Year-end fundraising season is upon us. Whether your organization is large or small, you’ll want to capitalize on December’s fundraising opportunities—from GivingTuesday to end-of-tax-year gifts. But taking advantage of the giving season means planning in advance for the surge. If you don’t, it can get overwhelming and ineffective very quickly.

Organizations that are consistently killing it during year-end fundraising season have three things in common.

  1. They plan in advance.
  2. Their campaign is hinged on a compelling story.
  3. They choose a multi-channel approach to their campaign.

This post will take an in-depth look at these three factors for success and how you can apply them to your campaign this year.

Plan for Fundraising Success

Planning is the cornerstone of any successful fundraising program, especially those that have a lot of moving parts. A year-end fundraising campaign often involves: direct mail, email, social media, websites, landing pages, stewardship, and more. Your message, story, and ask must be coordinated across all of these channels.

A clear strategy and in-depth timeline are necessary for your success.

  • Nailing down the message of your campaign—the story you’ll tell and the action you want supporters to take— is critical. These elements will be steadfast no matter what channel you use. Be sure to keep your audience in mind and choose messages that will resonate with them.
  • Put all of the campaign milestones on your calendar. These include the drop dates for direct mail and email sends, social media posts, in-person events, and influencer activation. Then, reverse engineer your task list and reference these documents regularly to ensure that you are on track to getting everything done.

Have a Compelling Story

These days, a fundraising campaign is only as effective as the story it tells. Of course, you can tell the story of one individual or a group of individuals, but the more important story to convey is your theory of change—what impact will occur as a result of giving. In order to inspire action, this story must be well constructed and compelling. You must communicate to supporters how their participation is central to your story, how their gift can activate change.

Once you’ve got your theory of change in place, then you can think about a specific story that will illustrate the theory of change in action. In my book, The Storytelling Non-Profit: A practical guide to telling stories that raise money and awareness, I talk about the different types of stories you can tell: stories of people/places/things your organization has helped, donor stories, volunteer stories, community advocate stories, board member stories, and staff member stories.

Finding a great story can take time. Start looking for your campaign stories now.

Choose a Multi-Channel Approach

Having one great direct mail piece or one fundraising email is a good start, but chances are that not everyone in your audience will see that appeal. To increase the odds of people both reading and responding to it, it’s best to take a multi-channel approach to fundraising. Multi-channel basically means that you use multiple channels to communicate with your supporter base. A channel might be direct mail, email, peer-to-peer, or social media. The channels you choose will be based on what works for your organization and what works for your audience.

Ideally, you’ll tailor the appeal for the various channels and coordinate timing. This is an effective strategy that more and more organizations are using. You’ll want to use a variety of copy, images and video. Check out all of these great examples.

Because many of the channels your organization uses are likely digital, you’ll want to track your metrics and make small changes as you go. Digital is flexible and agile—take advantage of this during December.

There is still plenty of time to get your ducks in a row for year-end fundraising. Set aside some time this week to strategize for your success!

EOY Fundraising Toolkit


Vanessa Chase Lockshin founded The Storytelling Non-Profit in 2012 to help nonprofit organizations articulate their impact to donors in a new way. Using narrative techniques to generate greater personal interest and accountability, Vanessa helps nonprofits improve their fundraising success. Vanessa’s fundraising career started at The University of British Columbia, her alma mater. Currently, Vanessa is president of The Storytelling Nonprofit, co-founder of Stewardship School, and board chair of Women Against Violence Against Women.

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