Ah fall… when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love.

Wait. No, that’s not right…

Ah fall… when a nonprofit’s fancy turns to thoughts of their end-of-year fundraising efforts.

Ok, so it doesn’t quite have the same ring, but let’s just go with it.

Outside of a capital campaign, a fall appeal typically draws the most revenue for a nonprofit over the shortest period of time. A big driver of end-of-year campaign success is that donors are able to claim the donations received by the nonprofit before December 31 in that year’s tax filing.

According to Network for Good, 30% of all annual donations occur in December. Not only do we see most donation by volume coming into our organizations in Q4, we see a huge spike in online donations during the last 3 days of the year.

generous procrastinators

But we can’t expect for donors to just spontaneously decide to give in December. We need to start our campaign efforts earlier—likely in late Q3 or early Q4.

So we know these patterns have been playing themselves out very regularly for years, but the advent of online donations makes it much easier to measure and visualize. How can we use this information to encourage our donors to engage with us and give at year-end?

Create a multi-mailing appeal

For a solid fall appeal you need to plan. Well in advance. Consider a staggered set of messages, all reinforcing the urgency of giving by December 31. Think about how you can leverage the buzz around Giving Tuesday, planned this year for December 2. You’ll need to pick dates that work for your organization, but generally we can start with something like this:

  • October – initial mass mail mailing. This message is your main ask. Depending on the target demographic this can be mail, email, or both.
  • November – follow-up email to all non-responders. We will send a second message to those who have not yet given as a result of the appeal. For those who were mailed in the first mailing, consider sending the follow-up by email instead.
  • Early December – consider asking your board to make follow-up, personal calls to those who have not yet responded
  • December 30, 31each day send brief reminder emails to non-responders. Considering adding a countdown for days left to give in the calendar year.

This model might seem aggressive to some, perfect for others, and light communication to yet others. This is an example of how you can stagger your communications to keep your organization top-of-mind so that on the final few days of December when people think “Wow… I really should give”, they have you in mind.

Know your donors

It’s much easier to get a second donation than a first. In the era of robust CRM systems like Altru, we can tweak that statement a bit to say that it’s a lot easier to get a donation from someone who already has a connection to our organization. For Arts & Cultural institutions that can mean:

  • Volunteers – volunteers give their time freely because they believe in your organization and the work you do to fulfill your mission. Have you looked at who your volunteer base is? Is there an opportunity to help grow their connection to the organization by having them as both volunteers and donors?
  • Patrons – patrons have visited your organization, typically through a ticket purchase for admission, a program, or an event. They have already committed financially, and you may have their contact information (along with permission to contact them, of course).
  • Members – for organizations like museums, the membership base typically consists of people who want to visit the facility at a discount, rather than pay full admission each time. These are people who believe in your organization enough to commit financially, and are familiar with your facilities and programming. They know who you are. Can your member base be enticed to donate as well?
  • Donors – For this group the old adage holds true. At some point in the past this group felt strongly enough about what your organization is doing to commit financially. Most of the work here is already done. If that relationship is cultivated, these are our prime candidates for a subsequent donation, particularly at the end of the year.

Tighten the message

Each group can get a crafted message. We call this segmentation. A prior donor will get a different, specialized ask from what a member might receive. You can get really deep into segmentation by analyzing your data and mail a specific message to groups like members who have donated previously, but haven’t given this year.

Segmentation can separate them into lists for the mailings, but what do all these groups have in common? They know who you are. They know what you are about. Many of them can be said to have an affinity for what your organization does. This means that we don’t need to spend time introducing the organization to them in the ways we might for new donors or members.

When planning your mailing or mailings, assume that they know the basics of who you are and what your organization does. This gives us the chance to make a very targeted ask to each of these groups of people as part of our mailing efforts.

Make it easy

Even when our efforts are successful, and the decision has been made to give, we haven’t yet achieved our goals. If someone wants to give, but finds it difficult or tedious to do so, they are less likely to follow through. This is particularly true of millennials and those who may have close affinity to another organization.

Make sure that you have:

  • An easy-to-remember URL for an online donation page
  • A link they can easily find and click if it is an email solicitation
  • A prominently printed URL in mailed content that can be easily located

Once the donor gets to the donation page, make sure that:

  • The layout and design make it easy to navigate the page. Fewer clicks for the donor to click will increase their likelihood to complete the transaction
  • There is a well-crafted email acknowledging their donation
  • A prompt response with a formal thank you letter and tax receipt is sent after the donation is completed

Interested in learning more about how you can leverage #GivingTuesday? Check out our Giving Tuesday trends report and upcoming webinars to learn more about this exciting global giving initiative!

We’ve covered a lot, so we want to hear what you think! Add your ideas, tips, and things that have worked well in the comments below.

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Peter joined Blackbaud in January 2014 as a Professional Services Consultant on the Arts  Cultural team. Previously Peter spent 6 years as a Raiser’s Edge database administrator at a variety of Canadian non-profits including the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and TELUS Spark – the Calgary Science Centre, and 3 years at an independent Raiser’s Edge consulting firm. Peter plays guitar and rides motorcycle, though rarely at the same time.


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