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5 Key Strategies for Successful Year-End Fundraising

Production Solutions

There’s no doubt about it, year-end planning is critical. Research from Blackbaud, the leading nonprofit software company, shows that one third of charitable giving occurs in the last 3 months of the year. Additionally, over 35% of online giving happens in the last 3 months. But can you do it, and do it well, without losing your mind? It’s not impossible.

Last Thursday’s DMAW Lunch & Learn addressed the beast that is year-end planning with the session “Year End Strategies.” With three wonderful speakers, including Amy Barriale of African Wildlife Foundation, Heather Marsh of ABD Direct and Collin Ward of Newport Creative, there was a wealth of information shared.

Here are 5 key takeaways that can help you take the craziness out of year-end planning:

  1. It’s NOT too early to plan! The end of the year is 6 months away, but it will be here before you know it. Take some of the stress out of year-end by doing your initial planning as early as June. Map out a communications calendar and back out production schedules from there. Review your systems and processes – like acknowledgement communications, and your welcome and sustainer series – to ensure everything is working properly and you’re ready when October hits.
  2. Evaluate last year’s results. Heather Marsh suggested taking a close look at your failures, successes and test winners, as well as performance stats such as response rate, open rate, unsubscribes, timing and quantity of messages.
  3. Communicate internally across departments. You never know what opportunities may arise when you work cohesively as an organization. Collin Ward advised involving key stakeholders across your organization in your year-end planning meetings. Amy Barriale shared a case study where AWF’s major gifts and membership departments teamed up for their wildly successful Betty White Matching Gift Campaign, which resulted in a 64% increase in year-end revenue from FY11-FY14.
  4. Do the majority of your testing prior to year-end. It’s a good idea to test your existing controls and some new ideas earlier in the year. You can use this information to plan a more effective year-end campaign.
  5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Avoid planning major operational rollouts during year-end, like a database overhaul or systems audit. Heather Marsh reminded us to evaluate what you’ll really need to implement your campaign. Think about what resources you have internally and what outside support you may need to line up in advance. This will ensure that you have the technology and the skills to implement your ideas effectively.

Everyone in the fundraising industry knows year-end is the busiest and most lucrative time of the year. Use the techniques above to make sure you get the most out of your campaign this year.