Elizabeth Chung

6 Year-End Appeals that are Sure to Flop

The year-end appeal is one of the most important communications nonprofits will send out all year. 30 percent of annual online gifts are made during the holidays, and people also tend to give 80 percent larger gifts. An effective ask is crucial to leveraging this once-a-year opportunity.

Unfortunately, simply having a year-end appeal doesn’t mean you’re maximizing year-end fundraising. Some appeals are crafted in ways that can inadvertently leave support on the table. Keeping this in mind, we’ve listed 6 types of appeals nonprofit professionals that are sure to flop.

Flop #1: The Stand-Alone Email Appeal

If you were planning to send a single email appeal this year, it’s time to reconsider your approach. It’s easy for people to miss or disregard a single message (even if they don’t mean to). This can easily happen during the holiday season, when their inboxes are flooded with messages from friends, family, and other organizations.

Instead, the better approach is to develop a larger narrative across a series of two or three emails. According to an M+R study comparing a multiple email series to stand-alone emails, a 2-3 part email series had four times the response rate and nearly double the average donation size. Create a cohesive, multiple-part email campaign to maximize your chances of reaching your supporters and increasing donations.

Flop #2: The One-for-All, All-for-One Appeal

Sending mass emails to your entire audience is an ineffective marketing practice, any time of the year. People are getting more emails now than ever before, causing irrelevant messages to annoy recipients and end up in the trash bin – or, worse yet, get marked as spam.

To improve your chance of engagement, you need to make sure your year-end appeals are as personalized and relevant to supporters as possible. This means you need to segment your email list so you can send targeted messages to specific groups of supporters. There are many ways you can segment your donor database, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Frequency of donations
  • Last donation amount
  • Last donation date
  • Specific campaigns or program donated to
  • Volunteers

Flop #3: The Appeal that Links to a Generic Donation Form

Your year-end appeal will have its own specific messaging, branding and images that move people to give back this holiday season. But if your special message directs them to a generic donation page, supporters can quickly lose the emotional push inspired by your email’s copy, images and storyline.

Instead, connect your special appeals to a custom donation form that reiterates the same branding, images, and copy. Consistency between your appeal and donation page enables you to sustain the emotional momentum your appeal helped create. This way, you’ll be able to maximize your conversion rate for that email appeal.

Read Next: Only One Donation Form? You Might Be Missing Out

Pro Tip: But wait, there’s another way you can use customized donation pages to help generate better returns during the holidays. If you segment your donor database by past average gift amounts, you can send each group of donors to different donation forms with appropriate default gift ranges. You can use this information to motivate specific groups of supporters to upgrade their gift amount without inadvertently downgrading larger donors.

Flop #4: The Appeal that Isn’t Mobile-Responsive

This one can be a bit more difficult to implement, but it’s worth keeping in mind even if it can’t be addressed this year. 66 percent of emails are now read on a mobile device, and people are quick to delete or unsubscribe from messages that aren’t optimized for smaller screens. Accordingly, a year-end appeal that doesn’t format properly on smartphones or tablets has an extremely high chance of going unread. And if it goes unread, well…it won’t generate donations.

During the holiday season, you definitely don’t want to leave all those mobile donations on the table. To improve your chances of getting smartphone-using readers to your donation page, make sure your email appeals are beautifully formatted for small screens.

Here are a few ways you can optimize your appeal for the mobile experience:

  • Deliver emails that are responsive, so they’ll look great on any device (many email marketing services like MailChimp and CampaignMonitor offer responsive templates).
  • Make sure to use 16px as a minimum font size for body copy, and 22px for headlines
  • Make your CTA touch-friendly by making the button at least 44 x 44 pixels

Flop #5: The Appeal that Isn’t Urgent

If your appeals don’t spark any sense of urgency, people won’t be motivated to respond to your appeals right away. And if they don’t respond now, they may never do so.
Your appeal should communicate an important, pressing need specific to your campaign. Use language that creates a sense of urgency around your call to action, like “now,” “today,” or “immediately.”

Deadlines also fuel a sense of urgency. The perfect deadline to use for your year-end appeal is, coincidentally, the end of the year. A few days before December 31st, you can send an email as a “last chance” reminder for donors to get in their tax-deductible gifts for the year. You can even send a couple emails on December 31st to count down the number of hours left to make a gift, as in “24 hours left to make a gift!” to “2 hours left to make a gift!” Deadlines can hike up a sense of urgency and compel supporters to act immediately.

Read Next: Powering an Urgent Campaign with Deadlines

Flop #6: The Appeal that Ignores Donors

A key element of every appeal and campaign is its follow-up. With 53 percent of donors leaving an organization due to a lack of effective communication, failing to follow up will give your organization a harder time on the donor retention front.

At the very least, your donors should receive an automated thank-you email after they make their gift. On top of that, you should include them in a follow-up campaign that thanks them for contributing to your holiday fundraising efforts.

This campaign can include:

  • An annual impact report to show what your organization achieved this past year
  • The results of your holiday campaign and its impact on your mission
  • Your plans and goals for the New Year
  • A detailed note of appreciation for your donors
  • How funds will be distributed in the upcoming year

Pro Tip: Once a donor makes a contribution, make sure you drop him or her out of the rest of your holiday appeal blasts. You don’t want donors to think you aren’t paying attention or appreciative of their support.

As you plan and craft your message, make sure to steer clear of any mistakes that can jeopardize your chances of success. Tweaking these various elements can make a huge difference in how supporters respond to your year-end ask. Invest the time and effort to improve your appeal’s message and delivery, and maximize your returns this holiday season!

33% of all donations are made in December. Don’t miss out.

nonprofit holiday fundraising guide

Image Credit:

Where social entrepreneurs go to learn and grow

Join over 20,000 leaders just like you who get their weekly dose of technology, innovation, fundraising ideas, and the latest industry trends.

Subscribe to the Classy Blog