3 ways to jumpstart year end giving by planning your fall fundraising now

Calendar image of 12/31/13 Year end giving takes work - start planning fall fundraising today!Nonprofits are making a big mistake when reading studies that show that over 50% of charitable giving happens in December. They are putting off their year end appeals until December!

Did you notice that last December? My inbox was flooded with nonprofit emails begging me to give. This is foolish because it's confusing when donors give with when donors are approached to give. This is not the best way to do year end fundraising.

Generous year end giving isn't merely the result of a barrage of appeals and emails in the last weeks of the year. Successful year end fundraising takes strategic planning. Here are 3 tips to help you jumpstart your fall fundraising.

  1. Draft your fundraising letters

    Summer is the perfect time to get your fundraising letters ready! I'm still a big fan of regular mail. It gives people something physical to hold and use as a reminder. Snail mail is still a proven source for online giving too!

    I recommend sending three letters at these times:

    • Late August/early September
      People are getting back to the regular patterns of school and work so your letter is more likely to be received, read, and responded to.
    • Early to mid-November
      In the USA, this letter could be a Thanksgiving themed fundraising letter. "In this season of Thanksgiving, we are grateful for..."
    • Mid-December
      I like having one last letter hit mailboxes in mid-December. The holiday season gets busy. People won't always remember the November letter. So get something in their hands that they can put in their bills-to-pay stack so they'll be able to donate when at the end of December.

    As with anything you read about fundraising, you need to test this for your organization. But this has worked well for me and for my clients.

    My fundraising letters definitely evolved as I studied copywriting. You can see two examples on my fundraising letters page. While you're there, sign up for the free 4-part fundraising letter e-course.

  2. Look for ways to reinforce letters with social media

    Your donors don't live solely online or off-line so your fundraising needs to be multichannel. You should be taking the opportunity to reinforce your fundraising letter themes in your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn updates. And using those sites to ask for money too.

    One way could be to simply tweet or post this to your social media accounts: "XYZ Nonprofit supporters: check your mailbox for our latest update!" and include a link to a donation page as well.

    Another could be to use the same theme as your letter. If you're fundraising for land conservation, perhaps you build an "adopt-an-acre" campaign for your fundraising letters. In the fall, you could simply use the same "call to action" in social media and drive people to a specifically themed donation page.

    Now is the time to draft the landing pages. And even the updates and an editorial calendar for when you'll publish those updates. Each platform allows a different amount of text (measured by characters), so planning now can save you lots of time later. According to Andy Crestodina in Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing, here are the current character limits for updates and posts:

    • Google+: 100,000 characters
    • Facebook: 63,206 characters
    • LinkedIn: 700 characters
    • Twitter: 140 characters (but aiming for 120 characters allows people space to "retweet" it)

    You could create your own social media editorial calendar by plotting these out on a spreadsheet so all you'll need to do is cut-and-paste them in the fall.

  3. Harness the power of volunteers

    People expect us to promote our year end fundraising. But they often take it more seriously when one of their friends promotes our year end giving appeal.

    In their great book Content Rules authors C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley recommend taking note of the people that are always responding to your updates. These are the people liking your stuff on Facebook, retweeting it on Twitter, +1ing it on Google+, and even sharing it on LinkedIn, Pinterest, or whatever other network they're active in.

    These can be called your "super fans." This summer, take keep a post-it note on your desk and write down the name of people that regularly seem to share and interact with your content. Offline sharing too: include people that show up at your office or volunteer or seem to always be telling others about your nonprofit.

    You can tell them that you're experimenting with putting together a "task force" or "advisory group" to help you shape your fall fundraising appeal. Ask them for their email address (if you don't have it) so you can keep in touch with them. Then run your fundraising letter theme by them. Ask them if the social media plan that accompanies the letters makes sense. And ask them if they'd help share those messages when the time comes.

    Your goal is to make it ridiculously easy for them to help share your message. So as your letters get sent and your updates get posted, be sure to email them notifications and links to the respective updates.

If 2012 was any indication of what 2013 will look like, even more charities will be flooding people's inboxes at the end of the year. But if you do these three simple steps this summer and you'll be well on your way to benefiting from donors' year end giving. When they see your communications, it will be tied to a story you've been telling them all fall!

About Marc Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the author of "Ask Without Fear!" and founder of FundraisingCoach.com and the weekly email service “Fundraising Kick.” A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!

Follow him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.

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