Year-End Giving Calendar for Nonprofit Fundraising
We interrupt this regularly scheduled summer to say: time to start thinking about Thanksgiving.
Ah, the lazy days of summer. The beach, good books, maybe a margarita or two. A steel drum playing in the background. Time to think about nothing more than relaxing.
And your nonprofit’s end-of-year giving campaign.
Sorry, I know that was rude. But this is a helpful article, not one that will get you all stressed.
It’s not that you need to start planning your end-of-year campaign right now. You do, however, need to start thinking about it.
Why in the world would I ask you to start thinking about Giving Tuesday and how much money you can raise?
Because without any effort, your nonprofit will raise money from Giving Tuesday to December 31. Okay? You can go back to your sunscreen and your book.
But….pssst….with a little effort, your nonprofit can raise a lot of money from Giving Tuesday to December 31. So sit up and give me a few minutes to chat about what you can do right now—and over the next few months—to ensure a successful year-end giving campaign. Then you can go back to relaxing, knowing you’ve got a great plan and things are under control.
July and August
These slower summer months are the perfect time to get a jump on your end-of-year campaign.
Because we are halfway through the year, it’s a great time to look at your annual fundraising goals and determine how you’re doing so far.
Look at the last six to 12 months. What needs to be accomplished by the end of the year to hit those goals?
You can ask yourself these questions:
- Is my annual fundraising on track with what I mapped out?
- What has worked well this year? (Note: this isn’t a historical question. It’s about the most recent past. Where are your donors now? I’ll bet that in July of 2020, in-person events were not on the table, even if they were big successes in January 2020.)
- Is the annual goal I set realistic? (If not, can you revise it?)
- How much will I have to raise for the rest of the year to meet my goal?
Set clear goals for your campaign. Make them S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, which just really means a defined time period). This is how you will measure the effectiveness of your efforts.
Leverage your CRM to segment your donors and find the groups that will hold different roles in your campaigns. A group of lapsed donors will likey have a very different campaign than the one directed at your sustainers. Which campaign will resonate with which group, and what will your ask be for each?
Here are a few statistics for you.
- 50% of nonprofits receive most of their annual donations in the last three months.
- 31% of annual giving occurs in December.
- 12% of all giving happens on the last three days of the year.
- 70% of donors donate through multiple channels.
While ongoing fundraising campaigns are essential throughout the year, the last few months are where you can make significant gains for your organization. If you haven’t met your goals or want to revise them upward, end-of-year giving offers a fantastic opportunity.
As you evaluate where you are and where you want to be, zero in on what’s worked this year. The stat about multi-channel donations might make your ears perk up. What are the channels where you’ve seen success? Use those to form the foundation of your year-end giving campaigns.
As you consider your campaigns, are there visuals you need to collect? Many people leave image procurement until the last minute, and it takes longer than you expect!
What will the theme of your campaigns be? Select one person, story, or statistic around which you can center your campaign.
Now that you have an idea of the campaigns you can run, let’s talk about another way you can maximize giving. The easiest way is through matching gifts.
I’m going to knock your socks off. An estimated $4 to $7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed yearly. That is money that, if asked, corporations will funnel into nonprofits. Furthermore, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered.
I can keep going if you need more convincing, but suffice to say—it’s a gamechanger when you leverage matching gifts.
So what’s the best way to manage a matching gift program? At CharityEngine, we recommend Double the Donation. There are other providers, many of which will meet your needs, but we can only vouch for the one we see in action.
What gift-matching software does is keep a comprehensive database of companies with matching programs. When someone donates, there’s a database search tool to see if their company offers a corporate philanthropy program. If there’s a match, they click on a link to get the form they need and hit submit. Done! The whole process only takes a few minutes.
For your donors, this is a chance to increase their impact. They might give more than they intended once they see the implications of a match.
For nonprofits, these funds require no time or effort from you, and the process is automated. And we can promise it works.
The second thing to think about in September is social media. Can you use it to tease your end-of-year campaign? It’s been proven that social media is an effective marketing tool for nonprofits. Hootsuite offers some good tips, including sharing stories about people and running a hashtag campaign.
August and September are your months to plan. Write everything down, draft social media, letters, and emails, and identify both superstar and lapsed donors. Take the time to think of all the details and iron them out now.
Take a peek at your website. 82% of donors visit a website before making a gift, so what will they see when they visit yours? Hopefully, you'll show them compelling stories and images with an easy-to-find donate button.
What does your donation landing page look like? If you have different campaigns running and they have different messaging or asks, take the time to create landing pages for each.
Consider social proof, too. Do you have testimonials or media quotes? And it goes without saying that your website must be responsive.
This is when things start to happen. Start by ensuring all your internal teams are on board with your plans.
- Are the roles for staff defined, and have they been communicated?
