A Guide to Effective Year-End Giving
Learn how to prepare your systems for effective end-of-year fundraising.
Importance of year-end giving
When the holiday season is right around the corner, that means year-end giving season is upon us. As nonprofits continue to deal with the impact of the pandemic and economic and political uncertainty, the end of the year offers nonprofits the opportunity to connect with their stakeholders, ground their donors on what matters, and maximize the amount of donations coming in.
35 million adults in the United States donated in 2021. Nearly one third (31%) of annual giving occurs in December. Those numbers are relevant to your nonprofit — among those 35 million adults are supporters and donors who care about your mission and want to donate to your cause.
In this guide, we will talk about a foundational to-do list you can implement to nail your end-of-year giving campaign. Remember — you can probably stitch a donation page together in an hour, but setting up systems and strategies well in advance gets you so much more.
Full view of fundraising
If you’ve been managing your nonprofit manually, you likely have a spreadsheet of volunteer hours, handwritten notes on when you called a donor, and several applications for key pieces of information. This setup might be working for you, but you are likely missing important information — particularly the kind that will help you come the end of year.
Running around the office trying to put a report together or digging through sticky notes is slow, inefficient, and frustrating. Most importantly, it takes time away from strategic work. Technology helps reduce the time spent on these manual processes so you can nail your end-of-year giving campaign. Your nonprofit’s technology solutions should be useful for year-round giving and set you up for a successful end of year. Why invest money and time on technology that doesn’t make your life better year round?
The year-end giving season means drastically increased engagement between your organization and its supporters. This engagement, from general communications to actual donations, needs to be tracked across your solutions and stored in a central location. Fundraising technology frees up time and makes your organization more efficient. There is a big possibility that a donor will be lost on paper if their data isn’t organized properly. Once you have this information in one place, you open up a huge set of possibilities for your fundraising and marketing strategy — the more you know about your supporters, the better prepared you are to build and cultivate relationships. With this visibility into people, funds, and outcomes, you can make better decisions that drive impact.
Track your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
One of the most important steps you can take before you start on your end-of-year and Giving Tuesday campaign is to decide what you want to track.
There is a lot of data out there that you can track — be ruthless in the prioritization of your KPIs. GiGi’s Playhouse is a great example of a nonprofit that tracks KPIs that then become the basis for their tiered year-end fundraising appeals. These are some KPIs they track that form a basis for segmentation and personalization of year-end giving letters and emails for Giving Tuesday.
- Emails opened in the last 365 days
- Program participation
- Donation frequency
- Peer-to-peer fundraising dollars
- Event engagement and gala participation
This end-of-year fundraising and marketing workbook can help you organize what you learned from last year’s end-of-year giving season and set your sights on your goals for the coming months.
A multi-channel approach to year-end appeals
A multi-channel year-end giving strategy, or one that targets your supporters through a variety of channels and mediums, is most likely to reach the widest audience. A larger reach results in more funds raised. You can use a combination of email, social, peer-to-peer campaigns, phone calls, and direct mail. Two very effective approaches are direct mail and email marketing. Although these channels are different, using both can maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of each tactic.
People still appreciate a more tactile and familiar way to interact with their charities of choice. Often, you see comparisons made between direct mail and email — these two have been battling it out for years, but the good news is that they can team up and get along! You can combine direct mail tactics with the power of digital to improve your response rates. The best end-of-year giving ideas use an omni-channel approach with triggers to guide supporters through their interaction with you.
Consider using a QR code for your omni-channel approach. A QR code is a barcode that a smartphone can scan on a physical asset like a piece of mail. Once scanned, it takes the user to a digital experience seamlessly. As a fundraiser, you can use QR codes on your direct mail, website, social media profiles, posters, and banners at events to direct people to your donation page. How do you track your donor? When a donor scans the QR code, it takes them to your donation page, which is coded to track your fundraising campaign. Using this data, you can track the effectiveness of each campaign and pull the donors into future email and SMS messages.
Email offers nonprofits an efficient way to reach supporters while still creating a personal experience. There are so many ways to use email, particularly at the end of year. You want to be mindful of both cadence and content. Think of what will resonate most with your donors during this season. End-of-year giving examples for emails include:
- A note of thanks and gratitude for their support, an update on what’s coming up, and an appeal for help.
- A note that is personal and acknowledges a small or big interaction that they have had with the organization.
- A strong and clear statement of what’s expected of them and how their donations can help.
Even with a great story and a call to action, it’s still possible to lose your donors at the very last step — making the donation. If your donors click on your call to action and find that the link is broken (yikes!), the donation form isn’t working, or the process is too long and confusing, they will not have the patience to stay and figure it out. You have to make it easy for your donors to give. Read more tips on how to use digital strategies for end-of-year giving.
Reporting should not be something that makes you want to pull your hair out. It’s vital to keep key stakeholders updated throughout the year so that they can fully understand the outcome of your year-end fundraising efforts. A data-driven culture allows all your staff, partners, and board to lead with confidence. Your technology shouldn’t get in the way of that kind of progress.
Your systems should come with mobile apps to check on key metrics, drive insights, and collaborate on data anywhere. This is what you should be able to get:
- Instant access to reports — pre-built or custom.
- Dashboards that are easy for everyone. If you’re sending several texts, emails, and running down hallways to get your data, that can be tiresome! You want a dashboard that is easy to access, read, and collaborate on even when you’re on the go.
- Data visualization to take data from almost any system and turn it into actionable insights with speed and ease. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping to prep, visualize, and share your data.
- Data security is no longer a nice to have — it’s a responsibility to ensure you are stewards of your most valuable and sensitive information.
The Center is an example of a nonprofit that leverages reporting to understand where to focus their fundraising efforts. Staff use pre-built reports and customized ones to meet specific needs. These reports help the team monitor giving trends and analyze campaign ROI stats. See Individual Giving Coordinator Eugene Lovendusky’s experience improving reporting. Although Eugene has customized his report, you don’t have to. There are several pre-built dashboards and reports that you can choose from. You can use data just to the extent that you need or do more with products like Tableau.
Segmented and personalized data
You acquire donors throughout the year, and it’s critical to certify that all of your data is accurate. Doing so will ensure that your end-of-year fundraising campaign creates the reach and results you expect. For example, at the end of year, you may send an envelope with an appeal to a recipient but it does not reach them because of a wrong address. Your system should allow you to schedule a recurring National Change of Address (NCOA) update to ensure your record reflects the current address of your recipient. Save your stamp money!
After you have rinsed that data, use it wisely. One-size-fits-all blast emails could be impersonal. A customized piece of communication is far more effective. Talk about the impact their support has had and acknowledge their involvement with your organization — a time they volunteered or attended an event — however big or small.
Use a segmentation methodology that makes sense for your organization. You can segment by amount given, frequency of support, years of support, or most recent support. Riley Children’s Foundation uses an integrated multi-channel campaign strategy to communicate to their various donor segments.
End-of-year giving and Giving Tuesday are key for the health of your nonprofit as you move into the new year. Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that follows the big shopping days that launch the holiday shopping season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, Giving Tuesday is on November 29, 2022. Think of using the day as a launch pad for your larger year-end fundraising campaign, and continue the momentum through the end of the year. Take advantage of this unique time of year when generosity is running high. As you follow the outlined pointers, remember to keep a focus on the experience of your donor. You are a donor too — use that lens to think about their perspective and what information they need from you to get involved.
We wish you all a tremendous, productive, and exciting end-of-year giving season!