Soliciting donations for your year-end campaign? Your nonprofit has got a lot to think about.
From segmenting your mailing list to coming up with the perfect ask amount, the year-end appeal requires thorough planning, smart strategy, and a healthy dose of creativity, too. Luckily, we’re here to take some of the hard work off your shoulders by equipping you with 10 year-end appeal ideas you can use at your nonprofit today:
- Year-end appeal letters
- Year-end appeal emails
- Year-end crowdfunding campaigns
- Year-end appeal postcards
- Year-end appeal videos
- Year-end website appeals
- Year-end appeal donation forms
- Year-end phone call appeals
- Year-end social media appeals
- Year-end matching gift appeals
We won’t just show you why each idea works; we’ll also talk you through some tips for making these end-of-year appeals your own and pulling them off without a hitch.
The year-end giving season is a crucial time for nonprofits, so let’s put pen to paper and start writing our appeals!
1. Year-End Appeal Letters
The most classic fundraising appeal out there, a direct mail donation request letter is a time-tested solicitation method that really works.
Why has this fundraising channel stayed relevant for so long? In a highly digital world, direct mail appeals offer a tangible reminder of your nonprofit’s mission, delivered straight to your donors’ doorsteps. By soliciting through direct mail, you can reach your supporters in a more personal way and bring in surefire donations, too.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to spice up the classic year-end appeal letter for even greater fundraising results:
- Stand out from the crowd. Your donors are likely shuffling through piles of mail every day, from bills to junk mail to holiday cards. You can make your direct mailing shine by using a brightly colored envelope with a branded return label and heavy, high-quality paper.
- Take creative liberties. Who said your direct mail appeal letter has to be boring? While the traditional letter format will never go out of style, you can also switch it up by adding vibrant photos or an infographic displaying relevant statistics. Just be sure your recipients can easily follow along without getting lost!
- Integrate online giving. Many donors will reply to your appeal letter with a check, but a number of supporters will recognize the convenience of giving online. In your letter, include the URL of your online giving form, your text-to-donate phone number, or a QR code that links to a mobile-friendly donation page.
No matter what, make sure you’re tracking your direct mail shipments and responses in an effective way. We suggest working with nonprofit software that integrates your marketing efforts with your fundraising and donor management tools. That way, you can monitor which donors have already made their year-end gifts through mail or an online channel.
2. Year-End Appeal Emails
Easy, cost-effective, and universal, the email appeal has earned its place as a staple of year-end fundraising. And it’s no surprise! Almost every one of your nonprofit’s constituents checks their email on a daily basis, and with so many different types of marketing software to facilitate these communications, creating and sending an email blast is a breeze.
Of course, when this fundraising strategy is so easy to execute, your nonprofit should keep in mind that virtually every other organization will be employing this tactic, too. To ensure your email appeals don’t get lost in your donors’ inboxes, follow these foolproof tips:
- Segment your list. Make your emails as specific as possible by crafting separate content for different subsets of your donor database. You can segment based on supporter type (donor, volunteer, member), gift level (major, mid-sized), donor status (active, prospective, lapsed), or any other criteria.
- Make it personal. No donor wants to feel like just another email address on a mailing list! You can personalize your batch emails by adding first names and referencing previous involvement or giving history.
- Keep mobile users in mind. Donors are busy, especially during the end-of-year season, so make sure they can read your email appeals on the go. Using a responsive email tool will take care of most of this step for you, but you can do your part by limiting large images and sticking to short paragraphs in your emails.
After sending your initial email appeal letter, track recipients’ open and click-through rates to see if they’re following through on their donations. If not, send out another email following up.
Hint: you can make the process easier by creating templates for all of the different emails you need to send using an email management system, like the Fundly CRM feature pictured below.
Because email is so inexpensive, you won’t have to worry about wasting money sending multiple attempts.
3. Year-End Crowdfunding Campaigns
Here at Fundly, we’re all about a well-executed crowdfunding campaign. So why not add this game-changing fundraising tactic to your year-end strategy as well?
You can encourage your supporters to make a contribution to a special year-end crowdfunding campaign to support a specific fundraising initiative or your nonprofit’s general operational expenses.
