However, the foundation of your EOY fundraising should be donor stewardship.
After all, your current supporters are most likely to give to your year-end campaign, and it’s more cost-effective to reach out to current donors rather than new donors.
You need to demonstrate your donor love before you start asking for donations, and even then, each ask needs to be made with care.
To get started, follow these tested tactics to establish your year-end campaign:
- Tie up loose ends.
- Start with recognition.
- Get creative.
- Optimize online donations.
- Don’t ask; invite.
Let’s break down each tactic in more detail.
1. Tie up loose ends.
To optimize year-end giving, you’ll want to enter the season with all of your logistics accounted for.
To properly steward your donors, you’ll need to ensure that all of your new donor data has been entered into your CRM or donor database
Most importantly, you need to ensure that all of your donors have been properly recognized for their most recent gifts before you start sending EOY appeals.
Completing this step may take more involvement than you might think. Surely you thank your donors, but in the age of tech-based fundraising, more and more donors can give to your organization through less direct channels.
For example, have you thanked the individual contributors in your peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns? What about event attendees or cause advocates? Volunteers?
Accounting for your extended supporter network ensures that you have a larger donor base to draw from during the year-end season.
To tie up loose ends from your annual fundraising efforts, you can:
- Welcome new donors to your organization. Even if you’ve thanked new donors for their contributions, you’ll still want to invite them into your organization before you make your next appeal. Engage them with more information about your mission, volunteer opportunities, social media channels, and upcoming fundraising events. Welcome them to your nonprofit’s team.
- Thank supporters for their specific contributions. Donors who gave at an event or contributed to a peer-to-peer campaign may have given due to their connection to a specific person or venue, rather than your organization. It’s important to make a segue between their donation and your nonprofit, connecting them to back to your cause.
- Update donors on the impact of their donations. If donors gave to a specific project in your nonprofit, then you’ll need to update them on the progress of the project. Donors will likely want to see that their previous contributions have made a tangible impact before they give again.
Send these communications before you make your first year-end appeal (or at least before your first direct ask!).
Doing so sets the stage for a successful EOY campaign, so that all donors know that their previous gifts have been properly managed and implemented.
2. Start with recognition.
Since the EOY season can entail a months-long campaign, it’s important that you start off on the right foot with your donors. After all, you don’t want to tire them out with asks right off the bat.
That’s why it’s important to start your year-end campaign with recognition.
In fact, some experts suggest replacing #GivingTuesday with Giving Thanks Tuesday. The key idea is that donors want to be treated as partners in your mission, not as unlimited ATMs.
Initiating your EOY campaign by thanking your donors can show them that you appreciate what they’ve done for your organization.
Though similar to our first strategy, this strategy is less about recognizing specific gifts than it is about setting a tone of gratitude for all of your donors, so that they feel compelled to engage in further generosity.
Do not start off with an ask. Instead, you can host a campaign like Giving Thanks Tuesday, recognizing your donors en masse and spreading your gratitude through your communications channels.
To send more effective thank you messages, you can send targeted gratitude to specific donors. To do so, segment your donor list.
Segmenting your donors allows you to send targeted thanks based upon a donor’s past giving history.
Stewardship, after all, is in part dependent on the amount a donor has given. It’s important to recognize those who have gone above the ordinary means.
For example, you’ll want to:
- Send personal thank you notes to major donors. Your major donors have made a huge impact on your cause. It’s important that you show them how valuable they are to your organization by sending personal, preferably handwritten, notes. Task your board members or frontline fundraisers with writing them.
- Thank recurring donors for their loyalty. Even though your recurring donors may give less in each increment than major donors, their gifts add up! Donors who show loyalty to your organization are invaluable. You can demonstrate your appreciation by acknowledging the length of their support (i.e. “Your generosity over the past 3 years has helped our cause in unfathomable ways”).
- Keep it personal. Always use your donors’ preferred names and titles when you address them, and send them communications through their preferred giving channels. Doing so ensures that you’re communicating respectfully and effectively with donors.
Starting your EOY campaign with recognition sets the right tone for the season. Donors who feel appreciated are much more likely to contribute during the course of your campaign.
Your CRM should make it easy to segment donors, and there are plenty of resources available to help your organization strategize for specific donor groups.
The point is that, one way or another, your donors should understand how much their gifts mean to your organization so that they can make an informed decision to give again.
3. Get creative.
When it comes to actually soliciting donations, you can receive more donations if you provide your donors with engaging content.
Engaging your donors is part of the stewardship and cultivation process. After all, once a donor has given, you need to provide them with more opportunities to be involved in your nonprofit.
