Is it October already?!? Get ready for end-of-year

Fall is in the air, leaves are starting to change color, temperatures are cooling down and, although it may be a bit hard to believe, year-end really is right around the corner.  What does that mean for your organization’s online fundraising strategy?  Now is the time to start planning your fundraising campaign for December.  While you may be thinking to yourself, “Ehhh..It’s only October. I’ve still got time.”, it really is a good rule of thumb to get started now and plan for success.

If you traditionally have not run an end-of year fundraising campaign, now is the time to start. Don’t wait until next year.  If you have struggled with this type of campaign in the past, now is a good time to sit down and determine what did not work (and what worked) so that you can see more success this year.  Don’t wait until next year.  Think of December 2010 as your golden opportunity.

Why is running an end-of-year fundraising campaign so important? 
1. People really do want to give at this time of the year. So, ask them.

  • We all know there is a spirit in the air around the holiday season that generally makes people feel more generous. Welcome the generosity.  
  • Although this reason doesn’t make us feel as warm and fuzzy inside as the prior, when it comes down to it people want to get their donations in for 2010 so they can get the tax break. For many, it comes down to numbers plain and simple.  For you, it is still a donation.  Let them give!

2. The months of October to December account for 51% of total online fundraising.  That’s over half of what you are likely to receive online for the entire year. HALF!  A lot of money can be raised for your cause during these months, so ask.

OK…This makes sense. But, how can I structure my appeals for success?
One of the best approaches you can take is that of a multi-part campaign.  Do not think of end-of-year fundraising as a single email message sent somewhere in the timeframe of December.  Think about the whole month of December as an opportunity to send a series of cohesive messages that go out during different, planned times of the month. You’ll want to do this by crafting at least three messages: a kick off, a reminder message and a last chance message.

The kick off message should be used to introduce your end-of-year fundraising campaign.  Tell your constituents why you need their gift and what you intend to do with it.  The date of kick off can be flexible, but as a general rule it is a good idea to send this message around mid-December. The closer to the holidays, the more warm and fuzzy people are feeling and the better.

The next message in the series should be a reminder message, also referred to as a “stewardship” piece.  Your constituents may not have been ready to give upon that first kick off message, or they simply may have intended to and have forgotten. Send them a lovely little reminder a week or so after the kick off or just before Hanukkah or Christmas.  You may even want send it in the style of an eCard, giving the appearance of a holiday card they would receive in the mail.  This is a nice touch.

Sticking with the three message approach, your third and final message should be one that expresses a sense of urgency.  It’s December 31st and this is your last chance to donate this year!  You’ll likely see the most donations come through after this appeal.  This appeal should be sent on December 30th or the 31st.  December 31st has shown to be the optimal date, but the 30th fares well, too.  This gives those procrastinators a chance to get their donation in and serves as one last reminder to those who may have simply meant to but forgotten to give after receiving your first two messages.

What kind of tone should I take with my campaign?
There are various options you have in terms of what tone to take when presenting why you need donations.  There is a nice model from “The Influential Fundraiser” that my team and I like to present to our clients when talking about end of year fundraising.  It looks like this:

   Present  Future
 Positive  Opportunity  Vision
Negative Crisis  Risk

Do you want to present a positive opportunity you could take advantage of at the present moment, or perhaps a vision of what you could do in the future if given a generous donation?  Or, do you want to present your case in a light that states the negative impact of not receiving donations, such as “We need your help or we cannot feed the homeless this Christmas”.   The tone is up to you and you may choose your tone based on your organization’s current situation.  Is there a crisis you need to avert, or do you have a unique and exciting opportunity you want your donors to take part in?

Regardless of the tone you take or the number of messages you send, the most important take-away here is that you do run some kind of end-of-year fundraising campaign and that you plan for it ahead of time.  Don’t let the months of October and November get away from you without thinking about what you will do in December.  If you get started now, you’ll find the month of December much less stressful.  Planning those messages early will help ensure that you and your marketing team are not up until 1am on December 30th making edits to an email that has to get out the door on December 31st.  If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to sit back, drink some egg nog and enjoy the holidays.

Happy campaigning!