It Is Not Too Late to Develop Your Year-End Fundraising Plan

By Averill Fundraising Solutions | September 21, 2016 | Annual Funds, Featured News, Major Gifts, Philanthropy Operations

It happens every year. The summer comes to an abrupt end, and the calendar year-end stopwatch begins. A recent study revealed that 50.5% of organizations report charitable giving occurs between the months of October and December.* With 2016 fundraising goals in mind, now is the time to plan how to maximize your efforts during the season of giving.

Below are tips on how to ensure you are tapping into your donors during these weeks leading into the new year:

1. Create a table of gifts.
2. Write engaging year-end appeals
3. Plan your direct mail solicitation schedule
4. Make sure your donation forms are optimized
5. Develop a marketing plan
6. Get on the phone
7. Gather your volunteers
8. Coordinate an email campaign

Let’s dive into the first tip!

1. Create a table of gifts

Determine what gifts, and how many at each level, are still needed from your donors to reach your year-end goals. Once you’ve mapped out your needs, begin to populate each level with prospective donors. For a $1,000,000 annual campaign, it is not unusual to raise 90% of the goal from gifts of $5,000 or more.

Creating a table of gifts can help you realize the exact steps you need to reach you fundraising objective. Additionally, it’s a great motivational tactic for your staff and volunteers; they can celebrate each level they’re able to cross off.

With a detailed list of prospects and the projected amount you liked to receive from them, you can create the perfect solicitation and communication plan for donors at each level, allowing your organization to strengthen its fundraising efforts.

2. Write engaging year-end appeals

Sending out an appeal that draws your donors’ attention increases the chance that they’ll donate to your cause. Therefore, your organization should take extra time to craft the perfect year-end appeals. 

Here are few things to keep in mind as you start to write your letters:

  • Always address the recipient by their preferred name.
  • Open your appeal with a compelling story that speaks to your donors’ emotions.
  • Clearly define your organization’s needs and ask for a specific donation amount.
  • Provide instructions on how and links to where donors can give.

While writing a successful year-end appeal is much like soliciting gifts for your annual fund, there are a few differences you should keep in mind.

First and foremost, it’s likely that you’ll mention matching gifts in your end-of-year appeals. It’s vital that you make donors aware of the deadlines for submitting a request so that they don’t miss out before the year ends. 

Another important thing to keep in mind is that your appeals should focus on why year-end giving is so important for your organization. The holidays are usually when organizations put in the most effort to help the people and communities they serve, so make that known to your supporters.

3. Plan your fall and winter direct mail solicitation schedule

Sending an initial letter in September or October followed by a letter in late November or early December to those who have not yet given will keep your organization front and center on donors’ minds.

Having a concrete schedule on when you’re going to send out year-end solicitation will save you time trying to plan your letters at the last minute.

Keep in mind that your year-end appeals can be in the form of:

  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • Social media posts
  • Phone calls

Make sure to create you plan well in advance so that you’re prepared to send out solicitations early.

4. Make sure your donation forms are optimized.

Let’s face it: most of your year-end fundraising contributions will be made on your online donation forms. It’s important that they’re operating at their best to make sure that you rack in the most donations possible.

Use the following tips to make your donation forms more user-friendly:

  • Create suggested donation amounts to make giving quick.
  • Build a donation form that is mobile-friendly.
  • Make recurring gifts an option.
  • Limit your donation form to one page and only capture necessary information.

In addition to the steps mentioned above, you need to also ensure that your donation form is secure. As a nonprofit, your donation forms could be used by hackers to test out stolen credit cards. As a result, it’s important that you verify your users’ identity before confirming the gift.

Having donors set up an account is a great way to keep their information safe and one file for future donations. Check out this list of ways to keep you login process safe and simplistic.

5. Develop a fall and winter marketing plan

If you have not done this already, determine how your organization is going to get the word out about fundraising needs, your programs, and the impact of your mission. Videos, infographics, and photos are excellent vehicles through which to share your story.

Be creative. Stand out. Coordinate with your direct mail appeal; the competition during this season is fierce.

6. Get on the phone

Call your donors! We’ve become far too dependent on text messages, or passive “likes” on social media as a means of connecting with donors. Instead, show a donor that you care and value him or her. Provide an update on the latest program accomplishment or fundraising achievement. If they have not yet given to your campaign, ask for the gift either over the phone or schedule an in-person meeting to make the ask.

In addition, you can also schedule a telethon. First, you’ll want to segment your donor list by constituency, potential interest, and giving level.

Coordinate a telethon with volunteers, and schedule several nights of phone calls to request gifts over the phone. Finally, create a fun environment for your volunteers by having food, drinks, and a celebration ritual for when a caller closes a gift.

At the end of your event, send a follow-up note and business reply envelope to each prospective donor who was contacted.

7. Gather your volunteers

Volunteers will play a pivotal role in your organization’s year-end fundraising. From soliciting donations to posting on social media, you’ll need volunteers to help you reach your goals.

Ask your volunteers to write personal notes, assign solicitation phone calls, host small coffee or cocktail receptions to introduce community members to your mission.

Another way to bring in donations is by hosting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Have your donors participate and solicit donations from their peers. Studies show time and time again that peer-to-peer fundraising is the most effective method of securing first-time donations.

8. Coordinate an email campaign

Email campaigns should be organized in conjunction with your other annual giving efforts. For example, you might consider sending a follow-up email to everyone who was reached during your telethon thanking them for taking the call and encouraging them to make an online gift. Year-end videos and infographics can be mass-marketed via email to encourage year-end giving as well.

When writing your emails, use the following tips to help you succeed:

  • Address the donor by name.
  • Write a captivating subject line.
  • Include links to your online donation forms and instructions on how to give via text message.
  • Ask donors to share your campaign with their friends and family.

These strategies can help you raise even more money for your year-end appeal.


When it comes to year-end giving, each touch-point matters and must be coordinated. No one piece of your plan should operate on an island. Be strategic, keep the donor at the center, remember to make the ask, and always remember to say thanks!

For more year-end fundraising tips and tricks, keep reading our additional resources: 

  • Top Year-End Fundraising Tips: It’s possible to reach your year-end fundraising goal. Using our expert tips you can encourage donors to give to your campaign.
  • Capital Campaign Guide: Are you using the donations from your year-end fundraising to fund a capital campaign? This guide can help you with every detail of your campaign!
  • 10 Ways to Stand Out on #GivingTuesday: Participating in #GivingTuesday is a great way to boost your year-end fundraising. Learn how you can make the most of this popular giving day.

Email info@averillsolutions.com and find us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Visit our testimonials page to see what our not-for-profit partners have to say about us.

*Source: Guidestar’s “The Effect of the Economy On the Nonprofit Sector: An October 2012 Survey” http://www.guidestar.org/ViewCmsFile.aspx?ContentID=4781

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