5 Tips for Planning A Fundraising Campaign Around a Holiday

Whether you’re a seasoned nonprofit professional or you’re new to the sector, you’ve seen an effective holiday fundraiser. From Mother’s Day campaigns raising money for breast cancer research to Christmas fundraisers collecting gifts for children in need, great holiday fundraisers stick in your mind for years afterwards.

But what makes these fundraisers so successful? It’s not thanks to the holiday alone. It takes thorough, effective planning to create a holiday fundraiser, find the volunteers to make it happen, and get your message in front of the right audience. To improve your planning process and get the best results, use these tips:

  1. Align your campaign message with the holiday.
  2. Recruit loyal supporters to fundraise for your cause.
  3. Create holiday-themed marketing materials.
  4. Get creative with your digital strategy.
  5. Thank donors and volunteers often.

Consider how you want to approach your holiday fundraiser. Will it be an exclusive gala, an event-free fundraiser, or a micro-campaign? No matter which direction you decide to take, these tips can bolster your strategy. Let’s get started!

1. Align your campaign message with the holiday.

The first step to planning a holiday campaign is to determine how you’ll incorporate the holiday into your messaging. Your campaign message will serve as the foundation for all of your outreach efforts, marketing copy, and donation appeals. Ensure it aligns with how your audience views the holiday.

Start by thinking about the values and themes people associate with the holiday, then find connections between those values and the cause your campaign supports.

For example, when asking for donations at Christmas, you might focus your messaging on the season of giving or use religious language if that aligns with your target audience’s values. Or, if your ocean conservation nonprofit is fundraising around Earth Day, you might appeal to donors’ emotions with a message about how individuals can help save the planet by donating.

After you settle on a message that feels right for both the holiday and your nonprofit’s values, you can get to work finding supporters.

2. Recruit loyal supporters to fundraise for your cause.

Around holidays, your supporters likely feel extra generous and may want to take their giving a step further. Make the most of this extra support by turning your holiday campaign into a peer-to-peer fundraiser.

Peer-to-peer, or P2P, fundraising involves inviting dedicated supporters to help your nonprofit raise funds by reaching out to their personal networks. Here’s how a traditional P2P fundraiser works:

  1. You recruit volunteers to fundraise on your nonprofit’s behalf. Explain to them how the process works, provide basic fundraising tips, and give them tools to use like email templates and social media graphics.
  2. Using an online platform, set each volunteer up with their own campaign page, which they can personalize with a photo and description of their connection with your cause.
  3. Volunteers share their campaign pages with friends, family, and the rest of their personal networks. They ask for donations directly, highlighting their personal reasons for advocating for your cause to drive support.
  4. Your nonprofit receives donations for your cause and potentially gains new supporters from your volunteers’ networks in the process.

This method of fundraising gives your holiday campaign a wider reach and helps you cultivate stronger relationships with your volunteers. Be sure to check in with them and provide support throughout the campaign so they have a positive experience and want to volunteer again in the future.

3. Create holiday-themed marketing materials.

The promotional materials you give to your volunteer fundraisers and use on your own communication channels should highlight the holiday whenever possible. Along with using your holiday-aligned campaign message as a basis for how you frame your fundraiser, consider:

  • Adding themed images to your emails and website.
  • Using any holiday colors that fit with your branding in social media graphics and on your campaign page.
  • Adding holiday filters, stickers, or music to social media stories promoting the fundraiser.

As you create marketing content, use storytelling strategies. Choose compelling central characters like a lifelong donor or a grateful beneficiary, and share concrete details about their experiences that show the positive effect your organization has on them—with your supporters’ help.

If you’re running a Valentine’s Day campaign in support of rehabilitation services, for example, you could tell the story of someone who benefitted from those services and recently got married. They could record a testimonial video detailing their journey to recovery and expressing their gratitude for your organization’s support.

4. Get creative with your digital strategy.

Holiday-themed campaigns provide many opportunities to get creative, whether it’s creating marketing collateral or approaching supporters in a unique way. Your digital strategy doesn’t have to be limited to your website, social media, and email. Brainstorm ways you can branch out online to make an impact, such as by using:

  • Digital greeting cards: Greeting cards are perfect for holiday campaigns since they fit right in with the cards donors receive from friends and family. Send out online cards to ask for support, thank donors, or simply as a way to spread holiday spirit. You can even let supporters send your nonprofit’s eCards to each other, such as when someone makes a donation in honor of a friend.
  • Influencers: Within your supporter pool, your nonprofit likely has access to a few individuals with a considerable amount of social capital. These influencers could be board members who are well-known in your community or donors with large social media followings. Contact them and ask if they’d be willing to help promote your holiday campaign by sharing your posts or recording a video to publicly show their support.
  • Social media contests: Photo contests can drive tons of engagement for your nonprofit on social media.Choose a relevant task for the contest that also makes for a fun visual, then ask supporters to post a photo and tag your nonprofit’s account to enter. For example, a nonprofit raising funds to build houses around Christmas might host a contest to see who can build the best gingerbread house. The cost of a small prize for the winner will be well worth the attention the contest draws to your campaign.

If you’re planning your campaign around a holiday that other nonprofits often fundraise around, these creative marketing methods will help you stand out from the crowd.

Remember to take your target audience’s habits and preferences into account so you focus your outreach on the right platforms. If your supporters are most active on Instagram, don’t run your social media contest on Facebook.

5. Thank donors and volunteers often.

You know how important showing appreciation is for creating lasting relationships with donors and volunteers. But since gratitude is a staple of many holidays, you should be extra vocal with your thanks at the end of holiday fundraisers.

When planning your campaign’s timeline, include specific times or dates to thank donors. Some especially impactful times to show appreciation include:

  • Immediately after they donate. Set up automated emails to ensure each donor gets a timely thank-you email. These emails can include the donor’s receipt or they can be standalone messages that simply share a brief statement of gratitude.
  • On the holiday itself. On the big day, you’ll be busy sending out urgent donation appeals and posting live progress updates on social media, but don’t forget to show supporters your appreciation too! Consider creating thank-you graphics to post on social at strategic times throughout the day. This will be especially impactful for showing support to your volunteer fundraisers.
  • At the end of the campaign. When the campaign ends, send out an email that celebrates the campaign’s success, shares the final fundraising results, and thanks donors again for their part in reaching that goal.

To make this process simpler and less time-consuming for your staff, create a few thank-you email templates that you can easily personalize for each donor. When you personalize thank-you messages with the donor’s exact contribution and references to past involvement with your nonprofit, you’ll demonstrate that you value them as an individual and that their gift matters.

Finally, let donors and volunteers know that they’ve made your beneficiaries’ holidays better, and make sure to wish them a happy holiday, too!

Holidays are natural times to spread kindness and lean into the community spirit, so planning fundraisers around them can be highly effective. These tips plus your own expertise and knowledge of your supporters’ preferences will make all the difference in engaging your community to give back.

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