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The Ultimate Guide to Year-End Giving

Tatiana Morand  01 November 2018  0 comments

year end giving

The holidays are fast approaching, which means ‘tis the season... for nonprofits to launch their year-end giving campaigns.

Just why is this season so important?


Because the holidays aren’t just a time for people to exchange presents.

31% of all annual giving takes place in December, with 50% of nonprofits receiving the majority of their yearly donations in the final three months of the year.

However, hitting your donation goals isn’t easy (as you probably already know).

That’s why I created this guide.

To get your organization’s year-end campaign off on the right foot (or to keep you motivated throughout the season), I’ve found three successful year-end giving campaigns to inspire you.

I’ve also put together a list of steps you can follow to take you through the process from pre-launch to post-mortem.

It’s my hope that with this guide, you’ll be able to create your most successful (and least stressful) year-end giving campaign.


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3 Successful Year-End Giving Campaigns and Why They Worked

Give The Perfect Present with Many Hopes’ Impact Gift Catalogue


Creating a fundraising or gift catalogue isn’t a new concept.

I’ve seen many nonprofits use this tactic to offer donors a variety of options so they can give based on their budget and values.

If you haven’t seen a gift catalogue before, imagine a retail catalogue that’s filled with a variety of items and/or services donors can purchase, which will then be sent on to the charity’s beneficiaries.

Many Hopes, an organization focused on eliminating childhood poverty in Kenya, took this technique a step further.

They created a catalogue full of aptly titled “Impact Gifts”, listing dozens of giving options to suit a donor’s budget.

year end giving


The Impact Gifts helped raise money for children and buy items for a 900-child school the nonprofit is building in Kenya. The catalogue helped boost their overall funds raised to more than $1.58 million, with $1.18 million of that amount coming from investors and donors.

Why This Campaign Worked

Just like a retail catalogue, a donor who “orders” from Many Hopes knows exactly what they’re paying for.

It’s much easier to wrap your head around the importance of a bed for a child in one of Many Hopes’ schools than it is to see the value of  a general donation.

Showing your donors exactly what their donation will do grounds the impact of their gift in reality and makes them more likely to contribute.

World Bicycle Relief’s Multi-Faceted Fundraiser

year end giving

World Bicycle Relief (WBR) recently hosted a year-end giving campaign with a big goal — to raise $3 million to fund 20,000 bikes for schools and communities in Africa.

To meet this ambitious year-end goal, the organization implemented multiple techniques.

To start, they reached out to various donor bases and launched several mini campaigns, including actual bike rides, to ensure they met their fundraising goal.

One of these campaigns revolved around peer-to-peer fundraising. This allowed donors to develop their own campaigns, reach out to their own networks for support, and create teams to help meet their fundraising goal.


year end giving

WBR also leveraged Giving Tuesday as a final boost for their overarching year-end campaign. They set up a #GivingTuesday campaign with a goal of raising funds for 800 bikes in a 24-hour period.


year end giving

Thanks to the extra attention of Giving Tuesday and the strong marketing efforts from the WBR team, they managed to surpass their #GivingTuesday goal and fund 1,087 bikes from that one mini campaign.

Why This Campaign Worked

Given that 70% of donors donate through multiple channels, providing a variety of ways for your supporters to help can make a difference.

WBR provided a variety of different ways for donors to give and for supporters to help them reach their goals — meaning that if someone was interested in helping them, it was a lot easier to find a way that suited them.

When creating your own campaign, make it as easy as possible for potential donors to find information about it and donate in whatever way they prefer.

Read More: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: A Guide For Nonprofits


BuildOn Demonstrates the Power of Storytelling


BuildOn is a nonprofit that aims to eliminate poverty by offering education and service learning programs for students. In one of their recent year-end giving campaigns called Season for Service, the organization used the power of storytelling to drive home their message and drive up their donations.


year end giving

The organization captured the experience of Lakei, one of their service learning students, and wrote it up in a poignant blog post with moving copy and high-quality images.

BuildOn then featured the blog prominently at the top of their website and promoted it through social media as well as email to share the impact of its programs.

They even selected Lakei as the keynote speaker at their year-end gala in 2014. He shared his story live in front of a packed house of supporters, and this gala alone raised $3.5 million for the nonprofit.

