Stand apart from the crowd – Year-end fundraising campaigns

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 percentage of their overall annual fundraising, but for others, their campaign can fall flat. The following are some simple steps any organization can take to revive its annual appeal, better engage its donors and make one last final fundraising push.

But first, consider the timing.

Unless your organization has done an annual holiday or year-end fundraising campaign successfully 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-year appeals. So much so that you don’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 – less competition, more attention on your needs and potentially more money. The earlier in the holiday season the appeal can be sent, the more likely you will have your donors’ full attention.


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 method 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 and attendance at events like you should, at the very least you can send very personal appeals to your high-end donors. Instead of sending a generic year-end appeal, personalize it. Remind them how much they gave last year at that time or how much their attendance at a particular event meant. Explain how critical their donation was and the impact of their support and encourage them to give again. Detail the exciting things coming up for the new year and how their donation will make the difference.

Empower your audience
Even if you cannot 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 their impact. It should empower someone to give to you. Many organizations spend more time stressing all of their needs rather than showing the impact donors have. Being too needy can turn off donors who could feel overwhelmed if the need is too great and feel that their possibly small contribution will not 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 your nonprofit. 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 still be as impactful. Many times, if asked, clients will be more than willing to share their story if they had a good experience with your organization. If that can not 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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