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Connection in the New Era of Giving: How to Cultivate Donor Relationships That Last beyond Year End


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Published October 25, 2023 Reading Time: 6 minutes

Each connection you form (or don’t) at the end of the year shapes the coming year’s fundraising potential. As we approach peak season for charitable behavior, it’s crucial to tell your story in a way that draws donors into your orbit and provides them with several on-ramps to giving with a thoughtful donation experience. 

Even more important is how you’ll continue to build lasting relationships with those donors following their first transactions.

Conversations from Classy’s Unlock Generosity webinar series demonstrate the critical nature of connection alongside storytelling and experience to help you navigate the modern donor landscape. You’ll hear from fundraising leaders and experts to simplify year-end donor engagement and fuel ongoing support.

Access Classy’s On-Demand Webinars to Inspire Year-End Fundraising

The Lasting Impact of Strong Year-End Connections 

Often used in conversations about fundraising, the word connection now has an evolved definition as we enter the new era of giving. Modern donors have more options than ever to get involved. That’s why going the extra mile with intentional outreach and engagement to establish meaningful relationships with supporters can take the year-end season from a successful moment in time to the spark of donor loyalty. 

The last few months of the year represent a window where donors are highly engaged. In fact, 25% of the annual donation volume on Classy occurs between Giving Tuesday and December 31. That means you’ll likely have new donors coming to give for the first time and many returning to give again. 

How you connect with these supporters and keep that connection growing well after the year-end season will impact the outcome of your fundraising strategy, including repeat gifts, major donations, larger or more frequent recurring donations, and corporate partnerships.

Connection in the New Era of Giving

As mentioned, the definition of connection has changed to keep pace with new technology and donor expectations. It’s helpful to examine these fresh perspectives as you think about how you build relationships, how to maintain them, and how to grow them stronger.

Connection Is Gaining and Keeping Attention

When you think about connection, it’s all about moving people away from passive giving to a solid and ongoing desire to make a difference. The modern donor has many distractions, making it challenging to capture their attention. On top of that, you want to connect with people at the right moment to meet their readiness to take action. Maintaining the attention you capture throughout the year is critical to influencing repeat behavior.

Connection is also a mix of quality and timing. People want to get involved and informed beyond the surface of the organization. 

Telling our story and getting it out there through our PR efforts has resulted in thousands of brand new donors finding us. With a multi-channel approach, the powerful storytelling brings them in the door, and the ease of giving on Classy drives donors to give.

Families in Transition

Classy Customer

Nonprofits can think about their current donor experience to identify where a thoughtful update, a surprising display of gratitude, or an invitation to engage may fit in nicely. Once you have a clear list of touchpoints, your storytelling skills can solidify those deeper connections.

Own Storytelling for Year-End Giving

Connection Is about Creating a Feeling

People want to see themselves as an extension of your nonprofit. The emotional bond you form with donors can serve as the lasting “why” that keeps them returning. It also helps steer people away from seeing their charitable behavior as another transactional relationship. 

Classy’s donor sentiment report, Why America Gives, showcases how donor loyalty results from deeper connections, especially at year-end. Loyal donors who repeat donations listed their top emotional benefits of donating as:

  • Feeling gratitude for the work nonprofits do
  • Feeling a part of a greater solution
  • Feeling good about themselves

This glimpse at how to strengthen connections around the emotions that drive relationships between individuals and the organizations they admire can steer strong and impactful engagement.

Connection Is a Balancing Act

The frequency of donor interactions is vital to establishing and maintaining real connections. In the digital age, there’s 24/7 access to content, news, and world updates, which can feel overwhelming. That’s why it’s crucial to consider donors’ data privacy preferences, favorite communication channels, and feelings about in-person versus online interactions.  

You know your donors best. Think about creating the right balance between an overwhelming amount of communication that turns them off and leaving them feeling out of the loop with too little. Personalization goes a long way in finding the sweet spot for each person to establish a bond they won’t forget.

The Plan: How to Unlock Stronger Year-End Connections

Now, it’s time to turn the modern definition of connection into a comprehensive fundraising strategy. Here are some key principles regarding year-end connections that will last in the coming year.

1. Change the Conversation

Take advantage of the perfect time to refresh your donor conversations with a human touch. This personalization may include adding a deeper level of nonprofit transparency to your communications to share the good times and getting vulnerable about any challenges your organization faces. Use tailored language that creates the feeling you want donors to connect with and helps them see the people that make up the organization.

Areas to Take Action

  • Audit your communications: Consider any touchpoints you currently use to connect with donors after a year-end donation. Take note of those that sound too close to marketing speak, then humanize them. You can make a big difference by incorporating language that creates a feeling of trust, loyalty, and empathy with the person on the other end.
  • Ask for feedback: Send your donors a quick survey to learn what resonates with them in the fall. You may even consider showcasing how your organization prioritizes its donors’ experiences by offering a feedback form for upcoming engagement opportunities in the coming year.
  • See things through your donors’ eyes: Read all communications and outreach as if you were a supporter seeing it for the first time. Note where you’re left wondering about details and if you can sense the human writing on the other side.


2. Connect on Multiple Channels

Strong connections come from taking advantage of any opportunity to engage people in their preferred ways. Expanding your presence on trending social media platforms is a great tactic to increase visibility. We’re all familiar with the popular TikTok, but the rise of TikTok philanthropy has added a new layer to the conversation. This platform is one of the many great opportunities to humanize your brand and lead new eyes to your cause. 

A multichannel approach can help you thoughtfully combine in-person and online moments in the short-form and long-form formats people enjoy consuming content. 

Areas to Take Action

  • Host intentional events: Drive emotion and unite people together around a common goal to help you take connections with in-person attendees, virtual attendees, or both in a hybrid event format to the next level. These examples of hybrid events are a great place to begin.
  • Tap into platforms built for connection: Leverage social media. We’ve discussed on our blog how TikTok continues to be underutilized by nonprofits yet proves its power for creating small moments of authentic connection daily. Recently, we’ve even addressed the nonprofit TikTok gap in more detail, encouraging all nonprofits to consider the best way to leverage this platform in alignment with their goals.
  • Use analytics: Make a habit of looking at reports and analytics that will guide you to what your donors respond well to, then fine-tune your communications from there.

3. Make Automation Your Friend

Technology is evolving to make it easier for nonprofits to connect with more donors without as much time commitment. That means building relationships based on authenticity. The human touch doesn’t need to be completely manual, however. Without the size of your team limited to your potential, you can make a large group of people feel seen, like one-on-one outreach would. This makes it possible to accomplish more with your time during the busier season. 

Areas to Take Action

  • Don’t shy away from templates:  Make year-end email templates your friend to quickly pull in that human language and add the right level of personalization to make a donor’s day as you build automated communications and touchpoints across various platforms.


Make Connections Easier than Ever

Your donors and those considering donating to your cause are ready to form strong connections to your nonprofit this giving season. The good news is you’re never alone with Classy and GoFundMe. Our support and expertise from working with the world’s largest online giving community is here to serve as a guide to reaching your unique goals. As charitable behavior evolves, our constant pulse on the actions that help create measurable change toward your goals becomes your success toolkit for finding the loyalty to drive your mission forward.

Register for access to on-demand recordings of our six webinars within the Unlock Generosity: Year-End Giving Series to take your experience, storytelling, and connections to new levels this year and beyond.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

Unlock Everything to Succeed at Year-End Fundraising

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