Your busiest giving season is right around the corner. Are you prepared? In this roundup, I compiled the best year-end fundraising advice from several nonprofit consultants in my network. Use these best practices to get a jumpstart on your year-end planning.
1. What is the biggest mistake you see nonprofits make at end of year?
From Sabrina Walker Hernandez, Founder of Supporting World Hope and consultant, coach, facilitator, and bestselling author.
The biggest mistake that nonprofits make at the end of year is not building relationships throughout the year with donors. You can do this through face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, volunteer opportunities, seeking feedback, and other communications like social media and events such as roundtables, mixers, and house parties (*not* just fundraising events).
A mistake nonprofits make is jumping in your mailbox or inbox at year end asking for money. Not cool. As a donor it doesn’t inspire me to give. I want to hear from you throughout the year. Share your impact and build that relationship. Relationship + Results = Recurring Revenue.
2. If you had one piece of advice for successful end-of-year fundraising what would it be?
I’ll take Giving Tuesday as my test case. The nonprofit I know that rakes in the most on Giving Tuesday starts prepping its target audience of potential supporters in September — months before the event.
In advertising (the category under which fundraising falls), repetition is your best friend. More repetition produces more response.
3. What is your biggest end-of-year fundraising pet peeve?
From Alice Ferris, CFRE, ACFRE, Founding Partner of GoalBusters, consultant, speaker, trainer and recognized nation-wide for her on-air presence on public television and radio pledge drives.
My biggest end-of-year pet peeve is the number of organizations that title their year-end fundraising as their “year-end appeal.”
I’m mortified by the number of solicitations I receive via email and by post that have in the subject line or on the outer envelope, “It’s our year-end appeal!” Just because you call it that internally doesn’t mean it should be called that publicly.
Tell me why I’m important to why you’re important. Don’t tell me, “Hey, I’m asking you for money!”
Even better, once I received an email that said, “we know you’re getting a lot of year-end appeals, so we’re not going to ask you for money. Instead, we’ll send you a new and improved SPRING appeal!”
My second pet peeve is the number of organizations that feel like their year-end fundraising has to be really heavily designed. Just write me a letter or send me a short email. It’s okay if it’s simple if you’re telling the right story.
4. Are there low hanging fruit strategies that nonprofits tend to ignore or not maximize when it comes to year-end fundraising?
From Julie Cooper, fundraising copywriter, strategist, coach, and trainer at FundraisingWriting.com
When a donor reads your year-end appeal, their brain is working fast to answer this question: “Is this for me?” Your job is to make sure that answer is a resounding “YES!” You can get to “yes” by using personalization in your letters and emails. Here are three tips to help you get started:
- Use Their Name. Using the donor’s name in your year-end appeal is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to build the relationship. Stay away from “Dear Friend.” After all, you know their name. Just be sure to merge it into your appeal.
- Vary Donor Segments. While your appeal is essentially the same for all donors, some of the copy should be specific to their giving behavior. So, pick a 3 or 4-line paragraph in your appeal where you can adjust the language to speak to your donor segments – such as active, lapsed, major, and monthly.
- Vary Gift Amounts. The suggested gift amounts listed in your appeal should be based on the donor’s last gift. Putting the appropriate ask amounts in front of each donor will impact your revenue — now and for years to come!
The more personalized your year-end appeal is, the better chance you’ll keep the donor’s mind and heart engaged. And an engaged donor is a loyal donor!
5. If you were giving a stressed-out fundraiser a pep talk about end-of-year fundraising what would you tell them?
Just say no to perfectionism.
Content is never going to be perfect, and your social media to do list will never be fully complete. We have to be okay with done and imperfect, as it’s better than simply not done at all!
I don’t mean allowing lazy mistakes and awful content to take over. But you shouldn’t be spending hours designing and tweaking one single Instagram post, or spending hours editing a smartphone video that is going to be 30 seconds long.
Attention to detail is great but perfectionism is a killer. Get that post up. Edit it later if you find a drastic mistake. Test, see what’s working, and do more of that.
6. What’s the most important thing nonprofits should do with new donors they welcome at end of year?
Before they obtain these donors they should build a donor relations plan to retain them!
I see all the time that they’re willing to spend money in acquisition but not retention which is why we have a 23% donor retention rate industry wide.
Put a pause on asking for more money and spend the time and money building the relationship. A donor expects to be thanked and told what their money did WITHOUT another ask smacking them in the face.
We need to be just as strategic thanking and reporting impact as we are asking!
7. How important are matches to end-of-year fundraising? If a nonprofit wants to use a match what’s a realistic deadline to have it nailed down?
Matches typically create a 15 – 50 % jump in giving (even if you do them every year) so you’d be nuts to say no to a match for end of year. Moreover, matches often boost average gift size.
If you’re going to mention your match in your direct mail appeal, you need to have it locked down before you go to print.
The most important thing I would stress about matches is always do the math for the donor, no matter how easy. For example: “Your gift of $100 will become $200!” Never say “Double your donation” or “Double your gift.”
After the match is over thank the funder who did the match. They need to know how well you did and that their gift made a difference. And of course, thank your donors!
8. What’s new this year that should make nonprofits plan and budget for appropriately?
From Sarah Masterson, copywriter, author, and donor communications expert specializing in strategy and copywriting.
It’s a new world! We can’t get away with year-end procrastination anymore. We can no longer be successful with last-minute, patchwork end-of-year campaigns. And that’s good news! The old way was bananas. It was panic, exhaustion, and scarcity. Successful teams are wise and disciplined enough to start NOW.
Yes, right now. Put your goals, priorities, and budget in writing today. Book your year-end consultants, creatives, and vendors before August ends. (The best copywriters and designers have a full dance card by September.) Bring your year-end crew together long before the leaves start to turn — defining your strategy, roles and timeline. Give your creatives the time they really need to serve you well.
Start poolside with a margarita. Just start now with this year-end fundraising advice. It’s how you’ll make beautiful things happen in November and December, without losing your mind or leaving money on the table.