Your end-of-year fundraising lift is more than a few emails in the last couple months of the year. Or at least it should be. When executed correctly, it can result in a large portion of fundraising income for your organization. In fact, nonprofits raise between 26 and 50 percent of their total annual income from the year-end ask. It may be hard to think about while you’re still enjoying summer, but August is the perfect month to start working on your year-end campaign. Below is a timeline that outlines the steps we recommend you take each month leading up to the end of the year (and one month after) to ensure that your fundraising campaign is a smashing success.
August: Strategize and Plan
Use what you know about your organization’s financials to set a fundraising goal and start working on the visual presentation of your campaign and the stories you want to tell. Sit down with your team and talk timeline: Are you going to start before Thanksgiving? Are you participating in Giving Tuesday? August is also when you’ll want to talk about your outreach methods, specifically if you’re focusing just on email or if there will be a social media component as well. If your board of directors is involved in fundraising, it’s useful to think now about how you’d like to utilize them and tell them well in advance so they’re prepared. Thinking about your content early allows you to make a timeline for how your message will change and progress from your initial ask to your final message.
September: Identify Your Audiences
With your basic strategy in place, it’s time to start thinking about your different audiences and how you’ll craft messages for each of them. The cleanliness of your house file is critical, as is your segmentation. If you’ll be sending different messages to different groups, make sure your nonprofit’s tagging is up-to-date. For example: Your major donors should receive a more personalized message compared to a general ask that goes to a larger, lesser known group. Once you have your tags agreed upon you can start to write messages directed at these different audiences. September is also a good time to think about what you will do with your supporters post-ask. Determine the follow-up communication for each audience and when in the new year you’ll reach out.
October: Get Creative
Now that you know your plan, know your audiences, and know what stories you want to target them with, October is the month where it all comes together. It’s when you finalize the presentation of your messages with tailored content, emotional imagery, and optimal layouts. Your email templates, donation pages, social media images, website banners, and printed materials should all be confirmed, and production should be complete by the end of this month. You’re approaching campaign launch, so you should be putting the finishing touches on message content and design so you are ready to go in November.
November and December: Ask
The number one reason people donate to an organization is because they are asked. As your campaign rolls out, monitor your messages and your activity on social channels. Ensure you are responding to questions and that donors are getting what they need (especially donation receipts). Check in on what messages are performing the best and make any adjustments to the emails and posts that follow. Pay special attention to December 29th-31st— 12% of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year.
January 2019: Follow-Up
Thank you messages (and associated donation receipts) should go out immediately, but there are ways to further cultivate donors into supporting your organization in different ways. Adding them to a welcome series, inviting them to events, reminding them of programs they can support, and even suggesting monthly giving are just a few ideas. The big takeaway is that you shouldn’t only ask people for money once, put them in your database, and then forget them until you need money again. Get to know your donors post-give and tell them some of the work their gifts will support in the coming year.
No campaign is complete until you’ve done a full analysis of the results. The best way to improve your fundraising efforts is to analyze your performance and learn from your results. Make sure you take time to celebrate your successes and really dig into what didn’t work best and why. Keep track of data points and create a better-next-time list. That way when next August rolls around your first step can be to review the previous year’s campaign. If you’re ready to get started with custom email templates and fundraising pages for your year-end campaign, reach out to us today.