The Super Quick Guide to Running a Last Minute Year-End Fundraising Campaign

The end of the year is quickly approaching. Forget Thanksgiving, toy commercials have replaced the nasty political advertisements (although the level of intensity remains) and every store is filled to the brim with holiday decorations. While the rest of the world is ramping up for Black Friday and the craziness that ensues, those of you who are part of a nonprofit are honed in on the madness that is year-end fundraising.

It has been proven time and time again that people give more in December. The end of the year is an extremely profitable time for your nonprofit, and it is critical that you take advantage of the opportunity to maximize your fundraising efforts.

You’ve spent the year building your donor base through long hours, clever marketing strategies, community involvement, and a persistent attitude. Not to mention the amazing cause that drives your organization’s work. Now is the time to reap the benefits of your hard work.

If your organization already has a plan in place for the next few weeks, pat yourself on the back. If not, take a deep breath and relax! You still have time to create and execute a strong fundraising campaign.

Back in October, Classy teamed up with Heller Consulting to put on a webinar all about year-end fundraising. The video and slides are available at the end of this post and, besides, we’ll summarize some of our tips and tricks here!

We’ve grouped the year-end fundraising challenge into five simple phases:

1. The Plan
2. The Launch
3. The Slump
4. The Strong Finish
5. The Follow-up

Phase 1: Plan, plan, plan

The planning phase is quite possibly the most important (and productive) part of a successful year-end campaign. Get those creative juices flowing and think big while creating a campaign theme – it will be easy to whittle down later. Once you’ve got a great idea, start being proactive about gathering the assets and resources you’ll need to run a smooth campaign when it comes down to the wire. This includes predesigning:

• E-mails
• Thank you letters
• Campaign update messages
• Social media assets

Having all these assets ready to go once the campaign launches will save you loads of time. Schedule and automate social media posts and emails as much as possible so you can focus on other the more real-time, engaging elements of your campaign when the time comes.

Soft Launch

It is never too early to start fundraising! Identify your target supporters early on, and plan how to move them through the “engagement hourglass” to allow for maximized engagement.

This is where your CRM can really come in to play and help you with effective segmentation. Ask yourself:

Who are your active donors?
Who normally gives at this time of year?
Who could you ask to give a little more?
Who has established a pattern of giving a few times during the end of the year, and who saves it up for the last day?

A well-organized CRM can easily bring all this information together to create the most effective segments for your campaign.

Phase 2: Ready, set, LAUNCH!

At this point, it is tempting to send out your beautifully designed emails to everyone in your address book. Press pause. People like to donate in the final stages of a campaign – they like to be part of a winning team. Likewise, they want to see their donation go the farthest, and donating towards the end of a campaign can feel like you’re having a bigger impact on reaching the campaign goal.

Try to gain some momentum during the soft launch, so that people will see you have some support once the campaign goes fully public.

To do this, first target your strongest supporters (your cause evangelists) who you know are going to give to your cause no matter what. These donors have been there for you in the past, and will continue to show their support, regardless of when you ask.

Next, reach out to the “target supporters” you identified back in phase one. Again, this data should be quickly available through your CRM.

Tip: Spending time on properly configuring your CRM can have huge payoffs for future campaigns. Instead of bothering with endless spreadsheets, a well-configured CRM can make data available to you anytime in just a few clicks. Together with your cause evangelists, this group of supporters can garner the initial support you’ll need to convince others to join in on the fundraising fun!

Phase 3: Time to Engage

This stage may be the most challenging part of your fundraising campaign. You may have seen a spike in donations at the start of your campaign, now you must keep your donors involved through the well-known “engagement slump.”

Double check your donation pages—are they mobile responsive? Is there too much text or distracting information? Often it can be easy to over-do the content – you’re passionate about your organization and you want to share every small detail with your donors. However, the donation page is not the time to do so. Keep it short, sweet, straightforward and simple and you’ll raise more money.

Are any donors standing out as champions on social media? Reward them! Make an example of their hard work by giving them a little extra love. They will continue to promote your organization, and may influence others to follow suit.

Don’t forget to keep your campaign fun and interesting! Take a minute to let loose and encourage donors to interact and share. Ask them to share why they support your cause, how they got involved with your organization or how they relate to your campaign – your donors will appreciate the ability to make this campaign their own.

Phase 4: Finish Strong

This is it – the final stretch. You’re tired and ready for a break, but don’t give up now! Remember what we said earlier about the Kiva study? People like to make an impact with their donations, and involvement feels most impactful at the end of a campaign.

Already met your fundraising goal? Great! Don’t be afraid to extend it. Make sure to express gratitude to your supporters for getting you this far and demonstrate how impactful the new goal will be! If you are using your CRM system effectively, you can get real-time reports throughout your campaign to gain an understanding of how active your donors are, what marketing tactics are motivating them to give and gain an understanding of whether or not you can reach a higher goal in the campaign’s timeframe.

Phase 5: Mind your manners

You made it to the finish line (congrats!), but you’re not done yet. It is time to thank everyone that helped your organization reach its fundraising goal. You can create this thank you email during the planning phase and have it scheduled to go out in early January.

It’s extremely important to show your donors what they helped you accomplish with their donation. Be sure to evaluate all of your donors, participants, and advocates across your campaign. Some may be your biggest donors, while others contribute by shouting your message from the rooftops. Use your CRM to segment the donors in this particular campaign and send them targeting messages of appreciation. Additionally, you can keep these lists open as opportunities to send them relevant updates about your cause throughout the year. If done effectively, you might find them even more deeply engaged in the New Year!


Let’s review:

1. The Plan
2. The Launch
3. The Slump
4. The Strong Finish
5. The Follow-up

Utilize your CRM to track donors before, during and after a campaign so that you can start of 2015 strong with both new and old donors!

Watch the Full Webinar: Maximizing Year-End Fundraising

About the Author:

Emma Shipley is the Marketing Assistant at Heller Consulting. She has an undeniable love of photography, sustainable food, and reality television. When she is not on the clock, she enjoys coming up with new recipes and exploring the great city of Chicago.

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