Episode 36 – 10 Tips for Successful Year End Fundraising

Fundraising, Podcasts

By Jeremy Reis

For many nonprofits, year end fundraising is crucial for success. As a fundraiser, this can also be a stressful time of year. In this episode, we explore ten tips to making your year end fundraising a success! Learn everything from planning to follow up. We talk major donors. We explore appeal communications. We discuss making your donors feel gratitude. If you’re planning a year end, in the middle of executing it, or just hoping for an awesome year end, this episode will help you be successful.


Full Transcript:

Year-end is often the most important time for fundraising for your nonprofit. For a lot of nonprofits year end fundraising can be half or more of all of the money that you’re going to raise your entire fiscal year. And so setting up a plan for your year end and executing that plan well is vital for your nonprofits fundraising success. At year end today, we’re going to talk about the 10 keys to a successful year-end fundraising. These are things that I’ve learned over the years of, just restless nights, the last couple of weeks of the year, as we’re executing a plan and trying to raise as much money as possible to help as many people as possible. So I’m going to walk through a lot of things that I’ve learned over that time, and some of the things that we’ll be doing this year being a very different year than most for year end fundraising.

So I’m going to walk you through these 10 keys to a successful year end. The first key is planning. You need to plan out your campaigns and your fundraising for this year end. So first thing for that is to set some goals. How much do you want to raise? How many donors will you add to your file during this time, this is a time where you need to set goals for giving Tuesday for the month of December. If you’ve got a gift catalog or something where people can purchase products for your beneficiaries set goals for that set goals for your mid major fundraising campaign for a year end itself for December 30th, December 31st is last couple of days of the year set goals for how much do you plan on raising and set them realistic based on, uh, what you have done in the past and based on what your campaigns are looking at right now.

Second, lay out your plan. What does your communication plan as an example, look like these last couple of months of the year, how many email appeals are you going to send? What dates are you going to send them? Uh, what kind of structure do you want for those appeals? What are the themes for each of the appeals? Who’s going to write the appeal. What’s the goal? How much are you going to raise for each of those appeal? What kind of communications are you going to send out besides appeals? Are you going to send out stories, videos, uh, happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas. What other communications are you going to include in your year end to help, uh, promote the organization and tell the story to donors, to show gratitude for what they’ve done and what they will do at year. End next, create an appeal schedule.

When are you going to send out direct mail appeals? When are you going to make phone calls to mid major donors? What days in that communication plan? What days are email appeals going to go out? What are you going to include for year year? And are you going to have a peer to peer campaign, a major donor campaign? There are a lot of options for things that you can do at year end to raise money, write down what you’re going to do. Next center planning is what is your primary campaign idea? So this is going to be a short sentence that you’re going to write that really describes what you’re trying to achieve at year end. So as an example, a $25,000 will help 1000 kids get the back to school supplies they need for a successful spring. Here’s another example. We want to help 250 families with food this Christmas season.

It’s a very simple sentence that, uh, encompasses what you want your year end campaign to achieve the second key to a successful year end donor communications. You need to tell stories to set in your supporters, mind that you do good work. Uh, so these can be done through videos. As I mentioned, blog posts, uh, there’s a number of ways that you can tell a story, uh, to set in the supporters, mind that you’re doing good work. When you do that, especially when the story is around your central theme of what you want to accomplish at year end. When you do that, the donor feels like they can trust you with their donation. When it comes time for them to make their year-end gift or a gift around Thanksgiving or giving Tuesday, you want that trust factor. It’s important more now than ever. I think for nonprofits to have that trust factor with their supporters.

As I mentioned in your planning, you want to, you have to write down your communication plan. That’s not enough to say, uh, well, we’re planning on doing four emails in November, and we’re going to do six emails in December and we’ll figure it out. As we, as we go, what you need to write down, uh, both the, what emails are you going to send, uh, in, in, uh, other types of communications, what direct mail pieces are you going to send? What is your social media schedule look like? Write down your communication plan for year end. It’s a hectic time of year. And if you don’t have it written down, you’re going to forget things and you’re going to feel bad when you forget to send out a fundraising appeal that could have raised a lot of money, show gratitude in your communication. It’s a season that we all want to give back and give thanks.

And when you show gratitude to your supporters, whether they’re volunteers, donors, board members, major donors, mid-level donors, general donors, monthly donors show gratitude to all those audiences for what they’ve helped you accomplish this past year and what they’re going to help you accomplish in the next year. It’s that season that we want to give. Thanks. And when you give thanks for your donors and they feel that gratitude, the natural response is for them to want to give back. The third secret to a successful year end is to tell a consistent story, use your end tele consistent story, to raise money, pick one or two campaigns that you want to focus on. What you don’t want to do at year end is to have, uh, several different campaigns, five or six or seven things that you’re doing and trying to raise money for, with the kind of idea of, if we just put a lot of different things out there, then people will respond.

