Navigating the complexities of year-end fundraising can be a daunting task. With approximately a quarter of your revenue for the entire year at stake, it’s crucial to have a well-defined plan in place to maximize your organization’s fundraising potential.
In this guide, we’ll explore five best practices for achieving year-end fundraising success. Whether you’re looking to establish new fundraising strategies or revamp your existing ones, these insights will help you secure the funding you need to further your mission.
1. Analyze your data from last year.
Analyze past fundraising data stored in your organization’s database. Use this information to determine what your organization does well and where you have opportunities for improvement.
For example, if a significant portion of your supporters RSVP’d for your virtual event and gave a donation on top of their registration fee, you should continue this activity as part of your year-end campaign. However, you may also find that your email open rate is lower than expected, meaning there’s an opportunity to optimize your email marketing strategies.
Keep these discoveries in mind as you construct your year-end plan.
2. Make a plan to start early.
Year-end fundraising isn’t just about November and December. In fact, many nonprofits start their planning in late summer, as this allows them to prepare far in advance of the busiest months of the year.
As approaches, create a plan that accounts for:
- Your Giving Tuesday campaign. Giving Tuesday is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and will likely be one of your most successful donation days of the year. Make sure you’re prepared for the day by rolling out a marketing plan several weeks ahead of time on your social media accounts, your website, and your email newsletter.
- Holiday considerations for your supporters. Lean into the holiday cheer by emphasizing the idea of the “season of giving” and focus your messaging and communication materials on this idea. Offer supporters the ability to donate on behalf of their friends and family or send seasonal greeting cards in exchange for a donation.
- The last few days of the year when fundraising is most lucrative. Plan your biggest communications push for the last few days of the year when donors have their last chance to make a tax-deductible gift. Work closely with your matching gift officers to arrange phone calls and in-person meetings with major donors to secure their support, as these are the donors most receptive to tax deduction incentives.
If your nonprofit finds itself starting the planning process later than ideal, immediately prioritize key tasks to maximize its success. Firstly, it should conduct a thorough assessment of its current resources, including staff, volunteers, and existing donor relationships. This will help identify any gaps that need to be filled and provide a clear understanding of the organization’s strengths and limitations
3. Prepare your communications.
Effective communication is key to engaging donors and inspiring them to support your cause. To prepare your communications for a successful year-end fundraising season, you should:
- Segment your audience. Segmenting your audience based on their giving history, interests, and engagement level can help you tailor your communications to their specific needs and preferences. Send targeted messages to each supporter segment to increase the relevance and effectiveness of your communications.
- Craft compelling stories. Use storytelling techniques to spark emotional connections with your donors. Share impactful stories that highlight the impact of your organization’s work, demonstrate the importance of donors’ support, and create a sense of urgency to encourage them to act quickly. Engaging narratives can inspire donors to give and help them understand the value of their contributions.
- Create a multi-channel approach. Utilize multiple communication channels, such as email, social media, direct mail, and phone calls, to reach donors through their preferred platforms. Be consistent in your messaging to reinforce your campaign’s key messaging across channels.
In the months ahead of the year-end season, consider revamping your brand guidelines to differentiate yourself from other organizations and highlight your unique value proposition. Gather feedback from donors, staff, and other stakeholders to gain insights into how the brand is perceived and what changes may be necessary, such as refining your messaging or updating certain graphic design elements.
4. Look for new revenue sources.
For the new year, consider diversifying your revenue sources to increase your nonprofit’s sustainability. For instance, in addition to your current year-end fundraising plans, you might try:
- Incorporating matching gifts and volunteer grants. Corporate matching gifts are opportunities for companies to match contributions that their employees make to nonprofit organizations. Volunteer grants work in a similar way—companies reward a nonprofit with a donation once an employee volunteers a specified number of hours with that nonprofit. Encourage your supporters to investigate if their companies already have these programs or are interested in starting them.
- Launching a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. In a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, individuals raise money on behalf of your nonprofit by reaching out to their personal networks and encouraging them to donate. Creating a rolling peer-to-peer campaign, which supporters can join at their own discretion, provides an additional source of revenue your staff can be more hands-off with than you would other fundraisers.
- Seeking grants for specific projects. Take this opportunity to revamp your grant-writing strategy by identifying certain projects that would benefit from grant funding. Follow effective grant-writing best practices, such as creating a unique proposal for each application, explaining how your project aligns with the funder’s mission statement, and emphasizing your project’s impact, effectiveness, and sustainability.
Expanding your funding sources can help you discover areas of untapped fundraising potential. Additionally, if one fundraising source ever falls short, you have multiple other revenue streams that can pick up the slack.
5. Prepare your technology stack.
A well-prepared technology stack can significantly streamline and improve your fundraising efforts. With the right tools, you can send personalized messages, track engagement, and leverage automation to nurture donor relationships, helping you raise more funds.
Depending on your goals, you can benefit from investing in new technology or upgrading your existing tools ahead of the year-end season. These new platforms may include:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system: Partner with a CRM provider known for platforms with robust reporting capabilities, like Blackbaud or Salesforce. These systems will enable you to better track the success of your year-end fundraising campaign. Analyze your year-over-year fundraising performance as a whole, as well as granular data, such as if mid-level donors sustained or increased their annual donations.
- Online fundraising platform: Invest in a user-friendly online fundraising platform that facilitates easy and secure donation processing. Look for features like customizable donation forms and recurring giving options that will streamline the donation process for supporters and help you track contributions effectively. Ensure your fundraising platforms integrate with your CRM to capture donor data effectively.
- Text-to-give solutions: Text-to-give platforms accommodate donors who prefer to give via their mobile devices. The platform should be straightforward for donors to use, supporting quick and simple mobile giving.
- Email marketing software: Enhance your email marketing efforts with dedicated email marketing software. Select a solution that includes email automation, segmentation, A/B testing, analytics, and an integration with your CRM. Personalized and targeted email campaigns can be especially effective during the year-end fundraising season.
If you need assistance throughout this process, consider working with a nonprofit technology consultant. An expert can decide whether or not you need an entirely new system or an upgrade and provide guidance on how to leverage your technology to meet your goals.
By following these recommendations, you can get a jump start on your year-end fundraising plans. Although the end of the year might seem far off, it’s never too early to create a game plan for your year-end strategy and make sure you’re maximizing the fundraising opportunities available to you.