What to Do Now to Prepare for Your End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign

5 min read

I know, I know, it’s summer, and you’re enjoying the nice weather and change of pace that comes with this time of year. It feels strange to think about the holiday season right now, doesn’t it? But as I’m sure you know, a successful fundraising campaign plan requires a lot of preparation. The most proactive nonprofit organizations among us are already planning for the holidays and preparing to close the year on a high note with a successful end-of year-fundraising campaign.

If you don’t yet have an end-of-year fundraising campaign plan for your organization, don’t give up before you’ve begun — you still have time to catch up! Here’s what you can do right now to get your end-of-year campaign in gear (without missing out on the rest of what summer has to offer!):

Identify your audiences and key messages

To ensure your end-of-year fundraising campaign plan is as effective as possible, you have to know exactly who you’re speaking to and what messaging and media will be most like to get them to choose to donate. Who are your key donors? Develop stakeholder profiles for them and establish any necessary nuances in key messages for each individual audience, like loyal donors, lapsed donors and a new target donor audience.

For example, if someone donated five years ago but hasn’t since, what might you say differently to them to encourage them to donate again? Your messages to that audience will likely be different from your messages to your more loyal donors. Additionally, your new target donors will likely require more education about your cause and organization before choosing to donate.

You can even consider interviewing donors you have strong relationships with about what tactics and messages resonate most with them as you develop donor profiles. Then, you’ll have a better idea of the most effective creative and strategic approach to take with your next end-of-year fundraising campaign plan.

Another important part of this step is to segment or clean up your mailing and email lists to make sure your messages are all going to the right places at the right times. You don’t want to send an email asking for a $20 donation to a previous major donor who has the ability to give $20,000!

Assess last year’s fundraising campaign

Before getting in too deep with the creative and strategic aspects of your plan for this year, take a look at what was successful (or maybe not so successful) in years past. Which tactics worked and which didn’t? Did you get the most donations through direct mail outreach or email? How successful were social media ads? Did you host an event? The success of each past tactic will guide your priorities for this year’s campaign.

Also, take a look at which messages worked and which didn’t. Do your donors respond more to messaging that highlights the individual stories of the people you serve, or general statistics about needs in your community? Are they more likely to support you when confronted with harsh realities, or are they more responsive to inspirational stories of hope?

Brainstorm a campaign theme

Developing a creative approach or campaign theme is arguably the most fun part of end-of-year campaign planning. You may choose to go with a simple evolution of your creative from last year’s campaign, or, you could reinvent the wheel in a way that you think your audiences will find more compelling. The opportunities are only limited by your own imagination and data about what your donors are likely to respond to. And go beyond messaging. Think about the imagery, taglines and overall feeling you want to convey with your marketing materials.

To ensure your campaign theme is as effective as possible –– if you have enough available time before your end-of-year fundraising push is set to launch ––  you can test two to three potential campaign themes and imagery options with a focus group. This will help you nail down the right language, photos, colors and more that will resonate the most with your target donors.

Finally, put together a “mood board” including all of the colors, fonts, taglines and types of photography you want to include in each of your touches. This will be the creative guideline your team will follow when putting together all of your campaign’s marketing materials.

Map out your marketing tactics and schedule

After your leadership team and board are “on board” with your creative plan and you’ve secured your budget, compile the list of marketing tactics you’ll use to promote your end-of-year campaign. Revisit your analysis of what worked well in past years and evolve your approach from there. Here, we’ve provided some examples of tactics many organizations pursue in their end-of-year campaigns:

  1. New video and photo content
  2. Events
  3. Direct mail
  4. Email
  5. PPC advertising
  6. Organic and paid social media

Be realistic about the number of tactics and touchpoints you can execute on, keeping in mind that you’re starting a little late in the game. Tactics like new photo and video content, events and direct mail letters require a long lead time to be ready by the time your campaign is set to launch.

Once you’ve decided on the tactics you’d like to pursue within your marketing budget, create a schedule to make sure everything will get done on time. Consider which tactics you’ll use for different phases of your end-of-year campaign. Some common phases for many organizations are:

  • Campaign kick-off
  • Giving Tuesday
  • December holidays
  • New year

Once you’ve decided on your tactics and developed your schedule, it’s time to get moving and developing your campaign materials. You’ve got this! When you start planning as early as possible, you can ensure your campaign is ready to go before the end-of-year giving season rolls around and avoid a mad dash during the holidays.

A thoughtfully structured and executed end-of-year fundraising campaign plan will help you start the new year strong.

Download our workbook, The Essential Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template as a basis to guide you through every step of the process of creating a powerful marketing campaign, which you could easily apply to the fundraising campaign planning process.

And if you have any questions about creating a compelling campaign, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re in the process of helping many nonprofits plan their end-of-year fundraising efforts and would love to explore how we can help you, too.


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