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The Ideal Year-End Fundraising Campaign Timeline

Summer is often the slowest time of the year for most fundraising professionals. Chances are, you’ve experienced this trend yourself. Maybe you’ve put together a quick flash fundraiser or spent the dog days of summer reaching out to your donors through engagement opportunities such as volunteering or through targeted marketing efforts.

But before you know it, the weather has started to change and you realize the holidays are just around the corner. Eek! Where did the time go?

Autumn definitely means “go time” in the life of a fundraiser, often because it signals the start of year-end, a period of time you may get upwards of 60% or more of your annual donations.

Even if you don’t follow a definitive fundraising calendar, it’s still vital to come up with a year-end fundraising plan—and stick to it. To get started preparing for the most wonderful time of the year for nonprofits and charities, ensure you’ve covered your year-end fundraising basics with this year-end fundraising campaign timeline.

View and download our December Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar by clicking here.

By November 1st

Set a Goal: Hopefully, your nonprofit or charity has a clear, board-approved budget that you follow. If this is the case, then you should have a clear idea about how much you need to raise for the next fiscal year. Don’t hesitate to use this budget as a guide for your year-end fundraising efforts.

Use the SMART Goal setting strategy to craft your fundraising goal. SMART goals help you streamline a reasonable goal for any situation.

  • Specific: Have a set number or level you want to reach, such as dollars raised, volunteers mobilized, etc.
  • Measurable: Ensure it’s trackable and measurable
  • Attainable: The goal must be achieved through reasonable effort
  • Relevant: The goal should match the needs of your cause
  • Time-bound: Set a start and end date

Here’s an example of a SMART year-end fundraising goal: We have a goal of raising $15,000 from #GivingTuesday through December 31st through a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and an email campaign.

Have a Plan: What types of fundraising activities are you planning to use? What are the methods do your supporters respond to? These are the questions that must shape your fundraising plans. Take into account your staff and volunteer time, fundraising budget, and your donor’s normal year-end giving habits when formulating a fundraising plan.

Here are some ways you can fundraise during year-end:

  • Email “asks”
  • A phone-a-thon
  • Online crowdfunding campaign
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising
  • Direct mail pledges
  • A one-day giving blitz such as #GivingTuesday

Delegate Tasks: Once you set your goal and plan, it’s time to delegate. Before the start of November, give everyone involved with the fundraising process their “to-do” list.

Spreadsheets and shared files (such as on Google Docs or Dropbox) are phenomenal ways to keep everyone on the same page.

By Thanksgiving

Give Thanks: Thanksgiving is a key date for your nonprofit or charity. Sure, you’re likely spending time with friends and family, but it’s also important to let your supporters know you’re thinking about them on Thanksgiving (and always)!

There are a number of ways you can tell your supporters “Thanks” on Thanksgiving, including:

  • Social Media
  • Email blast
  • Direct mail

The goal of this engagement touchpoint is to show your donors, volunteers, board members, and other stakeholders how vital they are to your organization and equate their commitment with impact.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to simply say “thank you” without any strings attached. For more ideas on giving thanks, read our post: 20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas.

Prepare Your Supporters for #GivingTuesday: If your nonprofit or charity is one of the hundreds and thousands of organizations set to participate in #GivingTuesday fundraising efforts, then the preparations for the campaign should begin well in advance.

To guarantee you cover all your bases, we suggest following our #GivingTuesday Planning Guide. After the ball starts rolling, prepare your potential donors for the campaign through targeted outreach.

This pre-#GivingTuesday email from World Help is one of the best we’ve seen. It covers many bases, such as the date of the drive, the intended impact/fund recipients, and a call to action linking the reader up to “Learn More.”

#GivingTuesday Email
World Help #GivingTuesday Email

By #GivingTuesday

Engage in a #GivingTuesday Fundraiser or Friendraiser: Prepping for #GivingTuesday may have taken some time, but you’ll reap the rewards of your hard work on the actual day itself if you’ve put in the effort beforehand.

Even if you decided not to run a full-blown fundraising campaign on this International Day of Giving, it’s vital you work to keep your organization top-of-mind. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of causes vying for your donor’s attention. If you don’t reach out now, you’ll be missing out.

Try one or more of these strategies to engage your supporters on #GivingTuesday:

  • Run a 24-hour online fundraiser
  • Engage supporters in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign
  • Ask your audience to share your org’s posts regarding impact on social media and via email
  • Call all donors just to say “Thank You”

By December 15th

Build Urgency: By December 15th, New Year’s Eve is just a few short weeks away. Whether you’re near your year-end fundraising goal or are still struggling to meet your goals, use this date to build urgency in your communications with donors.

Let them know, politely and pleasantly (of course) that time is essentially running out. If you’re comfortable doing so, let them know how far you are away from your goal.

Encourage Supporter Participation: Social media and social sharing, in particular, have completely transformed the donor to nonprofit relationship. Today, your organization’s visibility and credibility are tightly linked with the fervor of your online and offline audience.

To tap into the power of a good recommendation, it’s a good time to ask your supporters to “vouch” for your cause. Some ways they can do this include:

  • Sharing your post
  • Using a special, organization/campaign-specific hashtag
  • Becoming a personal fundraiser for your year-end campaign

By December 31st

Create a Final Push: As time winds down, a final push may be necessary to capture those last-minute donations. Before December 31st, follow-up with any donor (major or minor) that hasn’t renewed their gift using their preferred communication method.

January and February

Thank Your Donors: Immediately following the end of your year-end campaign, don’t hesitate to thank your donors. Yes, this post may sound like a broken record but this step can’t be stressed enough.

To cover your bases consider doing a 2-part thank you. Start with a blanket“Thanks” through social media and email to let your donors know their efforts will make a difference. Be sure this comes out on or around New Year’s Day.

Follow that up with a personal thank you to each donor.

Compile Impact and Results: Gather all the information you need to report the results of the campaign. Tally the number of donors, dollars raised, volunteers/fundraisers mobilized, and even the number of social shares. Use this information to build on your next campaign.

When the time comes, report those findings on your website and/or annual report.

Plan Next Engagement Opportunity: The life and plans of a nonprofit fundraiser are fairly cyclical. There are highs and lows, strong months and slow months. But through it all, your best bet for success is consistency.

Use the donor engagement cycle as a guide to keep your donors as active participants in your organization.

There’s no doubt about it, you’re going to be busy these next few months. Help ease the burden by preparing ahead of time and following this timeline to a T. Once you ace your year-end fundraising efforts this year, you can build and grow annually.

CauseVox offers a multitude of resources on year-end and #GivingTuesday campaigns. Here are a few of our favorites:

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