The End is Near! 10 Great Year-End Fundraising Ideas

Appropriately, this article is being published on the last day of summer, 2014. So the end of a season is imminent, the end of the month is about one week away, and the end of the year is — well we may have a calendar quarter left, but if you are planning serious fundraising efforts around the upcoming holiday season (and you should) it’s time to get in gear.

It is a pretty well-established fact that people tend to donate more around the holidays. Obviously there are a lot of reasons for this, including tradition (it’s the giving season), awareness (those Salvation Army kettles attract donations, but also serve to remind people to think about giving), special “pushes” in communities and churches, and of course tax considerations. When people in your local or extended community think about giving this year, will they think about your nonprofit? You can have a say in that decision if you make the right moves, and now is the time to start.

Here are 10 good ideas you might want to consider to boost the success of your year-end fundraising campaign.

Work from back to front

The people you should be contacting RIGHT NOW are all of the donors from last year. Remind them of their generosity, thank them again, and underscore the challenges you still have that they can help you solve. Tell them what you were able to do in the past year, thanks to their philanthropy. Donors need to know that they are important to you, and that the money they give you makes a difference.

Have a theme or message

Think about your end of the year fundraising as a “brand”, and support it accordingly. Can you come up with a catchy phrase to describe your mission (e.g., “Not everyone will have a Merry Christmas this year!”)? Could you create a custom logo for this enterprise (maybe something as simple as putting a snowy landscape behind your standard logo, or perching a Santa hat on one of the letters in your organization’s name)? Pay attention to design concepts and color schemes and make sure your message is expressed consistently wherever it shows up.

Don’t ask just once

Make sure that you distribute you “ask message” to your community or mailing list more than just once. Your prospective donors are probably busy people, and a single email request or letter in traditional mail is easy to overlook – even more so at the end of the year when many people are calling on them to help out. By sending two or three messages, you increase the chances that at least one will be read. Also, the first message from you might just remind your donors of who you are and what you do. Follow up notes will be read more thoroughly and are more likely to elicit a response. Don’t forget the very last week of the year usually sees an increase in donation, so have one of your messages ready to get out around December 20.

Use a multi-platform approach

Are you active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and/or other social media platforms? If your project has a theme or brand, make sure it is spread across all of these platforms. You will reinforce the message among those who follow you on multiple social sites and will broaden your reach overall if you have donors who only read your Twitter feeds, or only follow your organization’s Facebook page.

Use multi-media

Visuals work, plain and simple. Adding pictures to your appeal letters that illustrate your work and the results of the generosity of others may set you apart from a lot of the other groups who are asking at the same time. Using online approaches allows you to embed videos and other digital surprises in with your appeal as well. Did we say “visuals work”. Yes we did!

Tie the gift to results

Even with a good theme and a message about your mission, a lot of donors want to think that the money they donate to you has a real relationship to specific benefits to the community. There is a big difference between stating “We need $50,000 by the end of the year to help us keep doing good work” and giving details about the use of the funds like “Your $100 donation will allow us to serve 45 hungry children a nutritious dinner” or “$50 means a family of four can spend a winter’s night in a safe and warm environment”.

Create an internal goal

How will you measure the success of your fundraising effort? Equally important, how will you know if the time and effort you invest in it really pays off? Not every organization can answer these questions but they are critical to both your current and future efforts. Setting a goal for your campaign helps in so many ways, including creating some parameters on what you can spend in time and real money on the project and helping you set benchmarks over the coming months to decide if you need to ramp up your efforts a little or a lot towards the end of the year. It can also serve as a way to publicly show your donors how you are doing (the oft-used “giving thermometer”) which in turn might stimulate some supporters to help boost you “over the top”.

Call on outside experts

You don’t have to do everything yourself, nor should you. If you have an accountant or tax attorney on your board or in your community of supporters, why not ask her to write a description of the tax ramifications of charitable donations to include with your appeal? Do you know a graphic designer? Maybe he would craft your initiatives logo or color scheme. Advertising exec? Ask for help in creating a simple message. Professional photographer? It’s obvious that you could get a ton of really expert help from your supporters. And, in the spirit of the effort, they could donate their work for you as
in-kind support and join the giving party!

Send a thank you note

Once the end of the year effort is over, remember that your efforts for next year have just begun. A heartfelt thank you note for a recent donation is a great way to ensure that there will be another gift next year. Make a commitment to thank everyone you have solicited – not just those who actually gave. You’ll thank yourself next year at this time!