Year-end fundraising season is here and it’s the busiest time of the year for most nonprofit organizations.
You need to plan carefully. If you just send one fundraising letter and wait for the donations to pour in, you’re chasing rainbows. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and never get to it.
You may be thinking of not using direct mail at all because it’s too expensive, and only sending email appeals. That’s a mistake. Direct mail is still a viable way to communicate and well worth the investment.
Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you’ll need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the massive 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, even more in the US since it’s an election year. The fact that it’s an election year may not affect nonprofit giving, but it does factor into the amount of communication your donors are receiving. Fundraising in an Election Year: Much ado about (almost) nothing
All 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? Be sure to segment your donors into different groups, as well (current, monthly, etc).
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 says 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 a Family Move Into Their Own Home.
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 November 5
Mail your appeal letters.
Week of November 12
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 helping more families find a home of their own. 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 19
Send another reminder, along with a Happy Thanksgiving message. Share a success story in your appeal.
Week of November 26
November 27 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message. You may already have a campaign planned.
Keep in mind that your donors’ inboxes will be bursting at the seams on #GivingTuesday. Make your messages stand out and throw some gratitude into the mix.
Don’t just send generic weekly reminders. Also, keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.
Week of December 3
Start making reminder calls, along with sending electronic messages. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.
It’s a busy time of the year and your donors may need a gentle prompt.
The rest of December and beyond
Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. This is another reason why you should only send reminders to people who haven’t donated yet.
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 and send holiday greetings.
The end of December is the busiest time of this busy fundraising season. Send two or three reminder emails during the last week of December, including one on the 31st. 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.
In addition, plan to get in touch with your lapsed donors at the beginning of January (more on that later).
Your fundraising campaign will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. Good luck!
More on multichannel fundraising