Who thought we would be here again? After another difficult year of the pandemic, we’re heading into year-end giving in 2021 with strangely familiar feelings of uncertainty. While you may (or perhaps may not) have handled it strategically last year, there are likely adjustments and tweaks that you can make to your approach for another pandemic giving season.

What We Learned in 2020

There is no question that the pandemic has impacted nonprofits in a big way.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, giving increased in the US by 10.6% in 2020, compared to 2019, due in large part to a jump in gifts under $250. The overall number of donors grew by 7.3%. But it wasn’t all good news. Donor retention, based on the number of donors who gave the previous year and again in 2020, fell by 4.1%.

And according to a study on “Social Donors” (donors giving through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and virtual events) by OneCause, the average donation amount from these types of campaigns increased from $99 in 2018 to $215 in 2020.

Donors showed up for nonprofits in 2020, and there should be an even bigger focus to get them to stick around this year, offering fundraising opportunities, more personalized appeals, and creative virtual elements.

Top Things to Change for Year-End Giving in 2021

Even though it may not feel like a whole year has passed since the 2020 giving season, it’s time to take what you learned last year and the many years before and hone your strategy for year-end giving in 2021. If it’s your first time creating a plan, be sure to check out our year-end strategy post.

Pump up the personalization

Personalization matters for donor retention. That means segmenting emails to donors, separating folks by things like their interests and the impact statistics and stories they’re most likely to care about or their giving history and whether they’ve given before or not.

It also incorporates elements like using the donor’s name within email messages if you have the capability to or experimenting with a more personal approach to emails altogether, like plain text emails.

You know your donors, whether you’ve gone through the process of creating donor personas or are leaning on your personal experiences. You know what they care about and the different camps that separate them. Use that knowledge to create personalized fundraising messages that will resonate with these specific groups, rather than leaning on tired messaging from past years.

Keep the focus on impact

This is no new phenomenon, but donors will always care about what their gift can accomplish. In an overloaded fundraising environment, conveying impact is more important than ever. Why should they care about your mission? What are you doing to solve the problem that your organization is centered around? How are you going about making change despite this year’s challenges?

Clear and concise answers to these ever-present questions can help to tip the scales in your favor. Working in new stories to demonstrate your impact and put a face on your work goes a long way within fundraising content. Tell them why they should get emotionally invested and show them who their gift is supporting.

Lead with digital marketing

In the current climate, your safest bet is to lead with digital marketing. It will give your organization the flexibility to make tweaks to messaging and timing should any unexpected events or restrictions occur.

Your website, emails and social media are the meat and potatoes of a great year-end fundraising campaign in 2021. Get our tips for prepping your website to serve as the hub of your digital marketing campaign.

While in the past in-person events may have been responsible for a large portion of your fundraising efforts, it’s best to play it safe this year and keep things virtual in my personal opinion. If you do opt for an in-person element, offering a virtual option alongside the in-person gathering can help make the event more inclusive and widen your audience and fundraising potential in one fell swoop. See how Classy covers the nonprofit event debate over virtual, in-person or hybrid options.

Your Annual Reminders

These elements of your plan will stay true from past years, but in my experience, they’re easily forgotten in the planning stages and warrant a few quick reminders.

Plan ahead for measurement

When your executive team and board ask how year-end fundraising went, you want to be able to give them an answer. Creating measurable goals and building a campaign around achieving them will make that question 1,000 times easier when it comes. Check out our measurement tips and free reporting sheet template.

Key dates to include

In case you need a refresher, here are the key dates to include in your year-end giving campaign this year. You can also check out this list of culturally diverse holidays from Diversity Best Practices.

  • Thanksgiving in the US – November 25, 2021
  • Giving Tuesday – November 30, 2021
  • Day before New Year’s Eve – December 30, 2021
  • New Year’s Eve – December 31, 2021

Both the day before and New Year’s Eve made the list after a surge in last-minute donations over the last few years. According to Kindful, those two days each exceeded total revenue from Giving Tuesday in 2019.

And if there will be a matching gift component to your campaign this year, don’t forget about any significant dates that are attached to it.

Yes, it will be another challenging year-end giving season. And yes, you will need to get creative to keep the attention and passion of 2020 donors. But we’ve been here before, and we know that a successful year-end giving season is possible even in the current global climate.

How will your organization adjust your strategy for year-end giving in 2021? Are you adding any new virtual elements to the mix? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.