As we start moving into fall, many nonprofit organizations are already gearing up for the giving season! According to Charity Navigator, 31 percent of charitable giving occurs in the month of December, but the time and effort involved in getting your message out means that programs should start planning now for their end-of-year campaigns.
Approach your end-of-year campaign as not only an appeal for additional support but also as an opportunity to showcase the organization’s achievements while thanking those who helped advance your work. Keep in mind the significance of your individual donor base. According to Giving USA 2017 findings, the most comprehensive report on charitable giving in the U.S., individual giving topped off again in 2016, making up 72 percent of all charitable giving in the U.S and marking a 4 percent increase from 2015. Individual giving also grew at a faster rate than other forms of charitable giving.
Knowing that, your appeal letter to your donors is critical for success. As the first piece of communications your donors receive, the appeal letter is sometimes your only opportunity to make your pitch, so it pays off to invest time now to develop the overarching theme of your campaign. That theme should resonate throughout your letter and across all other messaging platforms.
As you craft your letter, keep these points in mind:
- Personalize it as if writing to one donor
- Add visual appeal
- Ensure consistency of branding throughout the form letter, reply card, and envelopes
In the letter, you’ll want to tell your supporters how they’ve made a difference throughout the year. Share a compelling story or two about how lives were changed as a result of their support. These stories should demonstrate the kind of impact your organization is capable of making to improve your community. Also give donors a glimpse of the current landscape – what are the major challenges and problems facing the communities you serve and how is your organization poised to address them? Help your supporters understand that they are potential solutions to these challenges.
As we all know, social media is an important tool to use in your campaign. Messaging around your overall campaign theme needs to be engaging, compelling, visual, and brief — especially on Facebook and Twitter! Make sure your organization’s webpage is updated, including end-of-year campaign content. Work with your communications team to design follow-up campaign messages once your appeal letter is out the door. These could be stories from the field, testimonials from clients, quotes from afterschool program leaders, and other allies.
Here’s a suggested timeline of key activities to help prepare for a successful end of year campaign:
- September: Set a financial goal and decide on a theme for your end-of-year campaign. Compile your donor list and ensure all names, addresses, and emails are complete and updated. Make sure you have an ample supply of paper, reply cards, envelopes, etc. for the appeal letter.
- October: Craft your appeal letter and reply card, including images and graphics. Plan and draft follow-up appeal communications, including weekly e-blasts and social media posts. Ensure consistent branding across all communications.
- November: Mail out appeal letter by mid-November or before Thanksgiving. Do follow-up communications through weekly e-blasts, starting week after Thanksgiving. Use Giving Tuesday, a day of global giving on November 28, to launch follow-up messaging.
- December: Weekly e-blasts and social media posts are ongoing with urgency of messaging increasing (for instance, a message on December 30 that reads, “Only 24 hours before the year closes to show your support”…) Prepare donor thank you letters.
- January: Continue sending donor thank-you letters, including the donation amount as proof for tax deductions. Once your campaign is over, send donors an update on whether your financial goal was met or not. Inform your donors on how their support will be put to work in the coming year.
Finally, devote time to debrief with your team on campaign results. Assess total campaign contributions and compare with previous year totals and review average gift amounts.
Check to see if donor base expanded from previous years. Analyze your campaign expenses – were they higher this year? Did those expenses net a significant increase in donations? Examine social media analytics (i.e., open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates) to assess what if any modifications should be made in future campaigns.
And most importantly, keep nurturing relationships with your supporters through regular communications updates so they remain connected and committed to your cause and ready to engage on your next campaign!