- Are the goals clear, and how will each campaign contribute to them?
- Are your board members, volunteers, donors, and other supporters armed with any materials they need to be ambassadors for your organization?
Take the pulse of your donors. Can you identify some who are particularly active? Can you tap them to be ambassadors and lead or participate in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign? Perhaps they can compete to raise funds and find new supporters.
Can you find a casual supporter who could be incentivized to become more active through public recognition, giveaways, early access, or free event tickets?
Hold a board meeting. Ask members to give, to recruit new donors, and to spread the word about your year-end campaigns and goals.
Then look at your campaigns. If you have direct mail in your plans, October is the perfect time to launch your campaign. It’s also the right time to put the heat on your social media campaign and keep that momentum moving. Facebook refers almost 30% of all traffic to donation pages on Giving Tuesday. End-of-year social campaigns work well for nonprofits!
If you are planning any in-person events, ensure your event space has been procured and that all the logistics (do you need an auctioneer?) are in place.
Start promoting your efforts so that when people have time to volunteer or want to give away a portion of that holiday bonus, you’re top of mind. This is also a great time to publicly promote your work and garner support for your mission. Reminding people of the impact your organization has will keep you top-of-mind over the next few months. Weave these promotions into your social media to gain new supporters, too.
Practice! Donate $1 to yourself on your phone and on your website (and through your mobile swiper if you will be using one), and make sure it’s an easy, smooth process with very few clicks and lots of thanks along the way.
Finally, make sure your matching gifts efforts are ready to go. If you don’t want a partner like Double the Donation, hit up local businesses, large corporations, or even your friendly neighborhood philanthropists. The latter group sometimes agrees to match gifts to a specific dollar amount.
Things started to percolate in October, but November is all about getting ready for Giving Tuesday. An estimated $2.7 billion was raised in the United States in 2021, with 35 million adults participating. This global day of giving is traditionally held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and it’s a monumental day for nonprofits who want to increase their visibility and leverage this day of giving.
At this point, your end-of-year campaigns have been on a slow burn since September, and you can ignite them or launch them in preparation for Giving Tuesday. It follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, so checkbooks are already out. All you have to do is ask.
We have a few pieces of advice we give clients:
- Follow this calendar and start early.
- Pair the #GivingTuesday hashtag with #YourOrganization (i.e., #CharityEngine) on social media, so there’s an affiliation in donors’ minds.
- Consider a thermometer or other way to track your fundraising. Have the names of donors scrolling on a leaderboard on your website.
- Don’t discount non-monetary donations. If you have an advocacy outreach effort, ask for a signature. Ask social media followers for a retweet or to use your hashtag.
- Don’t be afraid to express urgency as your campaign goes on. “Last chance for a tax writeoff!” will resonate with some folks!
- Position your ask carefully so it won’t be overlooked or feel presumptuous. A smart way to approach this is with quantifiable tiers:
- $5 buys a school lunch
- $15 buys a kid a stuffed backpack
- $25 buys after-school care for a week
- Similarly, make it easy to give by publishing a wish list.
- Don’t forget a little internal cheerleading this month. Your team is working hard during a personally busy time of the year. A surprise delivery of bagels is nice, but a heartfelt thank-you can also go far. They’re the worker bees changing the world.
You’re in it knee-deep now, my friend. Thanksgiving kicks off an altruistic month, so amp up anything you’ve been doing that works. Hit the phones. Put a compelling picture on social media. Tout your matching gift program.
Offer a flash incentive to anyone who donates in the next hour, or more than $50, or whatever works. Use video and images on your website, emails, and social media.
Use video and images to spotlight your cause or the effects of funds donated.
Most importantly, don’t take your foot off the gas. Not only does a lot of giving happen in the last three days of the month, but it’s also driven by tax benefits, so those donations are often sizeable.
The After Party
Yup, you’re exhausted. It’s been a busy couple of months, and you might be ready to trade almost anything for those steel drums and tropical sunsets. But before you really take a break, you need to wrap up your extraordinary, spectacular, successful end-of-year efforts.
- Thank every single human being you see. Your volunteers, staff, board members, donors, Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who takes out your trash, everyone.
- Measure your results. Check your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and see how each channel did, each effort, and each segment of your audience.
- What worked? What didn’t? Why? Then sketch out a plan for next year with notes. You think they’re seared into your brain now, but you’ll forget them!
- If you use an all-in-one CRM, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done for you, and your data is in the system. If you don’t use one, call us and book a demo!
- Measure, analyze, record. Your next-September self will thank your current December self for making the job a little easier.
See? That wasn’t so hard. Now that you’ve thought about it, you can return to your strawberry-picking, firefly-catching, supremely relaxing summer. You’ve got your calendar all planned out. And from that, you see you should probably rest while you can!