Planning for year-end fundraising success

publication date: Nov 5, 2012
author/source: Lara Brown

For many donors, the end of the year is the time when they show their support for the causes they are passionate about. One practical reason is to take advantage of charitable tax breaks. Another is that the holiday season often triggers thoughts of giving and altruism. Whatever the reason, end of year is your best opportunity to reach out and attract donations.

In fact, studies show that 40%-70% of donations come in at year end. Even more remarkable is that up to 22% are raised on the last two days of the year. Unfortunately, many nonprofits aren't taking advantage of this critical fundraising window to not only raise money but also to build a long-term relationship with donors. Often the pitfall is focusing on single elements and activities instead of on the big picture. 

What are the dos and don'ts of successful year-end campaign planning? 
  • It's collaborative and integrated. Your plan should be coordinated across departments within your organization. For maximum results, it should be integrated with other campaigns as well as marketing channels including your website, email, events and social media. Don't regard it as a one-off campaign, but rather as a piece of a larger plan to attract and cultivate donors. 
  • It's not a single, one-and-done communication. You can't expect to send out one email and see donations flood in. To fully engage supporters, your campaign should have multiple touch points over a set period of time - again, it should be part of your overall marketing effort. 
  • It's part of a larger donor cultivation program. The initial donation that a supporter makes at the end of the year should be regarded as the start of a long, mutually beneficial relationship. Since it's much easier and less expensive to raise money from an existing donor than a new one, it's critical to have a plan in place to follow up and nurture end-of-year donors. 
  • Its results are tracked and analyzed. As the saying goes, if you can't measure it you can't manage it. Reporting doesn't have to be sophisticated - simply track what you can and analyze the results during the campaign to optimize impact and after the campaign to improve on for next year. Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking website results. 
What should you be doing right now?
So you're convinced, eager to get started and raring to go, but concerned that you are late to the game. What activities should you be doing right now? Once you've developed your plan, start making your case to potential donors. Focus your efforts on three elements: 
  • Your website - Easy, flexible and cost-effective, your website is a great location for engaging supporters and telling them a compelling story that results in a donation.
  • Your donation form - Make it prominent and easy to use.  Many tools allow you to accept donations on your website. Keep donors on your site instead of sending them to a third-party site that may result in form abandonment and a lost potential gift. 
  • Your communications, particularly email marketing - If you have no way to drive people to your website and donation form, what's the point? Despite rumors of its demise, email done right is inexpensive, easy to optimize and effective. Sure, incorporate video and social media but don't get distracted by the shiny ball. When you have the right subject line, copy and call to action, email is your best communication channel. 
I hope this has been helpful in starting you down the path to year-end fundraising success. Look for more best practices and tips as we focus on event fundraising next month. 
Lara Brown has 15 years of experience in customer acquisition marketing to nonprofits. Specializing in marketing strategy and execution, she has presented sessions on topics including social media and email marketing to help nonprofits optimize their fundraising efforts. 

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