Fundraising Strategies: The Essential Year-End Guide

The countdown has begun! Nonprofits are getting ready to finalize their year-end fundraising strategies. As the date draws nearer, you’re likely working with the various departments within your nonprofit organization to ensure fundraising initiatives are prepped and ready for execution come the end of November.

6 Steps to Responsive Year-End Fundraising Strategies


With the year-end upon us, you are likely reviewing your fundraising plan with a fine-tooth comb and gearing up to check off all of your campaign tasks. However, have you considered including alternative nonprofit fundraising strategies not already in your toolbox? To give you some marketing inspiration, Noah Barnett, VP of Marketing at Feathr, recently joined us in a webinar outlining key steps to upgrade your marketing to reach your year-end fundraising goals.

Take your campaign to the next level by optimizing marketing techniques to increase donor acquisition, engagement, and retention.

1. Plan Your Year-End Fundraising Strategies in Advance

Building a buffer to plan and strategize before the launch of your year-end fundraising campaign is essential to its success. During this time, you’ll want to huddle with your team to establish campaign goals and objectives, brainstorm marketing materials and channel strategies, and build a roadmap to hit those goals.

At a minimum, your roadmap should have formal documentation that outlines the campaign brief, core messaging, and communications calendar. Take a responsive approach to your planning by informing your fundraising strategies based on last year’s campaign performance.

A responsive nonprofit CRM, like Virtuous, will provide key insights into which elements of your campaign worked well and which didn’t. Pairing that with any feedback you receive from your donor base—whether verbal or written—will give you a pretty good baseline on what current supporters are looking for in your year-end campaign this year. Making an intentional effort based on data and feedback will strengthen relationships with donors and increase their generosity during the year-end season. 

Without putting in the time to plan out your campaign, you’ll end up making last-minute decisions which could lead to:

  • Your team doing nothing at all:
    It’s easy to let planning fall by the wayside due to everything demanding your attention during year-end, like wrapping up fiscal year tasks and planning budgets for the year ahead. This leads to your charitable organization not planning anything for year-end and hoping donors will contribute on their own accord.
  • Your team stretching itself thin and doing too much:
    Year-end can creep up before you know it, and at that point, it’s too late to make any preparation. If that’s the case, your team scrambles to meet individual donors where they are without a clear-cut plan and ends up doing too much, resulting in unremarkable outcomes.
  • Your team ad-hocking its way through:
    This is when your team makes rash decisions off a whim that aren’t necessarily based on a strategic plan but instead based on what Barnett calls “unreliable magic.” This reactive approach can lead to missed opportunities, ineffective targeting, and inconsistent messaging.

Planning any campaign is a labor of love. And if you want a fruitful year-end season, it’s important to prioritize the preparation process. Barnett recommends making sure your fundraising strategies include the following elements:

  • Community-first:
    Finding and deepening donor relationships is how you inspire generosity. So, take a look at your year-end fundraising campaign and flesh out the groups in your community you are looking to engage.
  • Responsive:
    Your year-end fundraising campaign should invoke engagement and a two-way dialogue between your organization and its supporters. Taking on a responsive approach to your fundraising efforts not only encourages current supporters to donate; it inspires them to interact with your content. And then they interact with your content, it empowers you to send them further communications based on their behaviors and interests.
  • Multichannel:
    Your approach to donor stewardship during the end of the year shouldn’t be singular or siloed. To manifest an integrated customer experience across multiple channels and touchpoints, it’s essential to take on a responsive multichannel strategy. With multichannel marketing, you’re meeting customers where they are: at multiple touchpoints in a hyper-targeted way.
  • Measurable:
    It should go without saying that every step you take in your year-end campaign should be measurable. This enables your nonprofit to capture the data on campaign performance so your team knows what’s resonating with your donor base and what’s not. Then, you can optimize your campaign to meet your year-end fundraising goals better—whether it’s higher website conversion, increased net new donors, better overall donor retention, etc.

2. Take a Hyper-Segmented Approach to Year-End Fundraising Strategies

A hyper-segmented approach to your year-end fundraising campaign involves creating very narrow donor segments. The focus here is to prioritize relevancy overreach. This means taking a more intentional strategy to connect with a smaller, more engaged set of donors who are more likely to find your content relevant to their interests and needs.

