Preparing for the Season of Giving: Steps to Ready Your Year-End Appeal

Year-end is upon us, and you should start planning for your final appeal. Organizations, large and small, should capitalize on the Season of Giving. A year-end appeal is powerful and creates exposure for your organization by educating others on your past, current and future efforts. Publicity is vital; however, solicitations can heighten awareness of your mission, build relationships and increase revenue.

In 2015, charitable giving continued its upward trend: An estimated $373 billion was donated, with individuals representing 71 percent of the total. Taking advantage of the Season of Giving is essential to your organization, so let’s get started on your end-of-year campaign.

The Year-End Appeal

An end-of-year appeal can be developed many ways, but highlighting an individual situation or story will have the most impact by enhancing your donors’ understanding and increasing their connection to your cause. Once you have developed your message and crafted a story, ensure the solicitation is delivered in a simple, informative, connective and up-lifting way. Read on for tips on how to enhance the impact of your appeal.

  • Delivery – Your message should be vibrant and concise. Make sure to use simple verbiage and keep statistics to a minimum. Statistics are great motivators but can also change the voice of an appeal. Readers need to understand your message to be able to connect to it. A confused donor will disregard an appeal, resulting in no gift.
  • Mission – The voice of your appeal must prominently support your mission throughout the entire piece. Your organization’s mission and objectives should be obvious to the reader. If the design allows, directly state your mission on the appeal.
  • Personalization – Personalization is key to making your donors feel important and connected to your cause. Simple additions such as the donor’s name, last donation date and the amount of their last gift can have lasting impact. Personalization is a must for all major gift solicitations.
  • Imagery – People naturally look at pictures before reading text. Capitalize on this by using images to tell your story and enhance the donors’ emotions. Utilize photos that invoke feelings of empathy and joy to help your donors develop drive and energy to support your cause. Comparative pictures (before and after) work well to achieve this.
  • Donor Impact – Donors like to feel connected and valuable to causes they believe in. Focusing on donor impact creates ownership and connection, ultimately increasing giving. Explain how donor support is critical to your mission and highlight donor impact in your story.
  • Donation Amounts – Engage your donors by showing and telling them how you are utilizing their money. Add increments to the end of your appeal because dollar amounts, connected to a tangible impact, guide the donors’ understanding of what they can influence. Keep amounts and explanations simple, and use examples.


Appeals are endorsed by many people in many ways. Leadership and development are the mainstay of appeals, but other staff, board members and volunteers need to work collectively to drive the effort. In addition to face-to-face connections, appeals can be sent via email, promoted on social media, introduced by phone and mailed directly to donors. 

Online Giving

Convenience is vital; make it easy for your donors to give online. Your website should reflect your current campaign(s), and your donation button or page must be highly visible. Include options, such as recurring gift, so donors have the choice to give again automatically. Direct mail appeals should include a return envelope. It’s no secret that social media is incredibly effective: Don’t forget to include a link that leads directly to your donation page. Donors have little patience, and if it’s difficult to donate, your organization will miss out on funds.

The Acknowledgement

Recognize gifts within two days of receiving since a delayed response can be perceived as an insult. Some donors prefer to remain anonymous, while other donors might want the publicity to go toward their company, but one thing is constant: All donor requests should be respected. Acknowledgement levels mostly fall into three categories: major gift, mid-level gift and lower-level gift. The dollar amount for each category is customized to your organization’s donor base.

Major GiftsPhone call and thank you letter
Mid-level GiftPersonalized email and thank you letter
Lower-level GiftThank you letter with hand written note

Stewardship is the key to successful donor retention. It’s easier to keep a donor than to acquire a new one. To sustain your donors, make sure to follow-up on how their funds were used and remain in communication. When a donor can physically see a difference, they are more likely to give a second time, third time, and eventually become a recurring donor.

Year-end appeals are worth every bit of the effort. Good luck during the 2017 Season of Giving!

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