In 2019, nonprofits around the US raised over half a billion (with a B!) dollars on #GivingTuesday - in online donations only. Combined with donations in December, nearly one third of all giving to nonprofits happens between Thanksgiving and December 31st.
This is clearly a critical time for fundraising. In 2020, Giving Tuesday falls on December 1st. This brings #GivingTuesday campaigns and Year-end appeals slightly closer together than normal, and thinking about the two efforts as one seamless campaign can help save you time, energy, and lead to an overall more successful giving season.
This post outlines many of the key elements involved a strong #GivingTuesday and year end campaign. We’ve even included a few samples and templates you can download at the end.
Always start off your campaign by saying thank you. Your best donors will be the ones who have already given, and they need to know they are appreciated and have had a positive impact on your organization and mission.
Beyond the note you probably already sent, some of the best #GivingTuesday and yearend campaigns actually start on Thanksgiving, with a personal and heartfelt note from a senior member of the organization, board member, volunteer, or one of the clients you’ve served.
Make it personal and to the extent feasible, merge in specific donation data (like date, amount, and/or source) from your individual donors to acknowledge the specific contributions of that person. These people have helped move your mission forward, and without them, you couldn’t do what you do. Make sure they know it!
Set a Goal
Settings a goal is a common topic in fundraising. Goals help track your progress, provide context to your program, create urgency and deadline, and perhaps more importantly, help donors understand how their contribution moves your organization and mission forward.
#GivingTuesday goals often relate to a specific dollar amount, number of donors, number of new or first time donors, donation page shares, clients served or impact, etc. Yearend campaigns can relate to your overall annual fundraising goal, quarterly goal, month goal.
Tell a Story
People relate to stories and you have a one to share. Stories often help donors better understand the impact of your organization and create an emotional appeal that inspires them to give. Strong stories increase the likelihood someone gives, or donates a second time, and improves donor retention overtime.
This year has not been without its challenges. When drafting your year end narrative, discuss how your organization has overcome all the obstacles 2020 has brought. Highlight one of the clients you’ve served, and how your organization has improved their lives and/or your community. Tell the story of one of your best volunteers, what they have helped you achieve, and why they have chosen to be involved in your organization.
Stories, especially around year end, can also be forward looking. What do you hope to achieve next year? What challenges are you facing that your donors can help you overcome today?
Make a Specific Ask (What are your urgent needs?)
Donors need to visualize how their contribution will impact your organization and the mission you are hoping to achieve. In a yearend campaign, it is especially important to articulate this impact as you are competing against every other nonprofit for a donor’s interest and contributions.
Strong asks are typically tied directly to impact - either past or present. If your organization provides meals to families in need, discuss the cost of those meals (or even the cost of a special holiday meal) and how many meals a donor can “buy” with their contribution. If your mission is to protect and build trails, discuss how many miles of trails you can build, the cost of one day of volunteer supplies, or what is needed to conserve an acre of land.
In sum, give a specific dollar amount example and let donors know what you plan to use the money for. Going right along with telling a story, letting donors know where their money is going shows them how their donation will help your cause. Donations can and should be tied directly to essential services.
Run a Campaign Over a few Weeks
Think of your year end campaign as a fundraising drive that runs from Thanksgiving, through #GivingTuesday, and all the way until January 1, 2020. Not every message in this time period needs to be fundraising related, but developing a narrative that runs the 6+ week period will bring awareness to your cause and help your organization break through the rest of the noise holiday and giving season noise.
Your initial messages can be “warm-ups” to get people excited about the things you’ve done and thanking them for their past contributions. As you move along the campaign, your messaging should begin to focus on the impact your organization has and the goals it has for the future. Make sure you put a few stories to add a human face and emotional appeal to your mission and impact. Finally, near the end of December, change your tone to the urgency of the moment. Highlight how close you are to your fundraising goal, and remind your donors gifts must be received by midnight on December 31st.
Use a Multi Channel Approach
Contrary to some rumors, there is strong evidence that using multiple fundraising channels (emails, social media, mail, phone calls, texts, etc) actually increases the effectiveness of ALL channels, and does not undermine other efforts. So what does this mean for an organization like yours?
Just because you have someone’s email address, it is still important that you send them a hard copy of your annual appeal. If you call a donor, make sure you follow up with an email and/or personal handwritten note. Just because you have someone’s email address, does not mean that they are already following you on social media. Take the time to upload your email list to social media and buy ads targeting your followers to increase the likelihood of a donation by email and social media.
These are all valuable methods to connect to your donors in different ways. It keeps your organization in front of their mind and by using multiple channels you can guarantee that they will see your message.
Make it Personal
Donors want to feel valued. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people and human connections matter.
If it’s a donor that has given before, you should have already thanked them and shown them how their support helped. If it’s a new donor, you should update them on the exciting things you have done and hope to do. This can also be referred to as “segmenting your donors”. Basically, you need to know your donors; know which donors need more attention, why donors support your organization, and how you can best approach each donor
You should also remove people who have already donated. When you hit the heavy fundraising part of your campaign, it is often a best practice to exclude recent donors. For some groups, this may be donors who have given in the 30 days, for others it may be a dollar amount based on your relationships with specific donors.
If you are unable to segment your email list, that is ok too! Use phrases such as, “If you’ve already donated…. but if you haven’t yet, there’s still time….” give you a little more wiggle room for the donor to not feel you missed their past gift.
Need more help or want to see some examples?
Check out our Fundraising Template for Nonprofits below.