As direct response fundraisers, we’re always looking about 6 months ahead. That means it’s time to get ready for your year-end campaign!
Here is our non-exhaustive list of six things you can start now to ensure your year-end fundraising appeals are successful.
1. The Basics
No formal plan yet? No problem! Grab a calendar, and plot out the important dates. (Giving Tuesday is on November 28th this year.) Align your activities, and the channels you’re going to use, with your fundraising goals and objectives for your different audiences.
Integrating your online and offline appeals can increase response rates by 61%, with direct mail and email typically being the most effective. At minimum, plan out who is getting what, when, where, how—and why!
2. Clean Up Your Data
Now’s a great time to give your donor data a polish. Run some reports to uncover duplicate records and check for typos in name, addressee, and salutation fields, paying special attention to household/spouse data. In direct mail, adding a donor’s name instead of “Dear Friend” can increase response by 135%—but not if it’s spelled wrong. If you’re not sure, ask!
3. Emotional Storytelling: Inspiring but Equitable
Giving is an emotional decision, and that’s why sharing a story outperforms sharing stats in fundraising appeals. But the way we share stories—particularly when we make the donor the “hero”—also matters. While donor-centred fundraising is effective, it can also cause harm by taking agency and power away from the people whose stories we’re sharing.
As you’re planning your year-end campaign, look at your content through an ethical storytelling lens, and learn more about alternatives to donor-centred storytelling.
4. Secure A Matching Gift
Being able to tell your donors that their gift will be doubled if they give before December 31st creates both a sense of urgency and a desire to avoid missing out (“scarcity” in the principles of influence popularized by social psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini).
That’s why matching gift offers work so well with Giving Tuesday or year-end appeals. By starting now, you’re more likely to be able to secure a match to uplift your year-end fundraising offers.
5. Testing, 1,2,3…
Subject lines. Lift notes. Copy length. Imagery. OE taglines. Live stamps vs. indicia. Ascending vs. descending gift arrays…there is an almost-unlimited number of things you can test in your integrated campaigns. But the most important considerations when planning are a) what hypothesis am I actually testing? b) are my quantities sufficient to get statistically significant results? and c) what am I going to do with the results?
Intrigued? NextAfter has some great resources to help get you started on A/B testing in your fundraising appeals.
6. ...But Also Test Your Assumptions!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that donors are most generous in the last three months of the year. Or is it? The Agitator recently shared research that suggests we might be over-soliciting at year end and under-soliciting in the summer.
(We are definitely NOT saying to cancel your year-end appeal—but perhaps challenge some of those “universal truth” assumptions we all hold dear!)
We hope this list gets you started on the path to year-end campaign success. Good luck!