01/12/2021 | Fundraising Best Practices | Gabrielle Gean

A Last-Minute Formula for Year-End Fundraising Success

It’s now December and the next four weeks mark the busiest giving season of the year. But you don’t feel quite prepared, in fact, maybe even a little overwhelmed with everything that’s going on.

For most charities, year-end fundraising is a major undertaking. Fundraisers have their work cut out for them with Giving Tuesday, holiday campaigns, end-of-the-year appeals, and more. Creating a game plan for year-end fundraising is, of course, critical. But here’s something we don’t emphasise enough: your year-end fundraising success isn’t solely dependent on what you do in December. It’s what you do leading up to it.

The clock might be ticking, but don’t fret because here’s the formula to your best year-end campaign yet. These actions will help you strengthen donor relationships and optimise data.

sticky note writing for year end fundraising

Step 1: Determine the Variables

• First, ask your organisation and yourself. What are the most memorable accomplishments you have made this year? No, we’re not going to ask you to brag about your accomplishments but instead, frame the campaign strategy in a way that the donor is actively responsible for the success of the campaign.

• Give your fundraising team and staff time. Brainstorm, troubleshoot, and review your year-end appeal strategies and campaigns, but have a clear deadline as to when planning ends and execution begins.

• Then, personalise your appeal according to your audience. Break down your type of donors – are they your volunteers, recurring donors, or potential donors? Each type of donor requires a different approach. This will demonstrate how much you know and appreciate your donors.

colour sticks

Step 2: Segmentation, Segmentation, Segmentation

Segment by Average Gift Size
• The thought process behind a $5,000 donation differs from that of a $5 donation, would you send those donors the same appeal? You certainly wouldn’t! Segment your list based on your donors’ average gift size to ensure that each supporter receives a relevant solicitation.

• Sending an email or direct mail appeal to a list of small or middle-value donors, for example, is appropriate, but you should always contact major donors or other high-value prospects in person or over the phone.

Segment by Date of Last Gift
• If a donor has given within the last month, approaching them with a request for another gift may appear tone-deaf. Similarly, thanking a donor who hasn’t given in years for their ongoing support makes no sense.

• Send a message to recent donors that focuses on thanking them and extending their impact (e.g., with matching gifts). For lapsed donors, you can begin with “We miss you!” rather than “Thank you for your assistance.”

Extra Tip: Make sure your donation website is optimised and mobile-responsive. Allow donors to make their year-end gift whether they are at home or out shopping.

christmas cookie for year end fundraising

Step 3: Take a Multi-Channel Year-End Appeal Approach

Make sure you are ready by the second week of December but start preparing a few weeks before. Here are the steps to take:

Write a Year-End Appeal Letter
• The direct mail appeal letter is the most traditional end-of-year appeal style available, thanks to its personal touch and consistent success rate. However, if you are running out of time, try a year-end appeal email instead.

Send Year-End Appeal Emails
• Keep in mind that your supporters probably receive dozens (if not hundreds) of emails per day, and you’re probably not the only nonprofit vying for their attention in December. Keep your message brief and to-the-point, with an attention-grabbing subject line along with a clear next step for the donor within the body of your message.

Post Year-End Appeals on Social Media
• These posts should not be your sole end-of-the-year solicitation effort, but they can be an excellent way to raise awareness and increase donations. To stand out in a news feed, use highly visual mediums (such as photos and videos), and don’t forget to include a link to your online donation page or your text-to-give phone number.

guy standing and work on a computer

Step 4: Follow Up on Your Year-End Appeals

• Confirm the donation. Send an acknowledgement email immediately following a donor’s gift that confirms their donation and provide a tax receipt. Donors will need this information for their own financial records, especially for year-end donations, so automate these messages to get them out quickly.

• Thank your donors. Sending a personal thank-you note shows donors how much you value their contribution. Send a handwritten note signed by a board member, if possible, especially for high-value donors or supporters with whom you have long-standing relationships.

• Call unresponsive donors. If a donor does not respond to your first (or second) appeal, it may be time to call back.

• Store donor data for future use. After your donors give, double-check that their information is correctly stored in the database. If you require more information than what your giving form collects, you can send a follow-up email or call them a few weeks after their gift to request additional information to complete their donor profile.

It should come as no surprise that what we’ve prescribed here is all about building relationships. Relationships are important in fundraising. We know that if you do everything you can to build momentum in those relationships, you’ll be in a good position to make strong year-end requests of your donors.

While you’re here, check out our End-of-Year Holiday Fundraising Outlook too!


At SG Support, we work with our clients to design and implement highly-optimised fundraising campaigns – from designing your campaign creatives to segmenting your database and even setting up an online donation page! If you’re looking for further information and strategies to charge up your year-end fundraising campaign, drop us a line at [email protected].

Share this post to:

Recommended For You