Year-End Fundraising: Create Your Plan Now

Year-End Fundraising

You’ve probably noticed that nice boost in donations during the months of November and December in past years, as supporters assess their finances, get in the holiday giving spirit and squeeze in tax-deductible donations before the end of the year. But what if you could see that number spike up even further? Get strategic with a year-end fundraising campaign that sets attainable goals and follows a detailed plan in order to increase your nonprofit’s fundraising success.

For most organizations, Giving Tuesday kicks off your year-end fundraising campaigns. In 2017, The Nonprofit Times reported that #GivingTuesday raised $274 million from more than 2.5 million contributions, an increase of $97 million or 55% from 2016. Maybe you’ve participated in #GivingTuesday or your city’s giving day in the past, or maybe you’ve been missing out. But with that level of growth, there’s no reason to lose out any longer. Through this strategy, we’ll help you plan for a year-end fundraising campaign from Giving Tuesday through New Year’s Eve.

Giving Tuesday to New Year's Eve

Which means… Now is the time to start thinking about your campaign. Come November, it’ll likely be too late to pull together more than your organization’s status quo. And you don’t want to miss out on the potential donations that a good marketing plan can capture at the end of the year. So let’s get started together.

Set Goals

A plan is nothing without its backbone of aspirational goals. We pulled together a list of basic fundraising metrics that your nonprofit should be tracking. Consider creating goals for the following to get started:

  • Total amount raised from the campaign
  • Number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Number of lapsed donors
  • Total number of gifts received
  • Number of returning donors
  • Total campaign cost
  • Number of visits to the campaign Donate page
  • Number of campaign online donations
  • Donation page conversion rate
  • Average donation amount
  • Donor acquisition cost
  • Donor retention rate

Marketing and Fundraising Dream Team

You can add any other goals to the list that are important to your organization’s fundraising. For example, you may want to track additional metrics to improve your fundraising email communication, like open rate, click-through rate and conversion rate of email traffic on your donate page. Work with your fundraising team to make sure you’re on the same page and you can build a marketing strategy that reflects your organization’s goals and resources.

Look at Data in Context

We know that year-end fundraising metrics aren’t quite as useful in a vacuum. It’s helpful to take your annual fundraising metrics into account as well, comparing them to previous years and campaigns and aligning your goals to grow those numbers. Using the data from last year, you can shoot for specific numbers that are both attainable and measurable for your team.

Get the Reporting Sheet

To help you keep track of your goals and results, we pulled together a year-end fundraising reporting sheet with all of the above metrics, broken up by those to track for the campaign and those to track annually. You’ll also find the necessary definitions and formulas for each metric.

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Create a Year-End Fundraising Plan

Your plan will vary based on your nonprofit’s goals, target audience and resources, but we’ll outline the process for putting it all together.

Select Your Target Audience

Who will you be talking to through your year-end fundraising communications? Reaching out to the “general public” will likely not give you the results that you want. Instead, create target audience personas and speak to those personas directly through all of your communications.

Decide on Marketing Components

Now that you know who you’re talking to, it’s time to piece together the pieces of your plan. Most digital-first campaigns use your website as a hub and drive visitors to a landing page for the year-end fundraising campaign through a variety of other online channels. You’ll want to prioritize getting your website ready for the campaign. Other channels driving traffic to your website could be email, social media, blog posts, video or other marketing resources you have up your sleeve.

Which marketing channels do your target audience respond to? Use that knowledge as the key decision-making factor for whether or not to include a channel in your plan. For example, are your target supporters active on Facebook? Then a posting strategy and plan for Facebook fundraisers could be in the cards for your organization this year.

Helpful Resources

To give you an idea of what a prototypical fundraising campaign might look like, check out our post on creating an annual appeal strategyWe think you’ll find the following resources helpful as well:

Don’t Forget the Holidays

Year-end campaigns are often anchored by key dates and holidays when your donors will expect to hear from you. For fundraising in the United States, you’ll likely want to time your communications with these key dates.

  • Thanksgiving – Thank your donors for being awesome.
  • Giving Tuesday – Run a mini-campaign for participation in this specific giving day.
  • December holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, any others) – Wish supporters a happy holiday and share a heart-warming story.
  • New Year’s Eve – Let them know it’s the last day to give for 2018 (and for that gift to be reflected on their 2018 taxes).

 

Year-End Fundraising Timeline

 

Make a Timeline

Depending on when you can start pulling your plan together, you can fudge the dates below and re-work what you’ll include based on your organization. But we pulled together a hypothetical timeline to give you a good idea of what it should look like to keep you on track. This timeline assumes that you can get started pulling your plan together next week and that you have access to all of the data you’ll need.

October

  • Use the reporting sheet to pull data and finalize your goals for the campaign
  • Create your strategy and timeline to accomplish it
  • Build out the landing page on your website, writing the content and pulling in a strong image
  • Set up a donation form on the page, making sure that these donors are added to an email list and that you have a process in place to send a thank you email

November

  • Keeping your target audience in mind, write the content for the blog posts, social media and emails that will support your campaign
  • Link to the landing page within relevant content around your site, including adding a callout to your homepage
  • Build out your emails and blog posts, scheduling them strategically throughout the campaign and keeping key dates in mind
  • Kick off your Giving Tuesday mini-campaign as the start of your year-end fundraising campaign

December

  • Stick to your strategy and send out periodic updates on the campaign, including stories, impact statistics and strong calls to action
  • Remember to thank supporters on or just before key holidays
  • Increase the urgency of your asks toward the end of the campaign

January

  • Thank everyone who donated
  • Pull and analyze the data, making notes on improvements you’d like to see next year
  • Update the content on the landing page to let visitors know the results and that the campaign is not currently active (but that they can still make a gift on your donation page)

Have a Follow-Up Plan

Your donors want to hear from you about impact and big updates, not just pleas for money. To keep your new donors around and your current donors happy, you should have a plan in place to reach out to them on a regular basis. You’ll want to thank them for donating and let them know the impact that their generous gift has been able to achieve through your organization.

And for the lapsed donors that were MIA in your 2018 campaign, the new year is the perfect time to run a re-engagement campaign to reach out to those who’ve given to you in the past.

Measure Results

Like any fundraising or marketing campaign, check in to see what worked well and what could be improved for next year. The downloadable resource above offers a free spreadsheet that you can use as your own. Customize it with the metrics that your organization is able to and wants to track, compiling it all in one spot that’s easy to find and share.

As you’re pulling the data, look for both increases and decreases, speculating why each may have been the case and what you can do to expand or curb those numbers. Be sure to jot down your thoughts for next year! That way, when October rolls around again, you won’t be starting from scratch.

What’s your approach to year-end fundraising this year? What metrics are you planning to keep an eye on and review at the end of your campaign? Anything you’d add to our list? Let’s talk in the comments.