Either way, keep these crowdfunding best practices in mind for this year-end appeal idea:
- Show your story. Add high-quality photos and short videos that illustrate the impact you have on your cause. When you can evoke a personal connection from supporters, they’ll be much more likely to share your fundraiser with their online networks, meaning more donations for your year-end campaign.
- Provide frequent updates. Your donors are invested in your fundraising progress. By posting updates on your crowdfunding campaign page during and even after your year-end fundraiser, you’ll show donors that you’re a good steward of their funds and that you’re still actively dedicated to your mission.
- Offer giving levels. Let donors know exactly what their gift will do for your organization by setting donation levels that correspond to a tangible result (e.g., $50 equals 10 meals for the hungry). These presets may even encourage supporters to give just a little bit more than they originally planned.
Want an example to follow as you embark on your own year-end fundraiser? Check out how the nonprofit A Hand for Honduras used a crowdfunding campaign for their end-of-year appeal!
With photos, giving levels, and consistent updates, it’s no surprise that they exceeded their $1000 goal with plenty of time to spare.
4. Year-End Appeal Postcards
A twist on the direct mail appeal, a year-end postcard can be a great year-end appeal option on its own or as a supplement to other appeal strategies.
The primary difference between a postcard appeal and other appeals is that the postcard is a primarily visual medium.
Sure, your letter and email appeals should include a photo or two, but ultimately, those channels depend on text to get the message across. The postcard follows the inverse approach: text matters, but the effectiveness of this tool lives and dies by its visual impact.
Here are a few ways to pack as much punch as possible within your pint-sized postcard appeal:
- Start with the right software. You’ll need marketing and fundraising software that enables you to create custom, professional-quality postcards and then track their effectiveness. With some software, you can even add tracking codes to your postcards to see which appeals turn into mailed-in or online donations.
- Send your card early. If your supporters donate to multiple organizations, their mailboxes might be crammed with year-end postcards come December. Get ahead of the curve by sending your appeal in November (try a Thanksgiving or Giving Tuesday theme if you’re feeling creative).
- Use your postcard as a preview or follow-up to your appeal. Postcards work well on their own, but you can amp up their effectiveness by using them in conjunction with your direct mail or email appeals. Consider using them as a “save the date” for your upcoming campaign start date or as a thank-you note.
Remember: postcards are small, and you won’t have an excess amount of space to get your point across. Instead of stuffing each inch of the card with text, focus on creating a clean, well-branded design. You can always direct donors to an email, your website, or your crowdfunding campaign page for more detailed information on your year-end fundraising efforts.
5. Year-End Appeal Videos
Take an out-of-the-box approach to your year-end appeal strategy by filming a video!
Whether silly or serious, year-end campaign videos allow your nonprofit to add another dimension to the traditional holiday appeal, resulting in a deeper donor-nonprofit connection and more funds for your nonprofit.
You can capitalize on the power of video by following our expert advice:
- Keep it short and sweet. You’re creating a campaign promotional video, not a feature-length film! Keep your video under 4 minutes long and as fast-paced as possible. That way, viewers will stay engaged with the content all the way through.
- Use editing software to your advantage. You don’t have to film an Oscar-worthy masterpiece in one take! Free video editing software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker is easy to learn, so your staff can cut out any mistakes, add background music, and even implement more sophisticated editing techniques.
- Put your video out there. Make sure everyone sees your campaign video by uploading it to YouTube or Vimeo and sharing it in emails, on social media, and on your website or crowdfunding page. Encourage your supporters to share the video with their networks, too, for maximum reach.
Remember that crowdfunding campaigns with videos raise 105% more than those without, so this strategy is sure to have a similar effect on your year-end fundraising efforts.
Take a look at how The Chicago Botanic Garden used a video to educate viewers about their nonprofit’s programs and inspire supporters to make a gift to their year-end campaign:
No matter what, make sure you use your video to encourage year-end gifts by including information on how donors can make their contribution. Adding the URL for your online donation form or your nonprofit’s mailing address in the final shot of the video can do the trick!
6. Year-End Website Appeals
Your nonprofit website serves all kinds of purposes, including driving visitors to donate to your year-end campaign.
