the phone.    

5. Set a warm out of office message that includes your cell number. One of my biggest pet peeves is email signatures that do not include a phone number. For God’s sake, you are a fundraiser this is NOT the profession to be incognito or elusive! Include your cell number in your email signature file and write a warm out of office autoresponder with a subject line that stands out i.e. “Hello there friend!” or “Oh, snap I missed you…” and some nice copy thanking them for being a part of your work that includes how they can reach you if they need to. Will they call you? It’s highly unlikely but if Santa left something big for them under the tree (like a bonus or raise at work) and they want to call you to give you a little extra, wouldn’t you want to let them do that? 

Want more last-minute help with end of year gifts? Snag 15 tips just for procrastinators in The Procrastinator’s Guide to End of Year Fundraising.

Want to keep those end of year gifts and donors loyal for life? Get 4 Strategies to Retain (and upgrade!) your Giving Tuesday (or end of year) donors.  

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.