The Power of Planning: Making the Most of Your Year-End Appeal
As we head into fall, nonprofits begin to plan for the busiest season of the year – year-end giving. Half of all donations to charities are made between August and December, with giving in December accounting for 30% of total annual giving. In fact, the final three days of December alone account for 10% of total annual giving. With so much of an organization’s bottom line dependent on a limited time frame, it is important to create a thoughtful plan of action to ensure your year-end giving campaign is a success. Here are some tips to help you prepare.
Planning Your Appeal
Establishing a Timeline: Remember to think ahead about the time you’ll need to prepare your donor lists, acquire materials, coordinate with outside vendors, copy edit and receive approval, etc., and factor these into your timeline. Begin with a month-by-month timeline, based on when you’d like your letters to arrive in donors’ mailboxes. To make sure you give your donors enough time to consider, and yourself enough time to follow up with reminders, be sure to send your letters (electronically or by mail) by mid-November. Once you’ve set your mailing date, work backward from there to plan your appeal. Ideally, by mid-September you should have your donor strategy mapped out and can begin executing your plan.
Preparing Your Prospects: Before making an ask, ensure that your annual donors have been properly thanked for their previous gifts and have been invited to become more involved with the organization. A detailed calendar with established cultivation and stewardship activities will ensure that all donors, regardless of donation amount, are made aware of their impact on your organization and of your organization’s gratitude.
- Consider sharing exciting program updates or impactful success stories in the weeks leading up to the formal solicitation through social media, newsletters, personal emails or calls, or impact reports.
- Personal calls and letters, specialized reports and event invites should all be reserved for those whose anticipated gifts will significantly outweigh the cost of outreach. For your highest-level donors, schedule one-on-one meetings to share the impact of their previous or potential gift.
Increasing Your Ask’s Impact: To help personalize your asks in both a time-efficient and cost-efficient manner, consider segmenting your lists.
- Interest/Constituency: Consider tailoring your solicitation based on what type of information and tone would resonate with different segments of your donor/prospect pool. Across all constituencies, consider sharing personal stories or testimonials of those whose lives have been impacted most by your organization’s work. This brings the value of your work to life for the prospect andallows for a more tangible connection to your cause.
- Dollar Amount: While all prospects are important, those with a higher giving history, or capacity, will have the largest return on your investment. Consider adding personal notes to appeals for consistent and/or major donors. Think about making follow-up calls once your appeal has been mailed.
- Communication: Be sure to clearly direct recipients on how to make a gift andrefer to this information multiple times to ensure the donation process is seamless. One key decision to make early on in your appeal planning process is whether to stick with hard copy letters or switch to digital communications. Consider your audience and how you typically interact with your donors- mail, email, phone calls, or in-person meetings? Most importantly, if you do not already have reliable email addresses for all constituents, develop a strategy to gather this information.
Ask Follow-Up: Just as prospects should be cultivated ahead of their ask, follow-up is equally important. Following the original ask, consider sending reminder communications through letters or emails. Remember that going the extra mile to call your prospects directly can help you stand out. To reach a large volume of prospects, host a “Call Night” on Giving Tuesday, allowing Board members, volunteers and beneficiaries to help make personalized outreach calls. Be sure to have your callers thank their assigned donors for past support and provide a reminder about year-end giving rather than soliciting a gift directly over the phone.
Tracking and Analysis: To ensure the continued success of your appeal year after year, tracking and data maintenance regarding your appeal strategy and execution are critical. In order to determine if a particular appeal tactic was successful, ensure that you are able to calculate the results of that approach and strategically revise your plan the following year as needed. Important information you should track includes response rate, donation size, new donors, and repeat donors.
Post-Appeal Stewardship: Just as the appeal process begins long before the actual mailing, it continues long after your asks have been sent too. In addition to tax acknowledgement letters, be sure to send low-effort communications like email blasts, as well as personalized letters and phone calls to your largest donors. A genuine thank-you to a donor, with a reminder of the great programs and efforts that their donation supports, goes a long way and sets you up for successful fundraising in the year ahead.
Have questions about this article? Want to learn more about how we can help you with your year-end giving? Contact us today!