It’s difficult thinking about your year-end appeal when the temperatures are soaring, and it’s been the warmest summer on record in many parts of the country. Yet, now is the time to not only think about your year-end appeal but also plan for it. The next three months will go by quickly.
One of the first things to consider when planning your year-end appeal is: What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for new donors? Are you looking to upgrade donors? Do you need to increase your volunteer base? Or simply throw the net out, spread the word about your organization and the great works being accomplished?
Keep Your Mind on the Money
Bear in mind, the end of the calendar year is a time when most nonprofits realize a large percentage of their donations. Savvy donors (and the donors you’ve already created a relationship with) expect to receive year-end appeals and will be more than happy to make a donation because they need the tax deduction. The end of the year, obviously, is the last opportunity to make a donation that will give them the tax deduction they need, which makes it the best time of year to appeal for donations.
If you simply want to increase your donor or volunteer base … or spread the word about your good cause … or upgrade donors … the end of the year is a great time to send these types of requests, but you will be missing out on the best time of the year to increase donations.
Save these types of appeals for another campaign and request monetary donations during your end-of-year campaign.
Statistics have shown that online giving pulls in the greatest amount during year-end campaigns (as opposed to direct mail via snail mail). If you do not have email addresses for your constituents, now is the time to update your database with as many email addresses as you can obtain.
Clean Up Your Database
Speaking of your database … now is the time to do your database audit and make certain it is as up-to-date and error-free as possible. Delete duplicate records (but make certain you transfer any data from the duplicate record before you delete it!). Delete records that are outdated. Run reports on cumulative donations received or amounts given in last year’s year-end appeal (if you plan to customize your appeal by making note of dollar amounts given).
Optimize Your Website for Donations
Make certain your website has been updated and is optimized for donations. Have a prominent DONATE button above the fold on the home page that goes directly to the donation form. Get feedback from people in your organization and from outside your organization about their experiences using your online donation form. Fix any issues that arise.
Appeal to Donor Emotions
Do you have a year-end goal? Place the dollar amount on your home page and keep your donors updated on the campaign’s progress. Is your goal for a specific program? Let donors know why you need the funds for this specific program and who will benefit from the program. Put photos of program recipients (with their permission, of course) on your website. Ask program recipients to write a testimonial about what the program has meant to them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for General Operating Expenses
Perhaps your goal is to raise unrestricted funds that will be used for general operations. Donors aren’t always as excited about contributing to your business expenses as they are funding a specific program. Explain why it’s important to obtain basic operating expenses … because your nonprofit is a business, and you need to keep the electrical bill paid and rent paid in order to provide the excellent services and programs your organization is known for.
And, of course, start writing the appeal. You’ll need time to re-write the appeal and to have other readers give you their comments. What you say in your appeal is so important to its success. Speak to your donors’ emotions … and always remind them it’s their financial support that’s making a difference.