17 Tips for Successful Year-End Fundraising
On Monday, Dane Grams, director of direct response and monthly giving at the Human Rights Campaign, led a Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association Brown Bag Luncheon on year-end appeals at HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C. Talking with his colleagues in the nonprofit world, he compiled a list "Top Tips for Ensuring a Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaign." Here's what he shared with the group:
"Keep it simple and sincere."
— Dennis Lonergan, principal, Eidolon Communications
"Create a story arch and prime end-of-year fundraising asks by talking in advance about your accomplishments that year, so your audience is already aware of your successes and you're able to make the case about what else needs to happen in the year ahead."
— Shumway Marshall, online director, American Foundation for Equal Rights
"Review past results, base this year on the successes of last year, but assume that you may need to do more touches, advertising, segmentation, engagement tactics, than last year!"
— Mwosi Swenson, vice president, Mal Warwick/Donor Digital
"Thank-you videos are an excellent way to connect with donors at year-end. Recruit program staff or your top dog to do a homespun, iPhone video shot from across the desk a la David Plouffe. Donors will love it — if you're creative enough, it might even go viral."
— Valerie Vierengel, director of donor stewardship, ASPCA
"Use deadlines! Homepage takeover in the last 48-72 hours! More e-mail! Aggressive light boxes! Use resends/forwards from different signers! For C3s, heavily promote tax-deductibility! Use goals!"
— Karin Kirchoff, vice president, MINDset Direct
"As part of your multipart, year-end e-mail campaign, be sure to e-mail on 12/31. Twice."
— Moira Kavanagh Crosby, principal, MKDM
"As you are considering the rhythm of your year-end arc, be sure to cover all the bases. Appeal to the intellect. And the heart. The serious (fiscally responsible). And the visual (emotionally-captivating). Use different signers, different formats. To cut thru the clutter nowadays, you can't beat the same drum. (Good to remember that not all donors respond to the same thing, and you'll be amazed by how many respond to the one-two punch.)"
— John Graves, principal, Eidolon Communications
"Change the subject line and resend the same e-mail to your supporters who didn't open it the first time around. It's easy to do and gives more visibility to the message your are trying to convey."
— Tim Robinson, director of nonprofit services, Care2
"Since you're mailing to your full file, be sure to include their e-mail addresses on the reply forms and ask that donors update if necessary. Most will comply, and your data will be that much cleaner."
— John Mini, principal, John Mini Consulting
— Jaime Grams, vice president, Integral
"The creation of a simple, straightforward, concrete message that highlights what you've done over the course of the year, why you did it, and which directs the ownership of that success and continued success to the donor in a personal way. I strategically select my donors/partners most able to make an impact and personally deliver this message to them in a relaxed and non-forceful way."
— Ryan Oelrich, executive director, Ambassadors Foundation
"Images are as important to online as the carrier is to a mailing. They pull the reader in and make them want more. Oh, and don't forget your end-of -year deadline dates — the ones you need to meet and the ones you want your donors to meet!"
— Ellen Cobb Church, principal and CEO, Craver, Matthews, Smith & Co.
"Celebrate Christmas in July. Meaning ... plan ahead. Give yourself more time than you think you need so that when your best-laid plans go awry, you can still deploy a flawless campaign on time. It's easier to fix — and laugh about — the word 'pantry' being spelled 'panty' throughout the creative for your 'Fill the Pantry' campaign when it's discovered three weeks before the deployment rather than three days."
— Margaret Battistelli Gardner, editor-in-chief, FundRaising Success
"Don't be shy. You ain't gonna raise a dime if you don't ask for it. And if that means putting together five e-mails that'll stretch over the last three days of December, you best prepare yo'self."
— Ezra Billinkoff, senior strategist, M+R Strategic Services
"List hygiene: What are you doing to clean up your e-mail list and improve deliverability before year-end campaigns (hopefully before December)?"
— Paul Habig, executive vice president , Sanky Communications/SankyNet
"Focus on retention: 1) cultivate donors in advance of year-end. Also consider giving higher-dollar donors high-touch treatment with a pre-campaign thank-you call; (2) remind donors of their past support in all messaging and encourage them to make an increased gift; and (3) segment based on behavioral data — what issues have they responded to in the past? Target them accordingly with these issue-specific appeals."
— Alia McKee, principal, Sea Change Strategies
"Prime the pump with a Turkey Day 'Thanks for Giving' message."
— Dane Grams, director of direct response and monthly, Human Rights Campaign
Dane Grams is the director of membership for Human Rights Campaign. He has held senior positions at Amnesty International, Greenpeace USA and Care2. Reach him at email@example.com.