There are several things that make for a successful year-end campaign, but planning is likely at the top of the list!

When you plan ahead, it allows you to be proactive in crafting a great letter, segmenting your mailing list well, getting your board involved, and provides time to cultivate donors so they are primed and ready for an ask.

It’s no secret, and several nonprofit blogs and data will tell you, that 30% of annual giving comes during the last two months of the year, with the majority of that coming in the last three days. THIS is why planning is crucial – you have a lot of revenue attached to this initiative.

But before you can plan ahead, you must look back:

What worked well last year?

What segments performed well and which did not?

What activities worked that you would repeat?

What were some challenges you hope NOT to repeat?

30% of annual giving comes during the last two months of the year, with the majority of that coming in the last three days.

Evaluate and set goals before you even start! Since planning is the best secret ingredient to a successful year-end, let’s break down what your activities could look like between July and December to ensure your year-end giving efforts are strong:

July + August:

  • Start prepping for the story. Meet with program staff and find that story or theme that can be shared through multi-channels.
  • Plan out your segments and how you might talk to each group of donors. The most common segments are major donors, monthly donors, volunteers, regular donors, and lapsed donors. You might have some that are specific to you, such as members.
  • Start thinking (right now!) about how your board could be involved. They should help handwrite notes on the letters going to people they know. However, this requires planning – and a lot of it—especially if your board doesn’t meet regularly.
  • Create a detailed communication plan for just your year-end efforts. This should span across various channels and run from November through December 31.
  • Cultivate your major donors. This segment of donors outperforms all others, so it’s important to stay in touch with them throughout the year. A phone call, handwritten note, or email are all great ways to show your appreciation and remind them of the impact their gifts have. The nonprofits we work with say they see a direct correlation between a prior touch point and the gift and gift size.

September + October

  • Draft the letter and have appropriate staff review. Remember this is a letter to a friend so what would you want to read?
  • Develop response devices. Yes – that’s plural. It’s plural because you can, and should, tailor the response device according to the segment receiving them. For example, you might not want to suggest the same giving amounts to a non-donor as you would to a major donor.
  • Write the thank you letter now (don’t forget that digital receipt too!)
  • Get your board involved. Board involvement is critical to your success; at the September board meeting, have a list of individuals for the board to review. They can’t look through a list of 5,000 – think more like 150 names.  They will make their selections, and and you can bring those letters to them at the October board meeting – or their house, coffee shop, bar, zoo, ski slope – for them to sign. I’m telling you – WHATEVER. IT. TAKES.

November + December

  • Get that letter out! Shoot for early November.
  • Continue to follow your multi-channel communication plan. This could include sending emails, making phone calls, or posting on social media.
  • Consider sending a Thanksgiving postcard or another type of communication to prompt the gift. Next After Institute found that people who received a postcard (or were cultivated prior to the ask) were 204% more likely to donate!
  • Mid-December, run a report to see which major donors typically give to the year-end but have not yet responded. Call them and don’t be shy about asking for a gift increase. Your board can also help with these calls.

When preparing for year end, there are a lot of tasks – and they take time, but ultimately, it is worth it. Think about your last fundraising event. Did it generate 30% of your annual revenue? If so, how long did you spend planning that?

If you’d like to talk more about year end appeal strategies and how Kennari can help, let’s chat!

About the author: In her role as Senior Strategist, Kirstin VanderMolen works with annual giving clients to help them acquire and cultivate donors through thoughtful engagement opportunities, events, and communications. Kirstin works to ensure clients have the necessary infrastructure and strategies in place to ensure long-term annual giving success. She is most proud of her work with clients to implement point-of-entry events (often table-hosted events) that bring donors, dollars, and champions to an organization. Kirstin is immensely proud of Kennari Consulting’s clients and in awe of the work they do.