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The Ideal Year-End Fundraising Campaign Timeline

2020 has been a year of “how has time moved so slowly” but also “where on earth did this year go?” Somehow it’s almost November and that means it’s time to start planning your ideal year-end timeline. 

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 Year-End Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar by inputting your email address below:

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. Don’t forget to think about how COVID is playing a role this year, what you’ll need to do differently from usual, and how your messaging will need to acknowledge the weirdness of 2020.

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

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. Make sure that you have strong communication plans set up for the last two months of the year, even if you are working from home.

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

Download this Sample Year-End Fundraising Goals Spreadsheet:

You’ll see this fundraising goal sheet is broken up into 2 parts: A donor thank you campaign from 11/2-11/13 and a fundraising campaign from 11/14-12/31.

Pre-Year End Fundraising Thank You Campaign 

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Here’s an excerpt from our Year-End Fundraising Strategy Course where Kelly talks through the impact of a thank you campaign before you start your year-end fundraising:

Give Thanks: Thanksgiving is a key date for your nonprofit or charity. This year is going to be a bit different from usual because fewer people will be gathering with their families, Black Friday won’t be as packed, and none of us are quite sure how the holidays will feel with social distancing.

But giving is still something we can do, and Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to remind your donors that they can build community with friends and family by supporting an organization they love.

It’s also a perfect time to tell your donors thank you. They’ve been here for you through a lot this year. This is absolutely the time to let them know that you appreciate it. 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

By November 15

As we head into November, it’s time to start thinking about sending your first solicitation. “That’s so early!” I hear you all yelling at your computers. Ah, but it’s not. This is the perfect time to start introducing your year-end campaign to your supporters, and you definitely want to put your non-profit into their minds before December 1. You can start with a soft ask, or if you’re feeling ready, dive right into full solicitation. If you’re interested in the soft ask, you can check out our post on soft launches to learn how to start your campaign before you really start it. 

Whatever you do, make sure that your supporters are thinking about your name in connection with holiday giving.

Year-End Fundraising Campaign Goals

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Here’s an example of what a year-end fundraising communications calendar can look like before Dec 1:

year-end-fundraising-communications-calendar

Want this template to create your own year-end fundraising plan? Download yours when you enter your email here:

By #GivingTuesday

Engage in a #GivingTuesday Fundraiser or Friendraiser: while you build your general plan, you should definitely take #GivingTuesday into consideration. This day can have big pay-off if you put together a clear plan.

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. Make sure your donors know how they can give to you on this day, regardless of your other plans.

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

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 that the end of the year is nearing. If you’re comfortable doing so, let them know how far you are away from your goal.

year-end-fundraising-thank-you

This is a great example of an update letting supporters know how much they’ve raised and what’s left. It builds great urgency.

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
  • Posting about your organization on their own page

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. If it fits with your organization’s voice, this might be the time for some light-hearted jokes about finally waving 2020 goodbye (and good riddance).

year-end-fundraising-email

Ready to get started building your own year-end fundraising calendar? Access the free Year-End Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar Template below:

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. This is also a wonderful place to start letting your supporters know what you’re thinking about for 2021.

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: 2020 was a year of reacting to crisis. 2021 should be a year of careful planning so that you’re not caught unaware. Start thinking about how you’re going to get the most out of virtual in the next year, and how you can keep your events, campaigns, and fundraisers successful in a time of uncertainty. 

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:

Webinars:

From Our Resource Center:

Ready To Make Your Year-End Fundraising Fantastic?

Are you ready to build out a digital fundraising campaign for all your year-end fundraising needs?

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With optimized forms that make it easy for your supporters to give + top-notch support to help you launch your digital fundraiser in no time, you’ll be equipped to raise more than ever before.

Get Started with your Year-End Fundraising on CauseVox.

This post was originally published on 11/7/17 and has been updated in 2020 for relevance.

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