When everyone else looks at their December calendars to pencil in parties and family events, fundraising professionals may as well just scrawl “The End is Nigh” across the entire month. Year-end fundraising. It’s coming.
Get ready! The end of the calendar year and its corresponding tax deduction potential collides with winter holidays and celebrating generosity, creating one of the most important fundraising opportunities of the year.
Let’s all just breathe for a second, okay?
All right, now let’s make a year-end fundraising plan.
It All Starts On #GivingTuesday
Since 2012, nonprofits have been offered a fantastic way to kick off their year-end campaigns, GivingTuesday. GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that follows the big shopping days that unofficially launch the holiday shopping season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. GivingTuesday largely takes place online, utilizing crowdfunding and social media.
GivingTuesday is more than a hashtag or a social media campaign. It’s becoming an increasing source of growth for many nonprofits. Last year, people donated $274 million on #GivingTuesday, a 55% overall increase from 2016. 2.5 million people participated by giving. Wow!
But wait. How does this whole GivingTuesday business figure into your year-end fundraising campaign?
We know that the idea of adding on one more thing to your already unrealistic workload can be stressful. We understand you’ve got a lot going on, and wouldn’t recommend you participate in GivingTuesday if we didn’t see our customers getting great results.
GivingTuesday Is Your Year-End Launch Pad
Think of GivingTuesday as the launch pad for your larger year-end fundraising campaign. It’s the day you start telling the story you’ll tell for the rest of the season. It’s the first hard ask.
Participate in GivingTuesday with a clear fundraising goal for the day, but keep talking about how that figures into your larger year-end goal. Make it clear that while the first step is definitely launching your fundraising rocket, your goal is to get it to the moon.
Ways To Launch
GivingTuesday and challenge gifts are a perfect pair. A sponsor or donor pledges to match donations up to a certain amount for a specific amount of time. For instance, a board member may pledge to match all gifts up to $4000 on GivingTuesday. Participating in the challenge and the opportunity to “double the impact” of their donation may spur your supporters to make a gift.
In fact, mentioning matching gifts in fundraising appeals has been found to increase the response rate by 71% and result in a 51% increase in the average donation amount.
To use GivingTuesday as a launchpad for the rest of your campaign, be sure to connect the two in all your communications. “On GivingTuesday we raised $8,000 of our $20,000 goal! We’re almost halfway there!” This stops donors from thinking of your campaign as something confined to GivingTuesday, that is already over.
World Bicycle Relief used a match to power an “epic” GivingTuesday in 2015. They set a goal to raise funds to provide 800 bicycles to students in the developing world. They exceeded their goal, reaching 1,087 bikes by the end of GivingTuesday. Matching funds doubled this impact, funding a total of 2,174 bicycles on GivingTuesday alone.
Make Your Campaign An Event
Brand your year-end fundraising campaign as an event, with GivingTuesday as its kick-off. Think about “30 Days of Generosity” or “The Christmas Quest” or the “Before the Ball Drops” campaign.
This sends the message, starting with GivingTuesday, that the campaign is about a month long, that you have a big goal, and that rather than a single donation to make, the campaign is a journey to participate in.
In their first GivingTuesday campaign, the Foothill-De Anza Community Colleges Foundation raised $25,434 to support students.
Download your #GivingTuesday planning guide below:
Best Practices And Important Details
Communication And Updates
Keep your supporters in the loop. Let them know how it’s going, what you’ve raised, and most importantly, what that means. “We’ve raised $500,” is okay, but “The $500 we’ve raised so far will provide X school supplies for X girls in the developing world, almost half of our goal,” is better.
Start those updates almost as soon as you’ve started your campaign. In fact, put, “Send GivingTuesday Update” on your calendar for November 30th, right now. Better yet, start promoting your upcoming campaign a couple of weeks out, so donors can prepare to give.
After GivingTuesday, continue to update your supporters throughout the month. The season is busy for everyone, so keep your updates brief, engaging, and very clear. Remember to show your impact every time you make an ask—every good cause is asking for money during this time, so you must demonstrate the value of what you do.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline demonstrated the impact of each donation in their #gingerbreadforgood campaign. Using CauseVox’s customization features, they incorporated gingerbread imagery into their fundraising website, adding a gingerbread man for every $20 donation–the amount it takes to fund a single hotline call. As the campaign progressed, supporters could see the gingerbread village grow, each representing a person the hotline would help.
Tell A Story
When you’re explaining your cause, you’re telling a story. Using dramatic storytelling can increase the impact, memorability, and shareability of your story. Your story may be an epic battle against a terrible monster like poverty or disease, or the exciting tale of building something that never existed before, or maybe a new story, entirely unique to you. Whatever your story, make sure it has:
- Strong characters—someone or a group of people that the audience can connect to, generally the people you serve.
- A clear problem—what is stopping those strong characters from getting what they need?
- A hero—the donors who make your work possible.
- A solid solution—the work you do, and how it helps.
From mid-November on, make sure all your channels of communication point to your year-end fundraising campaign. Prepare your audience for the campaign by sharing information about it via social media, your website, your print newsletter, your direct mail campaigns, everywhere.
Make it virtually impossible for any of your supporters do not know that you have a year-end campaign, and it starts on GivingTuesday. The holiday season is crowded with messaging, so you must be everywhere in order not to be missed.
Plan For The Very End
GivingTuesday is the launch pad, but don’t discount the importance of December 30 and 31. Many people wait until the very last minute to make a donation and receive the potential tax benefits of charitable giving. A whopping 12% of annual giving occurs in the last three days of the year, so keep your year-end fundraising campaign going until January 1.
This post was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.