Year-end fundraising season is starting to gear up. This is a year-end like no other. The pandemic, economic downturn, heightened awareness of systemic racism, climate disasters, and political turmoil have turned our world upside down. Yet, the need for your services is growing among all this.
If you’ve always relied on year-end for the bulk of your revenue, but are thinking about sitting this one out, please don’t do that. As I’ve emphasized over the last several months – don’t stop fundraising.
Yes, it’s hard, but donors will help if they can. You should also try to mail an appeal letter. People respond better to mail and it’s well worth the investment.
However, if you just send one fundraising letter and wait for the donations to come in, prepare to be disappointed. Your donors have a lot going on and may put your letter aside to handle later, and never get to it.
Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you’ll need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the enormous 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, donors are just generally overwhelmed with everything that’s going on, but many do want to help.
This is why you need a multichannel fundraising campaign with a series of asks.
BEFORE YOU START
Clean up your mailing lists/database
If you haven’t already done this, clean up and organize your mailing lists/database. Do you have both postal and email addresses for all your donors? Be sure to segment your donors into different groups (current, monthly, etc), as well.
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 with a heartfelt appeal message referencing the current situations.
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 time frame as needed and use this for campaigns at other times of the year. For those of you in the United States, I’d wait until after the upcoming election.
That said, I do recommend starting your year-end campaign sooner than later. If you’ve already mailed your appeal, you can start planning your reminders.
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. Referencing the current situations will help. Use an enticing subject line such as How you can help local families put food on the table.
Make sure it’s obvious your message is coming from your organization so you have a better chance of getting it opened.
Week of November 9
Mail your appeal letters.
Week of November 16
Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. Weekly reminders are a proven way to help you raise more money. 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.
Thank you so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. This has been a tough year, but we’re well on our way to our goal of serving more local families at the food bank. This is crucial. Our numbers have tripled since March.
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 23
Send another reminder, along with a Happy Thanksgiving message. Show some gratitude to your donors.
Week of November 30
December 1 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message. You may already have a campaign planned.
Your donors’ inboxes will be bursting at the seams on #GivingTuesday and your messages can easily get lost in the melee. Make your messages stand out and remember to show some gratitude, too.
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 7
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. Leaving a voice mail message is fine.
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 messages 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 up with your donor communication (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 already busy fundraising season. Send a reminder email on December 29th, 30th, and 31st. This is also proven to be an effective strategy. And, it’s 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 raise money, don’t forget about building relationships, too. That’s just as important.
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.
Once is not enough, especially this year. Your fundraising campaign will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. Good luck!