They don’t, they, they, most people will see only a couple of your communication pieces, uh, during your end. And so you want a consistent story being told so that when they see any of the pieces that are coming out, uh, whether it’s in video form or a social media post a blog, post a story in the mail and email and influencer telling your story that it’s all telling one single thread and one single story, different people respond in different ways. So people are going to respond to your videos. A different type of person might respond to a written blog post, and a different kind of person might respond to a postcard in the mail, pointing them to a landing page to learn more people respond in different ways. And by having a common theme and a consistent story, uh, through this theme and telling it through these different channels, then you’ll be able to, uh, find and engage more of your supporters.

During year-end. The fourth tip is to get a match, ask major donors. If they’re willing to commit to providing challenge funds for a match at year end. Another way is if you get a big gift, call that donor and ask them if you can use that money for challenge match match at your end is a very powerful way to motivate donors. It’s a way to show urgency in their donation, uh, to, uh, give at year end, uh, when they’ve got somebody that’s providing a match, the fifth key to a successful year end is to ask for money. Don’t be afraid to ask. Other organizations are asking, this might seem like an obvious thing, but unfortunately, too many organizations get to your end. And they either think they’re asking too much or they’re afraid to ask. And so they really reduce the ask to the point that people are not responding. If you don’t ask someone, will people get joy from giving? Let me say that again, people get joy from giving, make it clear for them what you want them to do, and they will respond. Don’t steal someone’s joy.

The sixth tip for a successful year end is to get giving Tuesday, right? You need to plan your giving Tuesday campaign. You need to know what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it. A match is very powerful for giving Tuesday, set a goal and publicize it. People like to be a part of something. And if you have a 10 or 15 or $25,000 goal, and you set that out there for them, then people will be motivated to help you get over the top of that goal. Uh, if you have a way to achieve it, a match or better yet even, uh, funds that are, uh, pre-given, uh, towards that campaign. So you walk into your goal that say you had a $10,000 goal for giving Tuesday and you walk in with a thousand or $2,000 of it already raised. That’s a powerful way to get people to continue to donate, to help you get over the top of that goal, uh, by them seeing that progress is being made.

Don’t rely solely on third-party platforms for giving Tuesday. It’s a mistake. And unfortunately, I see it too often of people, uh, nonprofits pointing people to Amazon smile during this time of year and really promoting Amazon’s business. If you do the math on that, there’s just not enough money there for your organization to get a huge donation from Amazon at that time of year. So you may promote it on occasion to people, but it’s not something that I would promote as the campaign you’re doing for giving Tuesday. Same, same mistake. Often as happens with Facebook fundraiser, people think, can we just use Facebook fundraiser for our giving Tuesday a platform or campaign? The problem with Facebook fundraiser is most nonprofits get less than 10% of Facebook donors providing the contact information to the nonprofit. So you don’t have any opportunity to follow up with these folks, uh, and to convert them to a second gift because Facebook holds onto their contact information. The key here is to not build someone else’s platform. I’m not telling you not to use Facebook fundraiser during giving Tuesday, but I wouldn’t use it as the entire campaign that you’re going to be doing.

If you need some help on giving Tuesday some ideas and a way to plan out and execute a great giving Tuesday, just go to nonprofit donor.com/year end. We’ve put together a year end fundraising toolkit that provides templates and resources and training for you to help you have a successful year end in fundraising. The seventh tip for having a successful year end is to not be afraid of asking too much. There is a lot of noise during the holiday quarter, especially this year. Don’t be afraid to ask people for money. In fact, I believe that most nonprofits don’t ask enough. I know of one organization who has 31 different emails going out to different segments of people in the month of December alone. So those aren’t 31 emails going out to the same group of people, but they’ve segmented it out their lists. And so they’re set, but they are sending a lot of email.

Now, maybe that’s too much for your organization. And I think for many organizations that is too much, but 10 or 12 different email communications to different segments that may not be too much. So you have to remember something you and your, the staff, you see everything, your donors don’t one time I had an organization’s president right after. Yeah. Your friend called me in and said, we sure. And a lot of email during that quarter. And I said to the president, uh, yes, we did send a lot of email, uh, but you really feel that way because you saw all of it because he was the signature and wanted to see all of that. All, all of the communications that went out in his name. And so I laid out the plan for him of what we actually actually sent in that quarter and who it went to and the results.

So we had the fundraising results and the yeah. Unsubscribed rates for those emails and the unsubscribe rates were very low. And so after I explained to them that people are responding to these emails, they’re not leaving the list. So they weren’t upset with us for sending these emails and look at the money that we raised from these emails. He basically said, carry on after that. And the next giving season, he was excited about the number of email communications that we send out the eighth tip for a successful year-end involve your major donors. Remember it build relationships during November and December call and talk to them about their family and their goals, what they want to accomplish in 20 years, 21 building relationships with your major donors is a key thing that you can do at year end. Don’t worry about the gifts they’ll come, and there’ll be opportunities for you to ask them for money at the right time.

