Apples, Honey, and End of Year Fundraising

Break out the Manischewitz …. or apples and honey, it’s time to ring in the new year!

I know what you’re thinking—take a page from the Nordstrom playbook and don’t rush the seasons, Emily.  Alas, I’m talking about the Jewish new year (also known as Rosh Hashanah), which begins at sundown on Wednesday.  I dusted off my former Jewish non-profit staffer cap then connected with a few savvy folks* within Convio-land and am here to share some Jewish High Holiday online marketing tips with you.

To Appeal or… Not?

Many Jewish organizations assume that just because its shofar time, it is an obligatory time to send out an appeal.  Think again, buckaroos! Some organizations (especially those that are providing a service around HighHo time, say Hillels providing SERVICEs to Jewish college students, more on this later) will have great success with a High Holiday appeal.  This is not necessarily a given for all organizations.

Consider using this time of year to send out a cultivation message, reminding your housefile members of all the excellent work you’re up to.  Think about incorporating a soft ask and capture some of the feel good Jewish energy often stirred up by round challot to reiterate your mission. September to December is a great time to raise money.. but give some thought to whether your mission supports a High Holiday specific ask.

Hype Services, Like Services

Some organizations who provide a service see a huge spike in online giving around the High Holidays (think of tickets to services for college students or the planting of a tree in Israel).  Consider working a very specific and tangible service into your ask around this time of year—especially incorporating a seasonally appropriate tie-in.  I love the National Council of Jewish Women and American Jewish World Service Rosh Hashanah ecards, putting a little web 2.0 spin on the tradition of sending New Year cards.

Multiples of 18, and Beyond

Make your fundraising ask culturally relevant by using multiples of 18 as suggested donations. (Based on the experience of my informal focus group, donors often entered in multiples of 18 even when they weren’t suggested.)  Think about using the numbers that correspond to shofar notes around Rosh Hashanah to tie in additional Jewish content to your ask.

Tishrei or December?

Apples and honey or funky 2012 glasses: end of year is king! Jewish organizations are like other non-profits in that fundraising toward the end of the year will always be a powerful and profitable time to encourage giving from your housefile. Donors are looking to maximize tax deductible gifts before day one of the (secular) New Year.  Use the High Holidays to begin stewarding donors and think about incorporating Chanukkah language or imagery into your end of year asks (it is late this year)!

December 25

If you’re an organization with a housefile composed of different faiths, consider the language you use in your end of year messaging.  A very Christmas centric message could be off-putting if you know much of your constituency doesn’t celebrate Christmas.  But, don’t be silent on Christmas Day! If many of your usual donors are not Christmas celebrators, they may not be up to too much else on the holiday itself and would welcome a well formatted, engaging email appeal that day.

I’d love to hear about your other High Holiday online strategy tips. What worked last year? What are you trying this year? And which recipe are you using for brisket?

*Special thanks to Convio strategy consultant rockstars, Miriam Kagan and Scott Gilman, for their help with this post!