Why This Campaign Worked

If donors feel personally engaged in the story you’re sharing, they’re likely to come back for more.

That’s why storytelling can be a powerful (and relatively inexpensive) way to communicate your organization’s impact.

Plus, not only did Lakei serve as a shining example of buildOn’s service learning programs, but buildOn was able to leverage his story across multiple mediums (blog, email, social media).

Creating and sharing a consistent story like Lakei’s in your year-end giving campaign can help drum up donations by getting donors to check out your organization on every platform.


Read More: Social Media Fundraising: 6 Tips to Make It Work for You

How to Plan a Successful Year-End Giving Campaign


The most successful year-end campaigns I’ve seen all have one major thing in common: lots of planning.

Of course, that requires the one thing many nonprofits don’t have: lots of time.

However, sitting down with your team, board members, and any other relevant stakeholders for a planning session at least a few months prior to launching your year-end giving campaign is the main differentiator between a good campaign and a great one.

Getting ahead of the curve can help your nonprofit develop a comprehensive strategy while allowing yourself enough time to address any unforeseen issues that arise.

I’ve compiled these five steps for you to follow throughout the process.


1. Choose One of These Approaches.

Do you want to host an event to raise funds?

Launch a crowdfunding campaign?

Create a series of emails to send to donors?

Or maybe you want to do all of the above?


Here are three simple campaigns we've seen be successful in the past: 



Whatever approach you choose, consider how you want to focus your year-end fundraising efforts and then formalize a strategy around it.

Maybe there’s several approaches you want to try — that’s great too! Just make sure that, whichever you choose, you have a clear way to measure its success.

Which brings us to step 2…  


2. Set This Kind of Goal.

Of course you want to get donations… but how many? From whom? And by when?

But how will you know if your campaign is successful if you haven’t defined what exactly success is?

That’s why, in your planning sessions, you should avoid setting vague objectives for your year-end giving campaign.

Instead, tie your campaign to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART) goals to hold yourself and your team accountable.

For example, as mentioned above, WBR set a goal of funding 20,000 bikes for African communities by year-end.

This goal met all the SMART standards, allowing them to follow up with their goals at the end of their campaign and determine how they found success.


3. Variety Is Key.

How many messages did you personally get asking for donations last year?

If you’re like me and subscribe to a variety of nonprofits, the answer is probably “a lot”.

And the same goes for your donors…

...Which means it’s more important than ever to customize everything you send out, rather than crafting generic messaging for your entire donor base.

For example, because millennial donors are constantly on mobile devices and social media, consider creating a mobile-friendly campaign video and promoting it across major social platforms.

Read More: The Ultimate Nonprofit Video Marketing Strategy + 5 of the Best Nonprofit Videos We’ve Seen

Segmenting your donors based on demographic data — or any other form of data you have that you think can best categorize them — and tailoring your ask based on what will resonate best with that group is your best bet for messaging success.


4. Write It Down.

A big part of planning in advance is keeping track of exactly when each piece of content needs to be prepared.

For a major year-end fundraiser, you’ll likely juggle multiple deadlines to create numerous assets (i.e. landing pages, videos, infographics, direct mailers, email marketing, and more).

Creating a workbook schedule complete with all your team’s deadlines, including who is responsible for what and when, can help. This might not be necessary in a small team, but having everything written down ensures everyone stays accountable.


5. Choose One (Or More) of These Platforms.

You probably don’t have time to juggle sending out letters, scheduling daily Tweets, writing blog posts, following up with recurring donors… the list goes on.

That’s why relying on one to two platforms will be more effective than spreading yourself thin across every single one out there.

But how do you pick which channels you should be using?

The demographic segmenting you did earlier can come in handy by allowing you to choose the channels  that resonate most with your audience.

Prioritizing like this also means you’ll have the time to personalize your campaign and message for each platform.

For example, a long-form blog post about your campaign can be shared in shorter sections via email or Facebook, whereas an engaging photo of one of the people your campaign will benefit will do better on Instagram.

Read More: How to Grow Your Nonprofit’s Instagram Following


Launching Your Campaign

Once you’ve established your strategy, it’s time to execute on your plan.

