Year-end fundraising season is upon us. This is the busiest time of the year for most organizations and you need to plan carefully.
If you just send one fundraising letter and then wait for the donations to pour in, you’re in for a rude awakening. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it.
You may be thinking of bypassing direct mail altogether because it’s too expensive, and only sending email appeals. That’s a mistake. Direct mail is still very much a viable way to communicate and worth the investment.
Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you will need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the immense volume of email people receive. Some donors will respond to the first appeal, but most are going to need a few reminders.
Your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of mail, email, social media, and phone calls. Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but donate online. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check.
You’ll have a lot of competition since you’re not the only organization seeking year-end donations. Plus you’re competing with a deluge of email and social media posts from a variety of sources.
This is why you need a multichannel campaign with a series of asks.
BEFORE YOU START
Clean up your mailing lists
If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists. Do you have both postal and email addresses for all your donors?
Make it easy to donate online
You must have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use on all platforms, including mobile. Test all links in email messages and social media posts. The last thing you want is a donor contacting you about a broken link or have to hunt around on your website for a link to your donation page.
When you’re ready to launch your campaign, include a blurb on your homepage that your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place and stand out even more by including an engaging photo to draw people in.
Which channels do your donors use?
Don’t spend a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using. Figure out in advance where you want to focus your efforts.
SAMPLE SCHEDULE AND STRATEGY
Come up with a schedule of when the appeals will go out. I’ve created a sample schedule below. Of course, you can adjust the timeframe as needed, and use this for campaigns at other times of the year. That said, I do recommend starting your year-end campaign sooner than later.
Give your supporters a heads up by email and social media. Let them know your year-end appeal is underway and they should receive a letter from you soon, provided you have their mailing address. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.
Keep in mind that the fact your year-end appeal is going on will matter to some donors and not to others. Use an enticing subject line such as How You Can Help Kids Learn to Read.
Make sure it’s obvious your message is coming from your organization so you have a better chance of getting it opened. Get noticed on social media by using an engaging photo.
Week of October 30
Mail your appeal letters.
Week of November 6
Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. If possible, don’t send reminders to people who have already donated. Otherwise, be sure to thank your recent donors. You can even phrase your reminders as more of a thank you or an update.
Thanks so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. We’re well on our way to our goal of serving more kids in our tutoring program. If you haven’t donated yet, please help us out today by visiting our website (include a link to your donation page) or sending us a check (provide address).
Week of November 13
Send another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt. Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.
If you’re doing most of your reminders by email, remember you want your message to stand out. Sending generic weekly reminders is not enough.
Week of November 20
Send a Happy Thanksgiving message along with a friendly reminder. Share a success story in your appeal.
Week of November 27
Start making reminder calls, along with your electronic messages. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.
Also, November 28 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message.
December and beyond
Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. Be sure to keep sending your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals. December is also a great time to show some #donorlove.
The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season. Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. This is especially relevant if your fiscal year ends on December 31 or your donor wants to give before the end of the calendar year.
Even though you’re trying to secure donations, don’t forget about building relationships, too.
Look to see who hasn’t contributed yet. Concentrate on people who are most likely to donate, such as past donors. You may need to send another letter or a reminder postcard to donors who don’t use electronic communication.
Your fundraising campaign will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. Good luck!
More on multichannel fundraising.