The end of the year is a vitally important time for all nonprofits. Over 30% of all donations are made during the month of December. And 12% come in the final 3 days of the year! 

Just because the overwhelming number of American adults are more generous during the window between Thanksgiving and New Year’s does not guarantee they will be donating to your nonprofit. You need to have a strategic plan for the end of the year to inspire donors to contribute to your group.

Here are some tips to help you do just this! 

Plan Ahead, Way Ahead

The best year end campaigns are well thought out…from the big picture all the way to the nitty gritty details. That takes a lot of time and planning. Start planning in the summer. I know it sounds so early, but the extra time will give you and your colleagues a chance to think through ideas, determine goals, and set yourself up to successfully execute on the most important campaign of the year. 

Review Last Year’s Results

Start by looking at the previous year’s results. Block off some time to really dig into the numbers with your colleagues. Analyze what worked and what didn’t work. Talk through the possible reasons why. What can you learn from last year that will help with this year’s efforts?

This is also a good time to reflect on how smoothly the campaign ran or didn’t run. Determine if there are changes you would like to make to procedures, approval processes or the workflow to improve upon last year. Is it clear who will be in charge of each part of the campaign?

Evaluate this Year’s Fundraising Results

Next, take a look at the income numbers and metrics so far this year. Where are you strong and what has been challenging so far this year?

Look at the packages and online campaigns you have done so far this year. What messages and techniques are working with donors? What’s not?

Use these insights, combined with learnings from last year’s campaign, to start plotting out your end of year of year campaign. 

Set Goals

Set an overall income goal for your year-end campaign. It should be realistic. By having one large goal, you will motivate employees across various teams to work closely together. You want them to view each other as partners rather than the competition. 

Some nonprofits create thermometers or other tracking devices to show donors progress towards the larger goal. Consider something similar to use internally to keep team members motivated to hit the goal.

Set the Overall Narrative

You want to have an overarching narrative or theme for your end of year campaign. This should be something that will inspire donors and relate directly to your mission. Don’t stray far from the messaging that has been working this year. But you do want to clearly define the narrative so that all team members are on the same page.

When you set the narrative, allow for creativity and variation across channels. You want consistency but what works in the mail may not work online and vice versa. The goal is for the messages to reinforce each other. You never want donors to be confused by conflicting messaging.  

Plan your Tests

With a lot of messages going out to a large audience, your online campaign is a great opportunity to test. Think about what hypothesis about donors you would like to test, and how you can test that across channels and messages. Consider both one-time tests within the different emails and direct mail packages as well as broader test that would run across the duration of the campaign.

Analyze in Real Time and Be Prepared to Pivot

As results come in, continuously monitor them and be aware of what is and is not working. Be prepared to adjust your messaging or techniques accordingly. Be sure to share data across teams so everyone has the latest information. 

Thank Donors

Don’t forget to thank your donors during the weeks of your year-end campaign. While this clearly a terrific time to solicit for gifts, it is also a great time to reflect upon the year and thank donors for all they are doing to make this work possible. 

This thank you strategy should be a part of your overall year-end campaign strategy. Don’t forget to talk through creative ideas for showing donors appreciation as part of your planning process.

Year-end campaigns can be a lot of fun, and they can also be stressful. Take as much of the stress out of this important fundraising time by starting the planning process early. Give yourself and your colleagues the time to brainstorm ideas, set goals and plan both the big picture and the smaller details in a way that will inspire donors. Good luck!