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3½ Things to Do Before the Ball Drops

Listen Up, Nonprofits!

It's not time to take your foot off the gas quite yet. These three (and a half) steps can help you bring in some big!

3½ Things to Do Before the Ball Drops

The last few days of the year are seductive. We’ve made it through most of December, which is just so darn busy, and we have a little time before the New Year’s Eve sparklers or implementing those (perhaps overly) optimistic resolutions. There’s a siren call just to relax. Let the old year kind of fade away while you ready your book in front of the fire and doze off. 


Not for nonprofits. Because a huge fundraising opportunity is still in front of you! According to NextAfter, 47% of a nonprofit’s online year-end revenue comes in after December 25. 

So let me be frank: even if you haven’t been frantically executing a year-end campaign since October, it’s not too late. 

Here are three things you can do, starting today, that I promise will help you engage your donors and raise money. Spoiler alert: this is not some earth-shattering, rocket-science-level checklist. But it is a helpful list that can be used by itself or layered on top of any other year-end giving efforts.

1. Craft a fantastic email.

Do not be boring. Your goal is to write an email that rises above the clutter of other nonprofit emails. The goal is to grab attention and make readers want to act. 

How can you do this? We’ve got some tips. 

  • Tell a story. Now I’m going to say something doesn’t have to be a story about your nonprofit. (What?!?!) I know, that sounds radical, but the emails I read are the ones that draw me into the author’s life.  

So an email that starts, “Hi, Julie, remember the plight of the Yangtze Finless Porpoise?  Extinction will be a reality unless you donate today!” won’t really get me to keep reading. 

But this...”Hey, Julie, I spent last week at the beach with three sick kids. If you’ve been on vacation with cranky kids, you’ll understand why I loved long walks – by myself – on the beach. One early evening, I was thrilled to see a pod of dolphins splashing around. It made me realize how important it is that we protect all animals, especially those for which time is running out.” 

I’d be more curious about that – I relate to the beach, I relate to cranky sick kids, and I can picture a pod of frolicking dolphins. I’d want to hear more about why time is running out, and for which animals, and how I could help.  

This is an email I got from my buddy, Pam Grow. She’s a fundraising consultant, not a nonprofit, but she’s nailed storytelling. And yes, I kept reading to find out what happened. Pam Grow email

That email was actually a sales tool, and an effective one. She drew me in before the ask.  

  • Include urgency. It’s the very end of the year, which means there are tax benefits to donating now. You can urge supporters to help you reach a goal. Animals might be in danger of extinction, or there could be a chance to fill a tummy so a child doesn’t go to bed hungry. Whatever applies to your mission works, even if you must get creative.  

Another option is to ask a community partner to match donations or use a program like Double the Donation or Donate Stock to drum up additional donations. If you have a backlog of t-shirts or mugs, offer to mail them to the first 100 donors on a given day.  

  • Quantify gifts. Rather than asking for a donation, ask for $25 to feed a family for a week. Ask for $100 to save an acre of rainforest. Ask for $10 for medical supplies for an abused dog. The more you can draw a direct line from someone pressing the “donate now” button and that donation going right to the cause, the more of a connection you’ll have with that donor. 

While this won’t give you a huge end-of-year fundraising bump, asking people to pledge monthly gifts in the new year makes giving easy. $10 a month for the next 12 months beats the heck out of a single $25 donation this year.

2. Pick up the phone.

To call your top donors? Sort of. I want you to figure out your list of top donors of this past year who haven’t given anything in the last six months or last quarter. Use data in your CRM to dive into their giving cadence, any life events you know of, any reason they particularly care about your nonprofit.  

Then make calls that, like the emails, get through amidst the clutter.  

  • Begin with profuse thanks for their past engagement and specify what they’ve done that has made them a top supporter. Maybe they’ve donated money, or maybe they’ve raised more through a peer-to-peer campaign than anyone else.  
  • Speak in real terms, like you’re talking to a friend. Explain that they’re so important to your mission that you wanted to thank them personally and share your year-end goals. 
  • Reference an event – a birthday, an anniversary, or even year-end giving and tax benefits – and ask for a commemorative gift. 
  • Plainly explain how a donation will help your cause. 

Because our world has gotten so virtual over the past few years, a non-spammy phone call can instantly connect you and forge a relationship. You’ll have the benefit of reading the room, so to speak, and asking for gifts when, if, and how it is appropriate. These in-person conversations take a little effort but pay dividends now and in the future. 

3. Hijack your website.

Most often, donors must navigate to your donation page or follow a link that leads to the donation page. To create a little urgency and take advantage of year-end giving, turn your home page into a donation page. 

The easiest way to do this is by adding a pop-up ad through your nonprofit CRM. CharityEngine client Rescue Village shows how effective this can be...rather than the homepage you’re expecting, you get this cute guy compelling you to help. 

rescue village pop up ad

Make giving easy! If you want to hop on social media, send viewers right to this home page so Wallace can be your wing man. Include a link to the website in your email outreach as your call to action. 

And finally... 

3½. Say thanks to everyone else. 

So, you’re thinking, this is a .5 because it’s not important? No way. It’s critically important. It’s a .5 because it’s not guaranteed to pay any dividends right now. 

In this step, you want to say thanks to people who didn’t give you money but gave you time. Thank your board members. Come up with a cute social media post and publicly thank all the unsung heroes who keep the lights on at your nonprofit. 

thank youI’ll tell you a secret: these are some of your most important supporters. Giving time is a lot harder than writing a check. In fact, a study found that people who volunteer are 67% more likely to become donors. 

So here’s your to-do list over the next few days: 

  • Craft and send an email to your supporters.  
  • Phone your top lapsed donors. 
  • Use a homepage takeover to raise more funds. 
  • And your .5 is to thank anyone who volunteers their time. 

And then let us know how you did! We have an impressive ticker in our office that shows how much our clients have raised, and this is the time of year it’s clicking faster than ever. Which tells us that we are, in fact, helping the good to be great. That’s what it’s all about. 

Happy New Year!