Salsa Blog

How to Create Your Own Year-End Fundraising Fairy Tale

This blog is a part of our recent series on nonprofit training.

The fairy tale that all nonprofits will see a jump in donations at the end of the year can actually come true. Chances are, though, no fairy godmother is going to sweep in with her magic wand and turn your laptop into piles of money (however, if this DOES happen, we want to hear about it). And I hate to break this to you, but if you don’t start planning now, wishing upon a star will not save you. 

  • fairy-godmother-blogThe not-so-grim(m) truth about the potential for end-of-year fundraising

  • Organizations can raise 40% of their individual donations in the month of December by maximizing their end-of-year fundraising appeals. 

  • Data shows more dollars are donated online in the last five days of December than in the other three weeks combined. 

Studies show that 85% of organizations raise more money by sending more than one email.

At Salsa, we want to help make all of your end of year fundraising campaign dreams come true. As your fairy godmother for nonprofit marketing wisdom, let us cast the spell for your end-of-year fundraising success. If you follow the tips below, your organization’s fundraising will grow: 

1. Create a timeline (or Wake up, Sleeping Beauty): For nonprofits, end of year fundraising really starts in May. Yep, May. Spring wakes you up from your lull. You start brainstorming about this year’s campaign. You begin to formulate a plan; dream a dream; decide on your strategy. Make a calendar. This way, as things begin to take shape, you can schedule them. And move them around as necessary.

2. Set Goals (or Don’t Be Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf): During the planning process (ahem, which should be kinda over by now), you need to decide what your goals are for end of year campaign. Is it gaining more supporters? Awareness? Donations? Actions taken? And, how will you measure success? Deciding specific metrics will drive your campaign for sure. And we recommend that you have daily debriefs during your campaign and if you have to, adjust your goals according to the responses you are receiving.

3. Clean your list (or Scrub the floor, Cinderella) : Stop. Before you do anything, clean your email list. If your email list is not clean, your all-important and timely ask(s) may not be delivered. If you plan to send more than one email - and most organizations do - your list needs to be as pristine as possible to ensure email deliverability. In fact, before you test (we’ll talk about that in a minute) your email list should be clean.

A note on testing (or Yo, Goldilocks, see what works best). Do it. Testing will help you get your best possible response to your email appeals. Sending test emails - subject lines, issue-focused, appeal amounts - needs to be done before December to have the most effective appeal.

4. Make your campaign cohesive (or Hey Red, Keep it together): This seems obvious. Sometimes, though, it isn’t. Your images, photos, messages and brand identity need to be recognizable as part of this campaign. If you design a special logo, or use one image or video -  or have one message - it needs to permeate throughout your entire campaign. This includes social media as well. Anything you share on social should tie back to your campaign’s branding. And not to add fuel to the fire, but remember to consider the time it takes to create the collateral needed for your campaign. The creative time should be built into your timeline and calendar.

5. Use all of your resources (or Let down your hair, Rapunzel): Though email is the go-to fundraising tool for most, don’t forget to use social media - Facebook, Twitter (and use “Please RT”), Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn - too. They work. Each message will have to be tailored to that channel, but well worth the investment in time (and you can schedule a lot of your tweets and posts in advance). Also use your website wisely -  incorporate creative lightboxes and customized landing pages, so whenever people visit your website during the giving season, they’re given a direct ask. Bottom line, there are many opportunities for your message to be seen. Use them.

6. Set the tone (or Who’s the fairest in the land?) . In December, is it better to be gloom and doom or would it be in your best interest to be, well, hopeful? It obviously depends on your campaign, but by telling the story of how donations have helped in the past, why not take on a hopeful tone? In fact, why not break up the emails that ask for donations with something informative about your mission and goals? This shows your supporters that while you are indeed in need of their generosity, their donations are making a difference, and why. And P.S., think about changing up your email templates for end of year fundraising to differentiate them from the emails you send during the rest of the year.

7. Individualize your emails (or Turn that straw into gold). Segmentation leads to better response rates, but if you can take it one step (or two) further to individualize, then you can possibly gain donors for life. Anyone can use a first name, but when an email is individualized, there is a 330% higher revenue gain per mailing. (You read that correctly). Here’s an example: if you are an organization that saves cats and dogs, segment the cat people from the dog people. When you send the emails, use an appeal for each group that will captivate that particular segment. They will be more compelled to give. And, if you are a membership organization, send a separate email to your members as opposed to your supporters.The appeal should speak to each group separately.

8. The When (or Once upon a time). Plan to ask by email at least twice (we suggest three or more times) before Dec. 25. And hit the last week of the year with at least three asks. Yes, three. (Ask more than that if you can!) December is not the time to be bashful. You should always email at least one fundraising ask on New Year's Eve, which might be more lucrative in a few hours than some entire months elsewhere on the calendar. And ask at least twice in the Dec. 27 - Dec. 30 span. (Many people may not be as responsive on Dec. 26 as it may still be part of their Christmas holiday.)

9. Be ready (or Hey Hansel, leave a trail) . Set up your nurture program ahead of time to make sure that you keep your supporters motivated to move them along the ladder of engagement.

10. The aftermath (or And they lived happily ever after). January will be here before you know it. When everyone is back from the holiday, have a campaign debrief.  Discuss what worked. What Failed? Go through the calendar and timeline. What was the right call? What could have been done earlier? What could you have let slide? It all helps for the next year's planning. Most importantly: In January, send a thank you email with a soft action. Show your supporters what you've been able to do because of them.

The End.

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Topics: Fundraising