For example, you might want to ask them to participate in a challenge match. They may want to give money towards a match fund that you can use to help raise donors in other areas, or they might want to pre-fund part of a campaign so that you already have money towards the goal. So I gave you the example earlier of giving Tuesday, a major donor might want to give a thousand to $5,000 towards a goal that you set for giving Tuesday so that when you’re promoting the campaign to your donors, that they see that there’s already support behind that campaign. Don’t be afraid to communicate to your mid-level major donors during this time. Yes, we’re all busy, but especially this year, uh, as much opportunity for you to communicate. Cause many of these donors don’t have a lot of communication going on in their life. Now, perhaps a zoom call might be a little too much to ask of people because we’re on an awful lot of those right now, but a phone call, a text chain, uh, even a letter out to your major donors and your mid-level donors.

It’s going to mean a lot to them that you reached out and communicated with them. So don’t, uh, don’t feel shy to communicate with your major and mid-level the donors they like to hear from you and giving them a call and seeing how they’re doing checking in on them. If you’re a Christian organization or religious organization, praying for them, all of those things really help build that relationship with your mid-level and major donors. The ninth tip for a successful year end is to close the year strong. Don’t pull back at the end of December, I know of an organization that was last year, they were close to meeting their goals. So they pulled back on some of the appeals that they sent at year end. And now you might think, well, they’re close to meeting their December goal. And if they felt like they’re going to go over it, why would they need to send those appeals?

When we looked at the data after the fact, it appeared that that decision to cut out some of those appeals actually in a negative impact on their January fundraising as well. So donors that would have received those appeals and given in January did not give in January because they didn’t get those appeals. So don’t be afraid to, uh, send appeals. At the end of the year. There was one time that, uh, December 31st I was really contemplating. Do I really want to send multiple emails to the list on that day? Does that second email that would come in the afternoon? Does that really have an impact on fundraising? I decided to go ahead and send the email. And we were able to track both of the emails that went out on that day. And that second email was about 80% of, uh, the amount of income we earned off the first email.

So it was around 40, 45% of the day’s income. And that was, uh, for this organization, a very large amount of money. It was a six digit amount of money that came in on that second email. Uh, the, you know, with about 40 to 45% of that day’s income, uh, came in from that second email. So don’t be afraid to send two emails on December 31st for some organizations, a smart decision may be to send an email in the morning and then for all non openers to send a second email later in the day, a lot of organizations do that. So people don’t feel like that you are bombarding their inbox at the end of year. Uh, but I do recommend those dates between December 26th and the 31st that you do send multiple email appeals. During that time, you’re going to get a good response. People want to give to your organization.

They love what they do, what you do, and they want to support you. Don’t be afraid to ask for money. The final tip, number 10 for keys for a successful end of year show donors gratitude. Don’t forget to thank them. Send out emails and letters and cards, thanking your donors for supporting you at this time of year, send a president’s letter and executive director director’s letter after the new year, talking about the great impact that these donors had on your ministry and on the benefit, the benefit and the beneficiaries that you support as a nonprofit. Now, you might be overwhelmed by all of this. You might feel overwhelmed that this time of year, just having so much planning to, uh, emails, to write appeals, to write, uh, social media things repair for year end, you might feel overwhelmed at this time. And so a couple of guys who are fundraising experts in this field alongside with me, uh, we have put our heads together and we’ve come up with a year end fundraising toolkit, and it’s going to help you prepare for your year end fundraising.

In fact, we’ve mapped out what does a year end calendar look like for this year? So you get specific dates that you can send appeals to people to raise money on those days, specific dates to send other kinds of relationship, style communications. We’ve included some training, uh, for major donors. And how do you interact with major donors during this time? There’s a video with Tim Smith. One of the experts in the field of mid-level and major donor fundraising, we’ve included, example, letters, and example, emails that you can send, uh, that show you exactly the kinds of things that work and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at other organizations. We’ve created the things that you need to really blow through your year-end fundraising and blow past those goals and to raise as much money as you possibly can this year. And if you’re going to nonprofit, donor.com/year end, that’s all one word year end, then you will find all the information about this year end fundraising toolkit that you can get.

Now that will help you have a successful year end, no matter where you’re at in the planning process, if you haven’t started, this is going to map out exactly what you need to do for the rest of the year to be successful. If you’ve already started, this could be a confirmation and help you with the templates and tools that you need to make sure that your, your year end fundraising is as strong as possible. Don’t miss out on this. Uh, there’s only one year end that happens every year and you don’t want your organization to miss out during what is going to be a incredibly difficult holiday quarter for a lot of people. Your nonprofit can be successful this year and, and we want to help go to nonprofit donor.com/year end to get your toolkit now and make your year end fundraising as successful as possible. Thank you so much for joining me today on nonprofit answers. I’m excited for your organization as you work through your year and fundraising, uh, for what you’re going to achieve so that you can help as many people as possible take care.


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