You can leverage web design best practices throughout your site to promote year-end giving. Consider giving your nonprofit site a refresher leading up to the end-of-year season! For instance, you can:
- Create a dedicated year-end giving page. A hub for all things related to year-end fundraising, this page can include a link to your end-of-year donation form as well as your campaign video, information on your cause, and photos to showcase the work you’ve already done.
- Lead visitors to your donation form in your navigation. Whether you’re using a dedicated year-end online giving form or not, you should always include a prominent link to your donation form within your website’s top navigation bar. Don’t forget to place this button on every page of your site!
- Place calls-to-action on your homepage. Captivate prospective donors from the second they land on your site. Invite visitors to participate in your year-end campaign by including graphics and a donation button on your landing page. You can either link out to a separate year-end giving page or include a truncated version of your annual appeal right on the homepage.
Since your website is the most comprehensive source of information on your nonprofit, it’s important that you update your site to reflect your most recent fundraising efforts, including your year-end campaign.
Don’t let site visitors leave without understanding what your year-end fundraising goals are, and make sure they’re aware of how they can contribute, too!
Habitat for Humanity’s website homepage, pictured above, does a great job of inspiring a variety of contributions, from donations to volunteer work and more.
7. Year-End Appeal Donation Forms
Speaking of contributing, you can combine your fundraising appeal with your online donation form as a way of promoting and accepting year-end gifts all at the same time.
By creating a unique donation form that’s associated with your end-of-year fundraising campaign, you’ll be able to present a clear vision of what your organization is hoping to accomplish. You can set up specific giving levels that correspond to your campaign objectives, use distinctive branding, and make it easier to track year-end donations against general gifts.
When setting up your donation forms, make sure you’re sticking to these best practices:
- Use integrated software to build your forms. When your form-builder connects to your website, CRM, and other nonprofit software, you’ll be able to seamlessly collect donor data and store it for later use. Plus, you’ll have a much easier time making sure your forms match the rest of your website.
- Keep your donation form short. Much like the appeal itself, your year-end donation form should only include the most necessary information. Keep required fields to a minimum, and limit excessive design elements that don’t add value. (This will also help with mobile optimization!)
- Encourage recurring giving. Your donors’ year-end gifts don’t have to be a one-time occurrence. Instead, push supporters toward a monthly or yearly donation by allowing them to opt in to recurring giving on your donation form. You can even include a brief blurb explaining why recurring donations are crucial to your organization’s efforts.
By optimizing your year-end donation form, you’ll put all of your hard work crafting appeals to good use. After all, what good is even the most creative year-end appeal idea if it doesn’t result in a donation?
8. Year-End Appeal Phone Calls
You might think a fundraising phone call is old fashioned, but we beg to differ. A phone appeal can work wonders for your year-end campaign by allowing you to reach out to donors in a personal, one-on-one way.
However, phone calls are not always the most efficient year-end fundraising idea if you don’t know how to go about them. Don’t worry! Just stick to our proven tips:
- Target high-level donors first. Your major donors and other high-quality prospects are great candidates for a phone call appeal, since they’ve already demonstrated a devotion to your cause and likely have established relationships with some of your team. For this call, you’ll want a high-ranking member of your staff or a board member to pick up the phone.
- Follow up on your first appeal. You may not be able to call every donor on your list, but you might be able to call those who haven’t yet donated after one (or even two) initial appeal attempts. Have your staff or experienced volunteers give these donors a ring to remind them about your year-end efforts and ask for a pledge or donation over the phone.
- Try a phone-a-thon. If you’ve got plenty of volunteers on hand, divide your donor list and get to work on a year-end phone-a-thon! Not only can you call existing supporters, but you can make lists of prospects to call, too. Be sure you provide volunteer callers with a tested script and plenty of talking points about your year-end campaign.
No matter how you conduct phone calls, make sure you have plenty of options for how donors follow through on their gift. You can accept donations over the phone via credit card, but some donors won’t feel comfortable giving out their credit card information over the phone. If that’s the case, stay on the phone as a donor makes an online gift or provide them with your text-to-give information so they can quickly get their donation processed.
