And there’s good reason – data shows that despite it being a crowded time for making appeals, nearly one third of annual giving occurs in December. If you haven’t started to think through your end of year campaign yet, or you have and want to make sure you’re not missing anything, here’s a list of things you can start preparing while there’s time.
Audit Your Past End of Year Fundraising Performance
The best way to begin your nonprofit’s end of year planning process is by auditing the performance of past campaigns because it can inform so much about your approach for the upcoming year.The best way to begin your nonprofit's end of year planning process is by auditing the performance of past campaigns because it can inform so much about your approach for the upcoming year. Click To Tweet
While auditing and analyzing your nonprofit’s data, you want to look at typical results metrics, such as dollars raised, number of donors, renewal rate, channel response rate, open and unsubscribe rates, etc. You might also want to dig in deeper to understand if donors reacted particularly strongly to specific stories or key messages, or if there were specific donor segments that really outperformed others.
As you audit these areas, you’re aiming to get a better sense of what worked well and should be built upon, what worked poorly and should be discontinued, and what falls in the middle that might require more testing. By digging into your nonprofit’s past campaign data, you’ll be taking a critical step that will help this end of year campaign be more efficient and effective.
Build Your End of Year Fundraising Campaign Team
It’s so important to have the right people in the right roles to make your campaign a success, and you want to assemble your team early to involve everyone in the planning and kickoff meetings.
While every nonprofit is different, in an ideal world, a campaign dream team would include all of the following roles, even if one person plays quite a few of them and wears multiple hats.
First is a campaign manager. This is the person on the “front lines” of your nonprofit’s end of year campaign coordination, who ensures everything goes off without a hitch. Ideally, the end of year campaign is one of this person’s primary job responsibilities.
Next is a data analytics manager. This is the person who tracks all of your nonprofit’s end of year campaign metrics on a regular basis and reports results to the team. They’re also the person responsible for pulling lists and managing your database and segmentation.
Finally, you’ll likely have an execution team. This team includes a copywriter and designer and a digital content manager who develops your social media posts, emails and ads.
Develop Your End of Year Fundraising Campaign Concept
Once you’ve assembled your campaign team, you’ll want to develop an end of year campaign concept. This is important because it is the big idea that’s woven into all your campaign touchpoints, from your emails, to your social posts, to your direct mail appeals. Your concept should be compelling, creative and attention-grabbing, and it should align with the most important key messages your nonprofit wants to communicate. It’s important to revisit this theme every year to keep your communications to donors and prospective donors fresh.
When beginning to brainstorm your nonprofit’s end of year campaign concept, start by identifying the objective you’re trying to achieve with it. For example, “we want to show donors how important our programs have been to help students navigate a school year impacted by COVID.” Once you know what you want to get across, bring the team together to brainstorm ideas. As you start to centralize around your nonprofit’s concept for the year, also think through the stories, imagery and ideas that might go along with it.
Storygathering is one of the most powerful components of a nonprofit’s end of year fundraising campaign, and it’s really what is going to bring your campaign concept to life. If you want to use stories to your advantage but don’t have the resources or time to do something robust, start with what you already have.Storygathering is one of the most powerful components of a nonprofit's end of year fundraising campaign, and it's really what is going to bring your campaign concept to life. Click To Tweet
Ask your nonprofit’s program staff to share stories of the people they interact with every day – they probably have dozens. Or, consider how you could turn data that already lives in documents, like your grant applications or annual report, into stories. For example, you might mine information from your annual report to do some math that allows you to describe how you accomplished a specific outcome with a certain amount of funding last year. Then you can make the case for how increased funding this year could make an even greater impact. It’s best to pair this sort of data with storytelling, even if the storytelling is theoretical, like “imagine if we could find a loving home for every one of our resident animals this year.”
If possible, you should also aim to gather stories from as many different types of people your nonprofit works with as possible, which will allow you to take many different directions with your campaign, paint a more complete picture of the diversity of the populations you serve, and appeal to many different types of donors.
Regardless of how you choose to gather stories for your nonprofit’s end of year campaign, make sure that you’re seeking the necessary permissions to use names and imagery, and protecting identities where needed. And of course, we always suggest running the stories you choose to use by the people and communities reflected in them.
Develop Your End of Year Campaign Plan, Timeline and Metrics
With your nonprofit’s end of year campaign concept in place and storygathering underway, you’ll want to identify the tactics you want to leverage to reach current and potential donors based on your budget and goals. Of course the audit you started with should help, too.
While historically there’s been significant emphasis on direct mail, 2020 was the first year where digital efforts outpaced offline efforts. Eighty-seven percent of nonprofits said they plan to increase their investment in digital to connect with donors and prospective donors over the next two years. That, combined with the cost effectiveness, flexibility, and trackability of these tactics, is why we often suggest prioritizing digital-first, specifically email and social media. If you have a bit more to spend, you can consider adding in tactics like social media advertising to reach not just your existing donor database, but new donors as well.
Once you have a campaign plan and timeline firmly in place, develop a metrics dashboard that allows you to track each one of your campaign tactics and identify how each supports your nonprofit’s overall campaign goals.
There you have it – the things you should be thinking about today in service of your nonprofit’s end of year fundraising campaign! Here’s to a successful end of year.