‘Tis the Season for Giving: Steps to a Successful End-of-Year Appeal

20 Sep 2016

As summer is slowly ending, and back-to-school has come and gone, the calendar days are ticking by and end-of-year is fast approaching. Gone are the days of only sending out a couple of emails in the month of December and maybe a letter to your donors for your end-of-year appeal. Today, you need a robust plan to reach donors and realize year-end success for your nonprofit. To ensure you make the most of the last few months of the year, we have identified some key steps to success for your year-end appeal.

Just the Stats

  • $373.25B total giving in 2015
  • 4.1% increase over 2014
  • 30% of all US donations are made in December
  • 10% of all US donations are made December 29-31

Those are impressive stats. Did those last two have an impact? What is your organization doing to get a piece of that fundraising pie? Are you only sending out one email, or maybe a casual social media mention? Then you’re probably missing dollars that could make an impact within your org.

The Plan 

The first step with any plan is to ensure your organization’s stakeholders are on the same page. Get all stakeholders in a room and agree on your end-of-year goal. It could be increasing total dollars raised or the average gift per donor. Or adding new donor names to your database. Or all of the above! But make sure everyone leaves that meeting with the same goal in front of them.

With that goal in mind, confirm your audience segmentation for your appeal. Large donors and volunteers might not react to the same content. How can you personalize content for each of them? Talk to your audiences via their preferred communication channels.

How will social and email and your website work together to increase donor dollars? Look at past communication metrics to gather insights about the channels that work best for you. End-of-year is not the time to try new things! If you have never communicated through Instagram, don’t start during your year-end appeal.

Rounding out your plan should be the content and voice of the appeal. More than likely your tone will grow in urgency as midnight on Dec. 31st approaches. Make sure you have planned the content out in advance and are adjusting as needed throughout the appeal.

The final step in your plan is success metrics. What will you track and how will you measure donors and dollars as they come through the door? We have a handy Metrics Template to help you track year-end success.

The Message

Content is king when it comes to engaging your donors. Your organization should have metrics and data that outlines what motivates your audience to give. Use that data when you are crafting your end-of-year appeal. Another end-of-year copywriting tip: don’t have too many call-to-actions in your communication. Focus on the most compelling need (the one that was confirmed in your planning with stakeholders) and be consistent with that ask. It’s not the time to get all possible info about your organization in front of a potential donor. Help them narrow in on how they’re making a difference and they’ll be more likely to give.

The Delivery


Your audience is expecting to be asked for a donation this time of year. They need to see your name in their inbox (and their social feeds) in order to make that gift happen. Make every email count. Stay top of mind with a multi-email execution. When is the best time to send someone an email? TODAY!

Remember, the number one reason someone donates to an organization is because they are asked. Most organizations, starting with Giving Tuesday, will do a minimum of 5-6 emails during the month of December. Don’t be afraid to hit that send button several times in the course of the last few weeks of the year, and especially the last few days. Again, 10% of all donations come Dec 29-31 so this is your opportunity to gain your share. Your goals require it.

You must have consistency in your end-of-year message and “look” to other communication channels. What this means is that your emails, website homepage, donation form and social media outlets should have the same messaging, the same look and the same tone to convey consistency to your supporters. By the time you’re tired of seeing those graphics, your donors will just be recognizing them as yours.


After the Give

An immediate follow-up must be sent after a donor gives. Automated thank you forms and tax receipts are important, but you need to have a purposeful, content-rich thank you to your donors. Consider hand-written messages to certain segments, video messages or notes that share what their dollars mean to your organization.


After you’ve thanked your donors, keep in touch! Get to know the people who support your organization and cultivate that relationship. In a lot of ways, it’s time to date your donor to ensure their engagement and commitment to your organization is consistent in the coming years.

The time is now to start planning for end-of-year. Feeling a little panicked after reading this? Let us do the heavy lifting and help set you and your organization up for success.

The holidays are right around the corner, so reach out if you find yourself in a bind.