Book & Guide

December Fundraising Playbook

Don’t panic, but December is almost here. Of course, you know that already because you’ve been as busy as a beaver since the first of September. And hopefully, these past few months of prep have set you up for year-end fundraising success.

Naturally, you’re exhausted. Yet, the end really is in sight and you’re thisclose to the finish line. As always, we’re here to help you through the last hurdles of the fundraising season. So before you plow through the last 4 weeks of 2018, take a look at this December Fundraising Playbook.

We’ve created a clear, helpful 31-day plan to help elevate your December fundraising efforts, including a detailed calendar, day-by-day details, suggested dates for communications, and a template plan.

Download our December Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar (xls):



Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s take a step back and consider all the intricacies of December fundraising.

Why December?

Across the board, December is the busiest month for fundraising. In fact, around 30% of total annual giving is made during the 12th month of the year. This means, if your organization is like the majority of nonprofits and charities in North America, you have your work cut out for you.

However, it’s not just all financial. A strong December fundraising push helps keep your organization top-of-mind while people are at their most charitable (the holidays) and keeps your cause relevant going into the new year. All this adds up to more engagement, which boosts retention rates down the road.

In an ideal world, your fundraising plan for December should be set in stone by the beginning of November. Why? Because it’s always nice to prepare your donors ahead of time, especially if you’re planning on running a #GivingTuesday fundraiser or Thanksgiving “Thank You” event that ties in.

Even if you haven’t started your December fundraising planning yet, there’s still time to get organized. Just follow these December Fundraising Steps to Success.

The Steps to Success

Following tried-and-true best practices is one way to guarantee solid December fundraising results, so ensure you’ve covered the following bases before you finalize your plan.

Goal Setting

Before you start any fundraising plan, you have to set a goal. Goals help keep you on track for success by clarifying what you want to accomplish and how you plan to get from point A to point B.

Every fundraising goal should meet the following SMART Goal criteria:

Specific: Whether you’re looking to raise a certain amount of money or recruit a particular number of fundraisers, know your intended end-goal.

Measurable: You should be able to track the progress.

Attainable: Every goal should take some effort to reach, but not be unattainable. Weigh past year-end results to create a strong yet reasonable goal.

Relevant: Every goal should match your organization’s needs. There’s no need to strive for something you don’t need.

Time-based: Every campaign needs a start and end point.

Put all these SMART elements together to create a strong goal for your December fund and friend-raising efforts.

Choosing The Right Fundraising Campaign Matters

Knowing your audience and understanding their motives and inspirations is another key to a successful December fundraising season. Take the time to learn what makes your audience give by studying past giving statistics and sending out donor satisfaction surveys earlier in the year.

For example, you can gather donor data indicating which type of fundraising campaign your donors are most likely to give to using your CRM or other donor tracking program. Then, take this data to decide which campaigns bring in the most donations and engagement.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, many organizations choose to use one or more of these fundraising techniques in December:

  • An online peer-to-peer fundraiser: This fundraising technique rallies your current supporters and gives them a job—to fundraise for YOU.
  • An online crowdfunding campaign: Although this form of fundraising removes the “personal fundraiser” element, it’s still a great way to raise funds and ask for supporter participation by way of social sharing.
  • A direct mail and/or phone campaign: If you have a donor base that’s slightly older or less connected with you online, a direct mail or phone campaign is a good way to reach them.
  • An email campaign: Regardless of its reputation, email fundraising can work if you follow basic marketing strategies. For inspiration, check out the CauseVox webinar: 11 Ways to Boost Your Year-End Fundraising Email Results.

You may be tempted to try something new, which is a great idea. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket, especially if you’ve never done that type of fundraiser before.

It goes without saying, but balancing new and old fundraising techniques is a good way to reach both retained and new donors.

Finding A Balance Between Engagement + Fundraising

Raising money is vital, but simply connecting with your audience through engagement efforts is just as important. Engagement aids in emotionally tieing your audience to your cause, without necessarily asking them to “donate” all the time.

Naturally, every organization will find their own engagement to fundraising sweet spot. In general, your communications should include an 80:20 mixture, which includes 80% stories and opportunities to connect, and 20% asks in the form of donation and volunteer requests.

Communication methods also vary depending on your audience (we sound like a broken record, don’t we?) However, there are some very common ways to communicate with donors, such as:

  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Nonprofit/Charity website
  • Online peer-to-peer fundraising website
  • Direct Mail
  • Phone

Again, pull donor data to determine how and when people engage with you. Is it through email, social media, or something else? Your data will tell you.

Equally important as how you share engagement messages is what you include. Brush up on your nonprofit story and find ways to share it in a variety of ways, including video, the written word, and through images.

For more information on donor engagement, read our resource: Donor Engagement & Retention Playbook.

Creating A Calendar And Detailed Task List

Accountability can easily amplify your December fundraising results. First, you must hold your organization, as a whole, accountable for reaching your goal. Second, members of your staff and volunteer base are responsible for their individual tasks.

Keep organized by using a calendar and detailed task list.

Your December fundraising calendar should include:

  • Key fundraising deadlines
  • Communication messages and specific calls to action
  • The message medium and intended audience
  • Engagement opportunities
  • Any additional notes

For the detailed fundraising task list, add the following:

  • Name of staff/volunteer
  • Task
  • Start date and end date
  • Goal of each action

Download our December Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar (xls):



Following Up & Planning For The Future

After December is over, your work isn’t quite done. End your year-end campaign with these steps:

  • Send thank yous to each donor and personal fundraiser
  • Compile and input all donor data using a CRM or other donor tracking system
  • Report the results to your audience
  • Create a plan for future engagement. If you haven’t considered planning around the donor engagement cycle, look at this resource.

Putting All The Pieces Together

December fundraising efforts are vital to the health and sustainability of your organization. Strong December fundraising results provide your cause financial security and a stable, engaged donor base from which you can work to retain and grow for years down the road.

“Strong December fundraising results provide your cause financial security and a stable, engaged donor base from which you can work to retain and grow for years down the road.” tweet this

Yes, December is a busy month. But a good showing in December is essential in our line of work.

Whether you engage and fundraise using social media, an online crowdfunding campaign, email blasts, or something completely out of the box, what matters is that you’re reaching your audience, giving them the right information they need, and then showing them what their gift can do for the people, places, and things your organization serves.

Finalize your plan using this checklist.

December Fundraising Checklist

_____ Set a SMART goal

_____ Research past donor data to determine the best way to reach donors

_____ Choose one or more fundraising techniques to meet your goal

_____ Determine how you’ll reach your donors

_____ Create a detailed calendar to outline fundraising and engagement during December

_____ Assign staff or volunteers to each fundraising and engagement task

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