Unlike a traditional segmentation model, where you use broader donor segments like age groups or geographic locations, hyper-segmentation involves creating specific donor groups based on individual preferences, interactions, and motivations.

“Who are you trying to engage? What are you trying to activate them to do? How can you design that? That’s really what hyper-segmentation is,” Barnett explains. “You’re deciding to create micro-campaigns within the larger campaign for the different segments of the population that you’re engaging.”

Hyper-segmentation embodies a responsive mindset in which you’re listening to the data in your donor management system and in your personal interactions to learn more about donors and offer them relevant suggestions on their giving.

the responsive framework that can inform your fundraising strategies

When sending off campaign communications, avoid a generic, one-size-fits-all approach. We suggest exploring ways to segment donors and creating multiple versions of messaging for each segment. This ensures that the communication received by each donor is personalized based on their unique experiences and preferences.

At Virtuous, we offer an array of marketing tools, including the creation of unique donor segments. This empowers nonprofits like Rainforest Foundation US to deliver tailored messages to specific audiences at opportune moments.

“We appreciate the ability to track where donors are coming from and to properly segment how donations are coming in. We can see the difference in our emails because we can track it. It’s definitely an improvement from what we had before.”

Viviana Briseño, Development Operations Manager at Rainforest Foundation US

3. Put Significant Focus on Email Marketing

Email remains the most effective channel nonprofits use to communicate and connect with donors. In fact, “The State of Nonprofit Marketing” found that 86% of nonprofits identify email as one of the top three most important marketing channels.

This finding is further supported in “M+R Benchmarks 2023.” Nonprofits raised $78 for every 1,000 emails sent by a nonprofit, with an average open rate of 22%.

To improve the effectiveness of your year-end email fundraising strategies, it’s vital to identify key fundraising metrics to measure. Based on your campaign goals, the metrics you’re measuring will change what you can do to optimize your results.

Here are six key success metrics:

  1. Delivery:
    A few remedies for a low delivery rate are to improve your data hygiene practices, ensure you have an effective email marketing platform, and grow your email list. Taking these extra precautions increases your email deliverability and the number of people you’re sending emails to.
  2. Engagement:
    If you’re looking to improve the way people are engaging with your email content, you could try subject line optimizations or test new formatting techniques.
  3. Click-through rate:
    This measures what percentage of your audience is engaging with your content and following through with the links that are included in your email—like visiting your website, donation form, educational article, etc. A few experiments you can try to improve your CTR include sending shorter emails, breaking up the copy with more visual elements like images or videos, or moving the calls to action to different locations.
  4. Replies:
    Growing the replies you receive in your email marketing can be done by optimizing your content to be more relevant, valuable, and actionable. As Barnett recommends, it could be as simple as sending a quick email saying, “Thanks for contributing to our year-end campaign last year. Can we count on your support this year?” When someone engages and replies to the email, then you can make a responsive effort by replying with to their response with a link to your donation form that includes dynamic giving levels.
  5. Conversions:
    This measures how many people were activated toward an action from your email. The action could be replying to an email, like we mentioned above, or more revenue-driven, like filling out an online donation form. For instance, if you wanted to increase donation conversion via email marketing efforts, you could optimize content by creating more urgency or establishing more specific segments to make the content more personalized.
  6. Revenue:
    Whatever your revenue goals are, it’s good to remember that what you choose to measure directly impacts performance optimization. Two common ways to measure email revenue are revenue per email (average revenue generated per email) and overall email revenue (total revenue generated in a specified period of time).

4. Invest in Digital Advertising During Year-End

The ad industry is forecasted to grow 5% to $360 billion this year. Half of nonprofits are even looking to increase their digital ad spend while only 7% are planning to decrease their spend in 2023, according to “The State of Nonprofit Marketing.”

Digital Advertising Tactics to Test

  • Affinity targeting:
    This type of ad effort builds an audience based on your ideal donor personas and targets them with digital ads across the web. So while a donor is searching the web, you can use demographic and behavioral targeting to reach prospective supporters.
  • Email mapping:
    Through your responsive nonprofit CRM like Virtuous, you can upload segmented donor lists into your email platform, such as Feathr. Then, you can run digital ads to your supporters while they’re scrolling through their favorite social platforms and searching the web.
  • Donation abandonment advertising:
    If someone visits your year-end donation form and abandons their gift midway through the process, you can implement this type of digital advertising to remind them to complete their gift. Take a responsive approach to the ad messaging that directly asks them to come back to finish their donation. Using this intent to give further personalizes the experience based on where they are in their donor journey vs. using a one-size-fits-all approach.

