Year-End Philanthropic Giving

In order to hit your end-of-year fundraising goals, you need to get your asks in front of people when they’re feeling especially generous. And because nonprofits like yours see a significant increase in the number of donations during the last month of the year, that means sending more emails than you normally do

Further, depending on your organization’s size and constituency and what your supporters may have told you about their communication preferences, you should consider sending more emails than I’m going to suggest in this post. 

Keep reading to see why I recommend this strategy.

Why you should send more emails than you usually do.

Did you know that nearly one-third of individual fundraising happens during the month of December? Don’t miss your best opportunity to solicit these individual gifts. 

People often set aside a certain amount of money to give to friends, coworkers, and nonprofits. If you want them to give to your nonprofit, you must do something proactive—and one way you can be proactive is to send several email appeals.

People miss a lot of emails. Sending just one is a risky proposition. 

Here’s something to keep in mind when planning your communications strategy: 12% of giving happens in the last week of the calendar year

It’s a busy time of year for folks, and you never know when they may be in a mood to open your email. Time of day or day of week doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you appear in people’s inboxes more than once. If you can, use Google Analytics to assess the times that your donors tend to give online and reach out to them at that time.

Even when you write an email with a great subject line and preview pane, you still need to get lucky enough to find the recipient in a receptive mood. You can control the former but not the latter. So hedge your bets and send more than one email appeal, especially during the last week of the year. I recommend sending no fewer than three emails during this time. 

Steven Screen from Work Less Raise More created a video to show you everything you need to know to craft compelling year-end online appeals that raise the most money with the least amount of work. He suggests sending emails on the last three days of the year (or as close to this as possible to assure only one of these falls on a weekend).

What to include in your emails

Create a template for yourself that includes these elements: 

  • An ask. Make the ask specific and urgent. 
  • A brief description of the outcomes their gift will make possible. This isn’t about your programs, services, or processes. It’s what happens because of the donor’s gift.
  • Reasons to give now. Here are some ideas to invoke a sense of urgency. This can be quite simple, like adding the word “because” (e.g., “because children need shelter”) or a mention of a specific date (e.g., “before the matching grant expires December 31st”).
  • A connection to a shared value. This is something that you know the donor cares about based on their past giving and/or affiliation with you.
  • Another ask or two. Give them multiple opportunities to give in the body and in a postscript. 
  • Signature. Your email should feel personal. One way to personalize it is to have it come from an employee or board member. 

Tip: Shorten the final two emails you send. Steven Screen suggests simply removing the value piece from the second email and the outcomes piece from the third email.

Looking for examples of fundraising emails? Here are 12 examples from the data analysts at NextAfter.

Encourage people to be proactive about their giving. 

In the past, I’ve reached out to businesses to suggest that they consider making gifts in honor of all of their employees. Sometimes I even created a simple holiday tribute card to send to folks being honored with a philanthropic gift. If you have clients who could contribute a drawing, that’s also a lovely option to send people. Check out these examples from Seedlings, Food Bank for Larimer County and Morris Animal Foundation, as well as this website promotion sample from American Red Cross.

Tip: Ask yourself: How can I help my supporters be proactive with their giving? 

Saying there are three days left to give won’t evoke the spirit of generosity as much as something like, “This year, give the gift of music.” 

Likewise, saying it’s the last day to grab your tax deduction won’t evoke the emotional response that saying something like “Last chance to give the gift of a meal.” 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you shouldn’t “bother” people. 

Finally, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking you shouldn’t bother people with too many emails. People want to have an impact! They want to feel purposeful. And if they support your nonprofit, they want to help you carry out your mission.

If you’re reminding people to do something they want to do, they won’t be bothered that you reminded them more than once. 

A recent article in Stanford Social Innovation Review highlights an Online Fundraising Quick Wins Study with three specific nudges you can add to your website to boost your chances for success. 

Here’s an example from Charity: Water.

 

Here’s another example from the International Rescue Committee.

 

Best of luck making the most of the opportunities that are present during this wonderful time of year! 

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.