To create the most effective appeals for your campaign, you’ll need to get creative with your content!
Creativity can manifest in many ways, including:
- Sending seasonal cards to your donors.
- Filming a high-quality video of your cause in action.
- Launching a social media campaign.
- Hosting a winter-themed stewardship event.
A plethora of fundraising ideas are yours for the taking (this Fundly guide, in fact, has 99+ ideas to choose from).
No matter what avenue you choose, you need to connect with donors on a meaningful level. To do so, frame your communications around a story.
Your story should be focused on the recipients of your nonprofit’s aid. A person, animal, or community who benefits from your cause can be the perfect spokesperson for your marketing materials.
Be specific. Use the spokesperson’s name. Clearly explain how they’ve been helped by your organization.
Telling a story allows you to break down your nonprofit’s work into an emotional, accessible appeal for donations. Pairing your story with visuals like photos, videos, and infographics can create even more impact.
Once you have a strong story, it’s up to your nonprofit as to how to tell it. The more creative your approach, the more likely you’ll be to engage your donors!
4. Optimize online donations.
One of the most fundamental aspects of stewarding your donors is ensuring that the donation process runs smoothly.
During the year-end season, donors are busy. Holidays, school breaks, family visits — everything adds up to a hectic couple of months!
That’s why it’s vital that giving is as secure and convenient as possible.
Online donation channels are some of the most convenient ways to give. Donors simply have to type their credit or debit card information, as well as some personal information, into your nonprofit’s online donation form to make a donation.
To use your online channels to steward donors, you can:
- Simplify your donation forms. Your donation forms should only ask for necessary information. Minimize your data fields, and include checkboxes in the case that a donor’s billing and mailing addresses are the same.
- Make the process easy. Your donation form should be easily accessible from every page on your website. Don’t require donors to make accounts to make a donation, and include a single, eye-catching “Make a Donation” button on your form.
- Send automatic donation receipts. Once a donor gives, an automated receipt can be sent to their email. This timely and convenient feature confirms that a donation has been received, which reassures donors that their gifts have been processed.
- Optimize for mobile devices. To make giving even more convenient, ensure that your online donation page works on mobile devices. Text should be large enough to read on a phone screen, buttons should be easy to click, and all text and images should line up vertically.
Optimizing your online donation channels makes the giving process a breeze for donors. If supporters know that giving is simple, then they’ll be more inclined to give again.
Likewise, online giving can help you steward donors. After all, a quick, easy donation process can provide donors with instant gratification once their gifts are received, and many supporters may feel more secure when giving online.
To further steward your donors, you need to ensure that you thank online donors properly. Including a thank you note in a donation receipt or sending a follow-up thank you can show donors that you appreciate their gifts.
You can also thank online donors via your nonprofit newsletter or on social media channels. Public gratitude can encourage other donors to try out these convenient giving channels.
5. Don’t ask; invite.
When making direct EOY asks, you don’t want to reduce your donors to the sum in their wallets. You want to engage them in your nonprofit’s work so that they understand why their gifts matter.
It’s important that you speak to them like the valuable contributors that they are. After all, your nonprofit only accomplishes its mission in collaboration with the donors who fund the cause.
Invite your donors to continue their journey with your organization.To do so, you can:
- Write sentimentally. Avoid technical language and flooding your appeals with numbers or statistics. Though this data can be useful, sentimental language is more universally understood than numbers (especially if your donors don’t have the same context as your nonprofit). At worst, you can appear to be under-serving your cause if your numbers don’t meet donors’ expectations.
- Use donor-centric language. As odd as it sounds, avoid talking about your nonprofit. Your appeals should be about what your donors can accomplish. Stick to second person as much as possible. Remember: it’s their generosity that furthers your cause.
- Empower your donors with past results. Show donors how their collective gifts have impacted the people they care about. While it’s important to emphasize your nonprofit’s need, showing donors that they have actively made a difference in the past can encourage them to keep giving. Reference a success story or your nonprofit’s data (just remember to keep it sentimental).
Donors want to feel the impact of their gifts. When you invite them into your organization, you’re demonstrating that their past donations have made a difference.
Strong donor relationships are the foundation of your EOY fundraising.
Build your ask upon their past giving and impact, as well as their potential to effect great change in the future.
The year-end season is a prime time for fundraising. Stewardship can help you build a sustainable relationship, so that your EOY asks are natural extensions of your partnership with donors.
For comprehensive information, you can reference Qgiv’s donor stewardship guide!
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.