The Responsive Guide to Year-End Fundraising

The end of the year is a busy time for nonprofits. Approximately 30% of giving occurs in December. October through December is the most influential giving season.

So how can nonprofits make the most of their year-end fundraising and build momentum and supporter relationships not just for one campaign, but into the year to come and beyond?

The answer is Responsive fundraising. 

Get all our year-end responsive fundraising tips in this Build Better session!

The Responsive Approach To Year-End Fundraising

Some of the traditional approaches to year-end fundraising have not kept pace with the changes in technology and communication that have changed life so much in the last 20 years. 

This includes fundraising practices that are: 

Organization-Focused: Messages that focus on who you are and what you need, instead of what kind of impact your supporters can have and why they, personally, should give. 

Mass Messaging: Also known as the “spray-and-pray” technique, this is when you send the same message to everyone, regardless of their interests, giving history, or involvement with your organization. Only major donors get personalized messages, everyone else gets one-size-fits-all. 

Siloed Approach To Generosity: You only pay attention to the way donors give monetarily, and don’t account for gifts of time, influence or expertise, or in-kind donations. Each type of giving remains in its own silo, and you never get a full picture of a supporter’s generosity.

When you take a responsive approach to year-end fundraising, you’ll be able to offer all of your supporters a personalized donor experience. 

Utilize the Responsive Framework to:

Listen: Listening happens directly through conversations or indirectly via social listening, website activity, and email opens and clicks. The more you listen, the more you begin to understand what’s important to your supporters and how they want to connect. 

Connect: Responsive fundraising ensures you connect with the right donor at the right time with the right message and ensure they are part of an ongoing conversation with your organization. This builds connection and increases trust. 

Suggest: Once you’ve established trust with your donors by listening and connecting in personal ways, you can suggest giving options that are the best fit for each individual.

Suggestions don’t always have to be a financial ask, and can include learning experiences for the donor, opportunities for donors to volunteer their time, or invitations to use their influence to invite others to engage with you.

Learn: While there are certainly best practices and great fundraising ideas to try, the only way to know for sure how they work with your unique supporters is to test and experiment. The results you get will help inform your next attempt. By continually learning as you go, you’ll be able to be more and more responsive.

The Responsive Framework. Listen, Connect, Suggest, Learn

Responsive Year-End Fundraising Is…

So what makes a year-end fundraising campaign responsive? 

Responsive campaigns are:

Supporter-Focused: Instead of telling everyone how great your organization is, focus your messaging on the impact your supporters will have. 

Personalized: Use segmentation and merge tags to personalize each message your supporters receive, at scale.  

Holistic In Their Approach To Generosity: Acknowledge all the ways your supporters give, including as volunteers, advocates, and influencers. 

3 Ways To Make Your Year-End Campaign More Responsive

Before you start writing copy, creating marketing materials, and scheduling automations, ensure these three elements are in place.

Segment To Start

Segmentation is the key to personalizing communications at scale. While you can’t deliver hand-crafted one-on-one emails to every individual on your list, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to spray and pray. Segment your supporters into smaller groups and personalize from there. 

While you may already segment your supporters by giving level, there are other ways to segment by behavior that speak more directly to the things that matter most to them. Try grouping supporters by their:

Interests: In which programs have they expressed interest? Have they visited particular pages on your website, or given to specific programs in the past?

Giving Intent: Do you know why they give? Are they past beneficiaries of your organization? People uniquely affected by your cause? 

Organizational Involvement: How are they involved with your organization? Are they volunteers? Monthly givers? Parents of children in your program? Alumni? 

Segmenting in this way allows you to create messages that resonate more personally with supporters, while still being manageable and efficient. 

Make It Multi-Channel

The research is surprising: Multichannel donors have 3X the value of online or offline-only donors. If you’re still keeping people in exclusively digital or offline buckets, let this be the year you mix it up and make your year-end campaign multi-channel. 

Your donors are likely to be engaging with you on more than one channel. Planning carefully allows you to continue one conversation with them, no matter where they find you. 

Take a look at all your available communication channels. Your digital channels may include email, social media, ads, and your website. Your offline channels may include postal mail, phone calls, voicemails, and text messages. How can you use them to work together? 

You can begin simply. Add one offline touchpoint to your digital communication plan, like a postcard to follow an email series, or add one online touchpoint for your supporters you’d otherwise only contact offline, like targeting social media ads to your direct mail list. 

Plan For A Year-End Journey…And Beyond

From the moment they become aware of your existence, your supporters are on a journey. As you connect with them, they become more engaged, and take their next steps towards generosity. More than anyone campaign, this journey is how you build authentic relationships over time.

Year-end fundraising is a critical time for fundraisers, but what happens in January? Your supporters are still there. In order to continue building your relationship, think about the next steps you want them to take in the new year, and lay the groundwork in your campaign. 

Think about the messages you want to send, when you’ll want to close the loop (LINK) and report on the impact of their year-end gifts, and how to continue cultivating their support. 

What is the specific journey at year-end for:

  • New Donors?
  • Recurring Givers?
  • Lapsed Givers who came back at year-end?

Whether it’s setting up a welcome email series for new donors, creating a special monthly giver event in the new year, or creating a specific gratitude plan for returning donors, think about what happens after the gift. 

How To Cultivate Deep
Donor Relationships at Scale

Get the Comprehensive Guide to Maximize Your Donor Software.

Ready For Responsiveness? 

This is just the beginning of your responsive year-end campaign. For more responsive plays and ideas, download your copy of The Responsive Playbook. 

Want to see how technology can help you be more responsive at year-end and all year long? Schedule a demo.

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Grow generosity with Virtuous.

Virtuous is the responsive fundraising software platform proven to help nonprofit organizations increase generosity by serving all donors personally, no matter their gift size.

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