It is still true that the month of December makes up the majority of your annual giving. In fact, according to the 2018 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report and Charity Navigator, December and November combined bring in 25% of your annual gifts! Until we see a few more years of data trends, spending a good deal of time on your year-end appeal is key.

This means starting now – in August. Finding and crafting the story, pulling the mailing list, and then the piece that can be the most timely, the one you want to say “forget it” to because it seems hard, finding your major donors.

Focus on finding the ultimate story first. What are your donors looking for?

“When people empathize with a story, they have 47% higher oxytocin levels and oxytocin leads to greater giving. In fact, when we see vivid imagery in a narrative, our brain processes it as if it is a visual and motor experience – almost as though it happened to you.”

What story was significant to YOU this year? Is there a story that can be told from a fresh or different perspective? Your reader wants to be the hero of this story – make sure you recognize the significance of their support!

While having that great story is important, so is segmenting your donors and making sure your year-end appeal stands out. Two key segments are major donors and those who could be major donors.

When it comes to asking your major donors for a year-end gift, be sure it is their time to make a gift. This means reviewing each major donor (whether it’s the top 30 game changers or the top 100) and determining if it’s the right time to ask and, if it is, what to ask for. For those that could be major donors: again, review the list, determine the appropriate ask, and include the appropriate response device.

Some organizations may have multiple segments while others have two or three. Same rules still apply. In fact, we surveyed our clients and found some overwhelming trends. One, a well-defined mailing list optimizes results. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) send it to everyone in your database. An organization may have 3,000 memorial donors they mail to each year but only 20 of those ever made another gift. It’s okay to say goodbye to the remaining donors in this segment. Doesn’t that feel great!

Bottom line: check your past year’s data before assuming everyone needs a letter.

I love this case study from a Kennari client:

An organization with one staff member sent their first year-end appeal in 2018 to 159 people (of 400 in database). They had a 31% response rate, with an average gift of $218. They spent $230 to send it.

The other trend that stood out in our client survey was that tried and true still works! A traditional one-page letter with a compelling story that included an ask that let the reader know what would be accomplished with their gift had the most success. Personal handwritten notes from board members and other volunteers also made a significant difference.

Create your calendar of to-dos for your year-end, find your story, run that mailing list, and get started. You will be glad you got a head start when you did.

We would love to help your organization with your year-end communication strategies and crafting your message!