Year-End Fundraising Strategies for a Nonprofit

Holiday ornament with the word donate on it.
••• Tara Reifenheiser/Getty Images

December welcomes holiday cheer and sometimes snow, but most importantly, it welcomes major gifts from donors! That being said, year-end fundraising can be a stressful and often chaotic time for most nonprofits.

Since year-end fundraising typically results in a significant portion of an organization’s donations, many nonprofits improve their fundraising and receive even more funds to further their causes. But there are plenty of easy tips nonprofit organizations miss time and time again.

Lucky for you, we have broken down the tips your nonprofit might be missing into two sections with four tips in each. The sections are (1) prepping for year-end fundraising and (2) executing your successful end-of-year fundraising. 

Prepping for Ultimate Year-End Fundraising

Preparation is your first step to success. This stage should begin in July or August, a full 5 or 6 months before the big-ticket month of December because it takes months of organization and building to be properly prepared for your year-end fundraising. But do not stress. We will break it all down and walk you through it.

Plan Your Campaign

Planning is an essential component of your successful end-of-year fundraiser. Think about the message you want to convey throughout your campaign. This will be the time to develop a clear timeline. We suggest working backward. First, create your calendar and mark the dates you will want to:

  • send out emails
  • send letters
  • post on social media
  • host live events

Next, you will want to determine how long creating and organizing all of these milestones will take, and determine start dates for every element of your campaign. You will want to keep your timeline handy for reference to make sure your organization is on schedule and on the path to success. Check out Salsa’s End-of-Year Fundraising Timeline for inspiration. While this particular timeline is more general, your calendar should be specific, marked with both dates and times.

Strive for Compelling Storytelling

Now that you know when you will tell your story, it is time to make your story compelling. Describe your nonprofit’s mission, the change you are aiming to create, and how your supporters can help. Make sure the focus is on how your supporters’ contributions can create the change you’re hoping to make. If your donors’ morals and values align with those of your nonprofit, this is a surefire way to encourage donations. You can portray your story through:

  • Stories of people your nonprofit has helped
  • Volunteers’ stories
  • Nonprofit members’ experiences
  • Donors’ stories
  • Event attendees’ experiences

Remember you can choose from dozens of outlets such as emails, videos, and social media (all of which we will tackle in a few minutes) to convey your nonprofit’s mission, so your storytelling can take dozens of forms. And each form can be catered to the platform it is presented on. Because we know finding the right way to tell your story can take time, we also suggest starting this step in July and August.

Select a Multi-Channel Approach

As we briefly mentioned before, you will want to choose as many outlets as possible for the most exposure and most donations. A multi-channel approach to year-end fundraising can help your nonprofit reach individuals who may use social media before they use email or vice versa. Basically, a multi-channeled strategy is meant to get your word out to as many people in as many ways as possible. You should consider the following channels to include in your fundraiser:

  • Email
  • Video
  • Social media
  • Website
  • Text giving

To make the most of your fundraiser, take a multichannel approach to fundraising. Read on to learn how to use the channels listed above throughout your end-of-year fundraiser.

Now that your calendar is marked, your story has been chosen, and the fundraising plan is in place, it is time to dive into the different approaches you can take.

Send Out Emails

A tried and true fundraising strategy, a good email almost always works. If the email is done well, that is. There are a few handy tips to consider before you write your copy and send your emails on their way:

  • Write attention-grabbing subject lines. Tell your supporters what your email is about right in the subject line. Be upfront with them. If your email is a donation ask, say so. An actionable hook like, “Donate now to ABC Nonprofit to give Tanzanian children the books and supplies they need for schooling,” will do wonders.
  • Ask early on. Cut to the chase and do not keep your supporters waiting. If your email is a donation ask, ask within the first few sentences of your copy. If you wait too long, your supporters might trash your email before they get to your ask.
  • Make it personal. This is where segmenting your email lists comes in handy. Recurring donors should receive a different email than new supporters who have yet to contribute.
  • Help them give. If you are asking your supporters to donate via email, you also have to provide them with a way to give. Help them help you. Supply your supporters with a link to your donation form or give them instructions on your text giving campaign -- however, your organization can accept donations. Make sure to give your supporters multiple ways to give so they can choose the method that is most convenient for them.
  • Express your gratitude. Always, always, always say thank you! Whether it’s through email, with a thank-you letter or via a social media shout out, thanking your donors is a huge boost to repeat donations.

Don’t forget you can use your email for more than just soliciting donations. Your emails are a method of communication, perfect for updating supporters on current projects or engaging them with upcoming events.

Create Videos

You can use video content to drive donations, Make sure your mission statement is clear throughout your video and your content is branded with your color scheme and logo.

But don’t ask for contributions up front like you do in your emails. Instead, fill the video with heart-warming success stories from your projects and place an emphasis on how much contributions help to further your cause. Your donors should feel like they can help to make change happen — because they can!

You can use this video to educate your supporters on your cause, too, but make sure your video can be played on any screen size from a television to a laptop to a tablet to a phone.

Use Social Media

 There’s a good chance your organization has a defined online presence through multiple platforms. If not, hop on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for starters because your social media is one of the best and often the easiest way to spread the word about your fundraiser.

Your efforts on social media can translate into donations so long as you put positive effort into sharing your message. Do not tweet your donation link every time, but share stories, videos, and updates on projects your organization is conducting in efforts to further your cause.

It may benefit your nonprofit to create an editorial calendar specifically for your social media. For example, your fundraising campaign may remind you to post on social media on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

So your editorial calendar may say that on Tuesdays, you should tweet a donor’s story while on Thursdays, you can share a video of someone who benefitted from your organization’s latest project. No matter how you organize your posts, people will be motivated to give if your passion for your cause is made real via social media.

Clean Up Your Website

Revamp your website for your year-end fundraising. Make sure it is clean and professional while accurately representing your organization and its mission.

You’ll definitely want to include a tab or button for your donation form on your homepage. Make sure your donation instructions are as simple and easy to understand as possible. You don’t want anyone to abandon their donation because your steps were hard to follow.

In addition, make sure the form is branded to your organization and features your color scheme and logo for a unified look and trustworthy element. Your supporters may be hesitant about putting their personal and payment information into a form that does not look like yours. You should also prominently feature your PCI compliance.

Don’t forget to give your supporters multiple donation options, varying in monetary value so they do not feel pressured to give more than they can afford but can still give as much as they would like.

Try Text Giving

Text giving lets you accept donations from anyone, anywhere. As long as your donors have smartphones, they can contribute via text-to-give. Most text giving providers have simplified the donation process to just a few easy steps, which are as follows:

  1. Donor texts a shortcode (code specific to the organization’s fundraiser) with the amount they’d like to donate to the dedicated phone number.
  2. The provider then responds to the donor with a link to complete the donation.
  3. The donor then fills out his payment information and confirms the donation.
  4. The transaction is finalized via confirmation email sent to the donor.

Make sure the form they enter their personal information into is secure and as always, gives them multiple donation amounts so they can choose to donate the amount that best fits their budget.

Advertise your text giving campaign as an easy and speedy way to donate for your busy supporters. Text-to-give works wonderfully at an event for instance. Project the instructions and code on a screen and donors can give while they are also having fun. Happy year-end fundraising!

Karrie Wozniak is an expert on mobile fundraising. She is Vice President Marketing at BidPal, the leading mobile fundraising software company that helps nonprofits engage more donors and raise more money