5 Steps to a Stand-Out Year-End Appeal

This is the beginning of the end…of the year. The time for you to bear down and give birth to the most compelling fundraising campaign you have in you! So get to it.
Email outreach is just one component of your multi-part year-end appeal campaign. But it’s a channel that increases in importance — due to your ability to time receipt precisely — as you move into the final days and hours of 2011.

Take a look at the email subject lines above — which led year-end appeal emails I received in December 2010 — for ideas on what will work (and what won’t) for your organization.  And work backwards from there!

My recommendations:

  1. Make it extremely personal, as the end of the year is emotionally weighted with review of the year past and hopes and goals for the year to come. So emphasize that connection (between your organization’s review and goals, and those of your supporters and prospects). Also, include one of your team’s name (or rotate names) in from lines and direct mail signatures.
  2. Inspire, don’t guilt. Ringing in the new year with a gift to free speech inspires me, while nudging me that I shouldn’t delay just annoys me.
  3. Launch an email series, rather than depend on a one off, tied together with a single, memorable theme. Note how Lauren-Glenn Davitian (of CCTV, I’d add that to her “from” info) first asks for a 2010-focused contribution on December 28, then returns at the last moment with a request for a contribution spearheading 2011 impact on December 31.
  4. Integrate that email series with a direct mail campaign, and social media (where you are already — don’t go out for the first time at this point.)
  5. Laser focus on your appeal during the last week of the year, rather than talking about events to come. Keep your base’s eye on the prize, especially during this week when we’re all distracted by holidays, family and honing those new year resolutions.

What’s worked for your year-end fundraising campaign, and what’s flopped? Please share your stories here.

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Nancy Schwartz on November 1, 2011 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 10 comments
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  • Brett Meyer, NTEN

    Hey, I see my name in there! That reminds me that some analysis I did on our own subject lines suggested that simply using parentheses bumped up our open rates — but we always put the meat of the subject line at the front.

    Two in 4 days from Lauren-Glenn, though? We’re leaning toward a late-November – mid-December – Dec. 31 schedule this year. But I’d be curious to hear from LGD how that tighter schedule worked.
    Thanks for the nudge to wrap up our first year-end e-mails this week, Nancy.

  • You raise a good question on the compressed timeline, Brett. What I’ve experienced in several client projects is that it does indeed work, at least at the level of two emails in the last week of the year.

    Please let me know how your 3-part series drives donations. Thanks, Brett!

  • Allison

    Thank you so much for these tips! I just used them in my organization’s fundraising campaign and I think they’ll really help us focus. The theme works so well.

  • Carrie

    I agree on multiple emails the last week of the year – I have received two emails on the same day, even (12/31). The same is true with our statewide “Gives Day.” We plan a series throughout the day – we know our donors are being inundated, and if we are not one of the ones in their inbox, we won’t be top of mind.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Carrie. Any other tips to share?

  • Carrie

    I think most small nonprofits simply cannot over-communicate. I know our supporters love hearing about every possible update, and I don’t come close to touching them enough! Ignore the naysayer inside that says you’re “bothering” them. If they are inundated, they simply will delete it before they unsubscribe or send you a nastygram.

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  • Development ArcSOMD

    I’m so glad that I found this site!! The comments and insights are invaluable. Instead of an email campaign, I’m trying to do more of a push via Facebook and Twitter and constant contact for online donations. Also, I’m trying to craft the message that will appear on our website to help motivate online donations. Should I make the appeal letter available for donors to read online for those not on our mailing list?

  • Tracey Manni

    how do you all feel about email video versus static email? Is it too much to ask for folks to watch a whole video before showing the online giving link? Im speaking about a solicitation planned for June (end of year).

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