We learned a lot of lessons in 2020, especially in how we communicate with donors. We became more reliant on technology than ever, and online giving grew the most it has ever grown. But this also means we lost some personal connection with our donors. Gaining that back utilizing new methods of communication will be key.

What does this mean for your year-end appeal efforts? It means that more than ever, a multi-channel approach should be part of your overall communication plan. Digital communication is an important and essential method of engaging with prospects and donors, but it should still be paired with hard copy mail. The advantages of digital communication are that it’s free and can help you broaden your reach. It also provides an easy way to utilize multiple mediums and lenses.

The first step to take is to determine what your message should be. Do you or do you not focus on COVID? To answer that, consider whether your programs and services still look different because of it. It is still important to keep donors updated about what is happening but also think about how you can highlight the future, share stories of resilience, and a message of hope. What defined the past year, or what are some accomplishments or stories you can highlight? How can you highlight that theme or those stories through different lenses and mediums?

So, what do we mean by mediums and multi-channel approaches? Sending a hard copy letter cannot be skipped. But taking that same message and story (note I didn’t say the exact letter) and using it to craft a digital version (preferably a segmented email) helps broaden your reach. When crafting that emailed version of the letter, think skimmable (this should be a word!) paragraphs, hyperlinks to donate, and bolding key messages. Think of what prompts different people to give – stories, videos, compelling yet brief facts.

Now look at how you can utilize your social media platforms to amplify your message. Take your year-end communication theme and use it to craft social media posts with videos and pictures. It all starts with planning, so start early and have hard dates for when each of these pieces should be shared.

While the multi-channel approach is necessary, so is one last important step – segmenting your year-end communication as much as possible. Start by segmenting that hard copy letter, spending the most time with that major donor segment. Review the list of your top key donors and determine if now is the time they typically give. If so, what do you want to ask them for this year? For some donors, asking for the same amount this year will be the right ask, and for others you may feel like you can ask for an increase this year. Utilize your board and your donor engagement committee members to help hand write notes on letters and also to help call donors and ask them to consider a gift at this year-end.

Remember that for most nonprofits, 30% of their annual giving comes in the month of December! This means that you should be devoting about the same amount of time to your year-end appeal efforts as you would your largest fundraising event. Starting in August may seem early and it’s hard to think about winter holidays but trust me, you will be glad you did!