The Last Days of the Year Are Important
Approximately one out of every three dollars in annual giving is donated during the month of December. For online giving, the figure is even higher. This powerful concentration of giving amplifies even further as New Year’s approaches. The last four days of the year (December 28 through December 31) are the biggest giving days online, with giving literally quintupling over the course of the last two.
We even know that the peak period on December 31 is between 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., securing 31% of donations for the day during this time in whatever time zone the donor happens to be in. Twelve percent of all online giving comes in the last three days of the year. The holiday giving spirit, coupled with the pressing need for donors to lock in a tax deduction for the year, fuels this beneficence.
So, how will you make the best use of this remarkable time period?
1 Email A Day
To begin with, you’ll want to send an email to your donors on December 28, letting them know to expect an email from you every day for the next four days (in which you’ll be telling stories that highlight your client’s struggles and your organization’s successes in supporting them to succeed over the past year). Another approach is to share an aspect of your program’s impact that may be little known or frequently overlooked. A third option is to describe what makes your service unique.
One of LAPA’s clients tells four client stories: one per day in great detail with a picture of each client, or a representative picture, about how their services made a positive impact. Another LAPA client, a social service provider for youth, told the story of their partnership with a local community college. College students would volunteer at the nonprofit, helping youth with homework and engaging them in recreational activities, culminating in two weekend camping trips. Their year-end drive emails contained photos from the trips, as well as portraits of younger and older kids together in a heart-warming mentorship setting. Hiring a graphic designer to help create your appeal may be an option, but most email programs are fairly user-friendly for dropping in a photo. There's really no excuse not to, especially during such a critical time. If the graphic designer happens to be away on holiday vacation, you should be able to do this work yourself.
Further, in current email systems, you can even preset the messages to send while you’re out of the office. Vibrant clear portrait photographs (no group shots) to illustrate the story and to show the emotions will help immeasurably. Your own storytelling will, of course, vary, but your donors will be glad for this concentrated period of cultivation and outreach. Of course your “donate now” button should appear three times: at the start, middle and end of each of your emails, so that your donors may click at any time they are ready to give.
One Last Bit of Advice
When it’s time to send your final email of the year, I suggest not sending out appeals on December 31 until about 11:00 or 11:30 a.m. Since email programs, such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, allow you to see when your recipients have actually read your emails, you can send a second email around 3 PM to those who haven’t yet opened their morning email. Be sure you mention your December 31 fundraising deadline in the subject line, and remind your donors that if their donation envelope is postmarked by that date, their gift qualifies as a tax-deductible contribution for that year, even if it is received after January 1. For appeals sent by direct U.S. mail, write “Time Sensitive” on the outer envelope. We recommend using a first-class stamp, at least for your major donors.
What strategies do you currently use to advance giving the last four days of the year? Please let me know in the comments below.
Laurence is author of "The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution," the first book on fundraising ever published by the American Management Association. He is chairman of LAPA Fundraising serving nonprofits throughout the U.S. and Europe.