“You’re spending a lot of effort, money, and time to get people to engage with your end-of-year campaign. Retargeting is helping you make sure that you’re capturing as much of that and giving people as many opportunities to engage with your campaign.”

Noah Barnett, VP of Marketing at Feathr

5. Expand Impact With Retargeting

It’s common for nonprofits to use multichannel fundraising, where they leverage multiple channels—like website, email, social, and direct mail—that operate independently. A multichannel marketing strategy is typically pushed out to supporters who are already within the nonprofit’s community, resulting in approximately a 50% connection.

While multichannel can be an effective marketing strategy, more organizations are moving toward multichannel as a key part of their fundraising strategies.

Double Down on Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel marketing is an effort that creates a unified experience across all of your marketing channels, and it ensures that you’re increasing your organization’s responsiveness.

From listening to your donors directly and pulling learnings from your donor management system, you can tailor marketing materials based on which channel they’re engaging with. This prevents donors from receiving the same content from you over and over again. Instead, channels are designed to complement each other. 

Remember, your year-end fundraising fundraising strategies shouldn’t be all about one type of donor. Messaging should be personalized to include all donor segments, like major donors, recurring supporters, peer-to-peer fundraisers, annual event attendees, etc. 

With approaches like retargeting, smart-send emails, or search intent ads, you’re closing that personal connection gap with people who aren’t yet connected with your organization but might have a high affinity for your cause. This is proven with nonprofits at Feathr that have seen a 130% lift in connection rate.

“By using your best donors and creating lookalike audiences to re-engage and retarget prospect audiences, you can increase your connection rate. So, 130% is an illustration of possibilities when you use a good marketing or multichannel approach at your event,” Barnett says.

6. Improve Acquisition Efforts With Geofencing and Search Intent Advertising

Geofencing is a marketing strategy that zeros in on your target audience based on a narrow and predefined geographic location. How does it work? When a user’s mobile device is within the confines of your predefined geographic location, it triggers a set of actions, such as sending notifications to your target audience, advertisements, or other location-based content to the user.

For instance, if there is a group of potential donors you are looking to target in your local neighborhood during year-end, you can set up geofence targeting to garner support. Once you set a geofence in that predefined area, prospective donors will see your digital ads using mobile beacons and other anonymous identifiers.

Worried about data compliance? With strict data regulations and standards, users won’t receive any of your communications unless they opt-in to location services and give permission for apps or services to access their location data. Including geofencing as a part of your fundraising strategies can help you target the right people.

Geofencing Ideas to Consider

To help you brainstorm ideas on how to use geofencing, here are a few examples:

  • Country clubs, yacht clubs, golf courses
  • Postal codes
  • Churches and places of worship
  • Festivals, concerts, sporting events
  • Conferences

Another way to elevate your fundraising strategies is to use search-intent advertising. Unlike Google Search Ads, which show ads at the top of SERPs, search-intent advertising uses the user’s search query to target and display relevant ads. For example, let’s say you’re an environmental organization. If there is a group of people who are searching for national parks to visit in Colorado during the holidays, you might set up search-intent advertising to display ads while they’re browsing the web.

“[Through search-intent advertising], I can target people showing intent through search results. I don’t want to show up in the search results, but if someone is searching that might indicate that they intend to give or support to my cause, I want to target them,” Barnett explains.

Responsive Year-End Fundraising Strategies Are Multichannel

The sector is moving toward creating more unified donor experiences that are built off of responsive fundraising. By leveraging pairing learnings from your donor management system with the multichannel marketing practices mentioned above, nonprofits will deepen relationships with supporters through increased personalization and campaign optimization.

To learn more about how a responsive nonprofit CRM can help you unlock generosity this year-end season, schedule a chat with one of our team members.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

Take a self-guided tour of Virtuous, where you can explore the platform at your own pace and see if Virtuous is right for you. 

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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