To increase the impact of your launch, you can also try implementing some of the following best practices.


1. Say Hello To Old Friends.

Although expanding your donor base should be one of your goals, here’s a stat for you: the average recurring donor will give 42% more in one year than those who give one-time gifts.

Plus, a 10% increase in donor retention can lead to a 200% increase in donor lifetime value.

That’s why reaching out to people who have already donated should be one of the most important parts of your campaign.

Using messaging targeted towards friends of your organization, to show them how much their gifts and contributions were appreciated in the past can help you see these kinds of increases in your own donations.


2. Get Them On Board.

Although engaging your community is key, there’s another group of people who might have even more influence: your board.

That’s because getting buy-in from your board members is not only crucial to getting approval for your campaign, but they can also bring in major donations to help you meet your fundraising goals.

If nothing else, get your board members to share the details of your campaign with their networks.

They might also know members of other local organizations, which brings us to…  


3. Choose A Partner.

Whether it’s a community organization, another nonprofit, and/or a corporation, partnerships can be a great way to spread the word about your year-end campaign and boost your fundraising efforts.

Are there any other organizations in your area whose mission compliments yours? Or local businesses you could connect with to raise awareness?

For example, every year the United Way partners with dozens of corporations to raise funds for local branches.

Even if your organization doesn’t have that kind of name recognition, I’ve seen smaller organizations find success by reaching out to local businesses who share their passion for the community.

A local NPO in my town whose mission was improving child literacy partnered with our local bookstore to run events. By combining their audiences, they both saw increased contributions over the holiday season.


4. Find The Right People.

This is where social media stalking skills actually come in handy (who knew that was possible?).

Just prior to launch, compile a list of reporters, editors, bloggers, and other influencers who work in the same space as your nonprofit, or who are major figures in your community.

They can help you get the word out about your campaign, and encourage their followers (who might not already be following you) to learn more and donate.

Once your campaign is live, you can start reaching out to them with the details of your campaign by writing a press release, emailing them, and sharing it via social media.


5. Pay The Way.

If you have the resources, consider paying the pros to spread the word about your campaign.

Radio, TV, social media, and other platforms offer ways to share your message with the masses — for a price, of course.

If it’s within your budget, look at ad platforms that make sense for your message and audience in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Read More: How to Start Using Facebook Ads to Reach a Big Audience with a Small Budget



After you’ve launched and executed your campaign, your job isn’t over (is it ever?).

That’s because it’s now time to follow up and share your results.


1. Don’t Forget About This.

Remember those SMART goals you set when planning your year-end campaign?

It’s time to follow up to ensure all of them were met.

Host a meeting with all your stakeholders to discuss:

  • Your original objectives

  • Whether they were achieved

  • Where you excelled…

  • And where you fell short

The most successful nonprofits I know host this kind of post-mortem, because it helps reveal deep insights into what worked and what didn’t.

That way, you can improve your tactics for next year’s campaign (or is it too early to be thinking about that?).


2. Say Thanks.

Everyone likes being appreciated for their hard work… including your donors.

A quick thank-you note, email, or even video, goes a long way to building relationships with your supporters and encouraging them to become recurring donors.

And of course, don’t forget to send everyone tax receipts for their donations — one of the biggest thanks of all!


For more ways to say thanks, check out this video: 




Learn More: Saying Thank You Like You Mean It


3. Sharing Is Caring.

Whether you met, exceeded, or even didn’t quite get to your fundraising goal, don’t forget to share the campaign’s results with your followers and donors.


Here are a few quick ideas:

  • Share live results as donations come in via social media.

  • Display a fundraising thermometer on your website to offer a visual of your year-end goal.

  • Email your results to everyone who participated in the campaign to demonstrate their impact.

Sharing both how much you’ve raised and the learnings from your campaign will help show your supporters you’re prepared to learn from your mistakes (as well as your strengths) and can do even better next year.

Best of luck with your year-end giving campaign! Comment below if there’s anything else you think I should add to this list — or any other takeaways you’ve learnt that you think other nonprofits could benefit from.


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Tatiana Morand

Posted by Tatiana Morand

Published Thursday, 01 November 2018 at 4:34 PM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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