The Essential Year-End Fundraising Checklist
A successful year-end giving campaign begins in the summertime and lasts through the final message of December. But, even if you’re behind on your planning, this checklist will keep your efforts on track and position you to raise critical funds when it counts the most.
Ready to hit the ground running? Here's your plan of action.
Secure Your Match
A matching gift has become par for the course on GivingTuesday and the final five days of the calendar year. But, securing one can take a long runway and careful collaboration between teams. Here are a few key steps to take:
- Talk to your major gifts team about a matching gift fund.
- Draft a case for using a major gift as a matching gift fund (to scale donor impact).
- Secure a matching gift for year-end.
It’s always best to check this step off in the summer months, but don’t lose hope if you haven’t secured your match yet — many matching gifts are closed closer to the year-end campaign.
Sometimes, you can’t find a match. If you find yourself in this situation, you can expect to raise less, but with the right content and tactics, you can still mount a worthy year-end effort.
Plan Your Content Strategy and Case for Support
It’s time to convene teammates across the communications and development departments to build alignment on content. You’ll need cross-department collaboration to develop your case for support and identify the right stories and statistics to bring it to life.
Answer the following questions as a group to get started:
- What content demonstrating your organization’s impact is available?
- Are there stories and/or statistics that demonstrate your impact from the current year?
- What are your organization’s ambitions in the coming year?
- How does donor support contribute to these ambitions?
- Conversely: If you do not raise your fundraising goal, what programs are at risk?
- What distinguishes your organization from competitors in the space?
- To put a finer point on it: What would you tell a major donor deciding between your organization and another?
Consider Your Tactics and Plot Your Calendar
With an understanding of available content and — hopefully — with your matching gift secured, it’s time to plot out your communications calendar. Before you get started — ensure you have a tracking plan and strategy and determine your paid media budget. Here are some suggestions on when to ask for money and when to build affinity with warm, inspiring cultivations.
- Plot your communications calendar across email, organic social media and web.
- Cluster a robust fundraising cadence on and around GivingTuesday.
- Cluster your match (and your fundraising volume) around two main pillars: GivingTuesday and the final five days of the year.
- Use November — especially the week of Thanksgiving — to show impact and thank your audience.
- Use mid-December to express festive holiday wishes, further thank your list and give more passive opportunities to donate.
- Use the final three to five days of the year, depending on your list size, for direct fundraising.
Additionally, create a reporting dashboard and define what performance you would like to compare. For example, you may want to compare the overall email response rate among active donors to that of last year’s active donors.
Also, identify additional data attributes that you want to understand and compare. For example, understanding the average gift and response rates among organically sourced leads to that of paid sourced leads.
Then create a clear process for pulling and aggregating the data you wish to report out on. Monitor data and troubleshoot as needed so that you are confident that your ad platforms are tracking all of your donations and donation values.
Get Drafting and Designing
Your strategy is approved, your content is lined up, your match is secured and you’re ready to get cracking on copy. Great! (But also, easier said than done.)
Your to-draft list is likely copious, spanning email, social media, paid ads and homepage assets. So, how should you proceed? Batch your copy and get cracking well ahead of launch time.
Launch an evergreen year-end fundraising lightbox for your homepage around mid-November and divide your email copy into at least three to four batches. Here are our recommendations for your email strategy:
- Send two to three November cultivations, including a Thanksgiving message.
- Schedule two to three messages for GivingTuesday or three to five spanning Monday to Wednesday for GivingTuesday fundraisers.
- Deploy two to three December cultivations, including a Happy Holidays message ahead of your fundraising push in the final five days of the year.
- Desicate six to eight sends for the final five days of the year.
You’ve done all the prep work. Now, it’s time to launch your campaign, monitor your results and make real-time adjustments. You may have to revisit messaging if your campaign is falling short of expectations or if breaking news yields new opportunities. Both of these things happen and it’s important to be nimble.
Before you launch your cross-channel campaign, make at least one test gift on each asset to ensure that your gift tracking works exactly as expected. Ensure you build and review all assets at least one week ahead of launch. This includes:
- Paid media
- Web assets
- November cultivation emails, preferably by Nov. 15.
- GivingTuesday emails, preferably during the second half of November.
- December cultivation emails, preferably by Dec. 15.
- Final five days emails, preferably during the second half of December.
In addition, carefully monitor returns of each asset and evaluate its performance. How can you adjust upcoming sends based on these learnings?
When it comes to paid media — or anything, really — don’t set it and forget it. Make sure your ads reflect timely messaging for GivingTuesday and update copy to more urgent year-end messaging by mid-December.
Congratulations! You’ve reached Jan. 1. But, your work isn’t over yet.
First, catch up on sleep and get some much-deserved rest and relaxation. Then, it’s time to report on the efforts of the last eight weeks and reflect, as an organization, on the strengths and weaknesses of your year-end effort.
After the year-end campaign concludes, analyze the results of your entire effort. Many lessons are likely to be drawn from the campaign that can both be deployed immediately in 2024 and again during next year’s year-end campaign.
Whether your campaign surpassed your goals or fell short of expectations, you’ve learned a ton about what moves your audience to action and what doesn’t. It’s time to put this new knowledge to use as you plan the calendar year ahead (and yes, start to think about your next year-end campaign).
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: Don’t Make Year-End Giving a Transaction
Dan Reed, CFRE, is the senior account director of digital fundraising for Media Cause. Since joining Media Cause in 2018, Dan has enjoyed the opportunity of working with a wide variety of nonprofits that are striving to make the world a better place. He’s been inspired on a daily basis by helping passionate clients achieve their fundraising goals.
In 2021, Dan earned his Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation. Dan also holds his master's degree in strategic fundraising and philanthropy. Prior to Media Cause, Dan held positions at Us TOO International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network, the Smithsonian Institution, and World Food Program USA.
Sarah Dunlap is the director of digital fundraising for Media Cause. She joined Media Cause in 2019 and has worked with clients across the nonprofit sector.
She began her nonprofit fundraising career in 2009 with the Public Interest Research Group, serving an array of clients across the environmental and consumer protection space. In this role, she worked across digital and printed channels to inform, cultivate and solicit donors. Sarah brought these skills to Partners In Health in 2013, where she built a thriving digital fundraising program, drove consistent year-over-year growth and kept pace with aggressive growth targets.