When you show a donor or prospect that you value them enough to speak with them individually, you’ll remind them that their support is vital to your mission. You might be surprised how much your phone call recipients are willing to give after having a conversation with you about the importance of their contribution!
9. Year-End Social Media Appeals
You probably won’t employ social media appeals as your only method of year-end fundraising, but when you pair this powerful solicitation technique with other channels, you’re sure to see results.
The parameters of your social media appeals will depend on the platform you’re using, but in general, these year-end appeals will be short and to-the-point. The point of these posts should be to increase online awareness of your year-end campaign (and of course, your nonprofit’s mission) so that you can reach new donors and maximize your fundraising potential.
Follow these suggestions for best-in-class social media appeals:
- Post your appeal on the right channel. If your donors spend every second on LinkedIn, don’t waste your time crafting the perfect Instagram appeal! While there’s a benefit to posting on any as many sites as possible, you’ll see better results honing appeals that are tailored to the social platforms your supporters actually use.
- Always include a link. Most likely, you’ll be linking to your year-end giving form, but you might also send users to a piece of educational content, a recent news article, or another relevant page on your site. Regardless, the best way to make the most of a tight word limit is to include a link that provides more information or inspires action (i.e., a donation!).
- Be as visual as possible. Unlike email or direct mail appeals, users probably won’t invest much time reading over your social media appeals. To make these bite-sized messages count, include visual elements that are sure to catch donors’ attention and encourage them to share on their own feeds, too.
And if you’re hosting a year-end crowdfunding campaign, look for a platform with built-in social sharing features to make social media appeals easier than ever. Check out these top crowdfunding websites to get started!
With social media on your side, you should have no problem getting the word out about your year-end fundraiser. And the more people that see your year-end appeals, the more donations you’ll receive!
10. Year-End Matching Gift Appeals
If your nonprofit hasn’t taken advantage of matching gift programs before, the year-end season is the perfect time!
Why? As you may know, matching gift programs allow businesses to double employees’ contributions to eligible nonprofits—as long as those employees submit the required paperwork before the deadline, that is.
For many companies with matching gift programs, that deadline falls at the end of the calendar year, meaning your year-end appeal can be a great opportunity to give your match-eligible donors one more push toward filing their matching gift submissions.
Here are a few things your nonprofit can do to seamlessly include matching gift appeals in your year-end strategy:
- Keep track of your donors’ employer information year-round. When you know where your donors work, you’ll be able to pinpoint their matching gift program criteria and only send the donor the most relevant information. You can add employer fields within your CRM or make use of an end-to-end matching gift system for comprehensive management features.
- Add matching gift information to your year-end gift follow-ups. After a donor has made their end-of-year gift, follow up by adding a matching gift appeal to your confirmation and thank-you messages. Let donors know that they can effortlessly stretch their impact by simply filling out some paperwork.
- Place a matching gift search tool on your donation form. Add a matching gift appeal to your donation page by empowering donors to find out all the information they need about their employer’s corporate giving programs with one quick search. A matching gift database search tool can make this possible (and easy)!
Here’s an example of how you can add Double the Donation’s matching gift widget to your donation page:
With these appeals, you’ll be able to swiftly see your year-end fundraising results multiply, with no extra work on your end!
Now that you’ve got our top year-end appeal ideas in mind, all that’s left to do is get to writing. Good luck!
Don’t forget to check out these amazing end-of-year appeal resources:
- Giveffect’s Top Year-End Appeal Letter Tips. When it comes time to draft your year-end appeal letter, it can be hard to overcome writer’s block. Luckily, Giveffect has got you covered with 7 can’t-miss tips for putting together online and direct mail appeals your donors will love.
- Double the Donation’s Year-End Appeal Strategies. Learn even more about maximizing year-end giving with these best practices and key strategies from Double the Donation. Their guide will teach you everything you need to know about planning and executing a stellar year-end fundraising strategy.
- Holiday Fundraising Ideas. Looking to add an extra element to your year-end fundraising plan? Try incorporating one of these festive holiday fundraising ideas to bring in even more money for your nonprofit. Each idea is perfect for the end-of-year giving season, so don’t miss out—try one (or several) fundraising ideas today!