Stand apart from the crowd with your year-end fundraising campaign

Special to Philanthropy Journal

By Stacy Jones

Whether there is a specific focus around the holidays or not, many nonprofits choose this time of year to kick off their annual fundraising appeal.  For some, it can yield a good portion of their overall annual fundraising, but for others the campaign call fall flat. The following are some simple steps any organization can take to revive its annual appeal, better engage its donors and have one last final fundraising push. But first, consider the timing.

Timing Unless your organization has successfully done an annual holiday or year-end fundraising campaign for years, you might want to consider another time to send out your annual appeal. Most faithful donors are bombarded with holiday and end-of the-year appeals. So much so that you won’t always have your audience’s full attention and certainly not always all they can and are willing to give. If you have noticed your donations drop off year to year, it could be your campaign, or it could just be bad timing. Consider an appeal at another time of the year. Spring, for instance, or even earlier in fall. With less competition, there will be more attention on your needs and potentially more money. The earlier in the holiday season the appeal can be sent, the more likely you’ll have your donors’ full attention.

Delivery Hopefully, before you send out your annual appeal, you understand your audience’s demographic make-up. It’s okay to still send some annual appeals by mail while emailing others. Know which your audience prefers and which yields the greatest donations. Be willing to change things up to meet your donors’ preference. And don’t forget to utilize other marketing communications channels at your organization to support your appeal. Modify content on your website’s homepage to talk about the annual appeal with a clear call to action on how to donate and the impact donors are making. Add personal impact stories to the website and social media around this time to reinforce the great work at the organization. Never let an annual appeal be stand-alone communication; let it work in conjunction with other marketing efforts already in place.

Make it personal Making the appeal as personal as possible to each of your individual donors will go a long way in helping you to stand out. Granted, for some organizations with a large donor base, this can be challenging. But if you are tracking your donations, as well as attendance at events, like you should, you can at the very least send very personal appeals to your high-end donors. Instead of sending a generic year-end appeal, personalize it. Remind donors how much they gave last year at this time or how much their attendance at a particular event meant.
Explain how critical their donation and the impact of their support were, and encourage them to give again. Detail the exciting things coming up in the new year and how their donation will make a difference. 

 Empower your audience  Even if you can’t personalize each appeal individually, make sure your appeal is donor focused. Your campaign should be more about your  donors and the impact they have than a list of stats and accomplishments of the organization. This letter should be about donors’ impact. It should empower someone to give to you. Many organizations spend more time stressing all of the needs rather than showing the impact donors have. Being too needy can turn off donors who might feel overwhelmed if the need is too great and that their possibly small contribution won’t make much of a difference. Make sure you are empowering your donors and highlighting their impact. 

Personal Story People give to people. Connecting to donors’ emotions can drive their willingness to support. Find a way to weave a personal story about why you are seeking their donation or what donations have done to further your cause. In some cases, it is understandable that an organization cannot share clients’ personal stories; however, personal information can be changed, and the story can still be as impactful. Many times, if asked, clients who had a good experience with your organization will be more than willing to share their story. If that can’t happen, consider stories from volunteers, donors or board members about why their support your organization and what it has done for them.

Stacy Jones is a senior project director at SHOESTRING: the nonprofit’s agency and is located in San Antonio, Texas. Stacy can be reached at or 1-888-835-6236. 

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