Year-end fundraising is a bountiful time in the life of the nonprofit. Giving Tuesday and holiday-themed asks are just the beginning of the strategies that nonprofits employ for the end-of-year season.
But many of these practices are too beneficial to reserve for the end of the year alone.
With a little tweaking, you can adapt these practices to your year-round fundraising. After all, there aren’t any rules to keep you from using your best tactics when and where they’ll serve you best.
To help you build up the best strategy for your nonprofit, check out these top 7 practices for year-round fundraising:
- Tell stories.
- Speak your donors’ language.
- Communicate across multiple channels.
- Interact via social media.
- Prioritize convenience.
- Fundraise with products.
- Engage your current donor base.
These practices are derived from year-end fundraising, but applying them to your nonprofit all year can help you draw in donations and further your cause.
A favorite year-end tactic, storytelling brings your nonprofit’s work to life. Stories are often mailed to donors in print materials toward the end of the year to inspire them to give.
However, reserving this practice solely for year-end fundraising limits your opportunities for connecting with donors.
After all, people respond to people. Telling stories about your nonprofit’s impact can connect donors, immediately and powerfully, to your mission.
Storytelling can be implemented effectively across your nonprofit by following these tips:
- Be specific. Hone in on a particular person or community that was helped by your organization. Focusing on an individual will allow you to tell a deep, vivid, and detailed story that captivates your audience.
- Let your subject speak. Interview the person at the center of the story and gather quotes that you can use in your publications. Remember, you’re telling their story, so prioritize their words over your own and refer to them by name.
- Provide visuals. A powerful photograph that features the subject of your story is the perfect visual aid to enliven the text. Strong photos feature one subject making eye contact with the camera — as if they’re looking directly at your donors! The photo should be high-quality, and it should feature the person being helped or show the impact of your nonprofit’s work.
- Integrate your story. Once you have your story, use your different communication channels to tell it in different ways. For example, you may want to print the story in full for mailed materials, but tease the story with block quotes on social media.
Ultimately, effective storytelling shows your nonprofit’s impact in a way that resonates with your supporters.
Remember, you want to turn the spotlight to the people you’ve helped. Consistently demonstrate your nonprofit’s impact year round by telling their stories.
It can be tempting to pat your nonprofit on the back for all the good work you’ve done, but this approach tends to alienate donors.
After all, you want to initiate an interesting conversation with your donors, one that allows them to participate in the impact of your nonprofit’s work.
During year-end fundraising, it’s easy to focus on the giving spirit and how donors can contribute to the holiday season by donating to your mission.
But you can appeal to the giving spirit year-round by keeping your communications donor-centric.
To connect with donors by speaking to them on their terms, follow these tips:
- “You,” not “we.” The word “you” should appear at least twice as much as the word “we.” Otherwise, you risk soap-boxing about your nonprofit’s work, which may put donors at a distance.
- Call to action. Don’t simply tell your supporters to donate. Instead, provide them with clear steps that show them how they can give to or support your organization. Provide a link to your online donation page or a list of upcoming events that need volunteers.
- Powerful language. You want to engage your donors’ sense of giving. Avoid vague words like “services” and “aid.” Be specific and provide examples that donors can visualize. Show how supporters’ contributions have directly impacted the people and communities that your donors want to help.
- Use numbers and statistics sparingly. Numbers can quantify your nonprofit’s work in objective ways. However, without context, it can be difficult for your supporters to understand what your numbers mean. Further, you run the risk of appearing underachieving if your numbers don’t match up to your supporters’ expectations.
By centering your communications around what donors can accomplish, you’ll draw your donors into an active role in your organization. As a result, they’ll be more inclined to give or support your organization.
The end of the year opens several unique avenues for communication. After all, the bustle of year-end holidays provides the perfect opportunity to mail holiday cards or emails themed with seasonal flair.
But with a little creativity, you can capitalize on your communication channels and make all of your materials feel special.
For example, you can:
- Use other holidays. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or even St. Patrick’s day can be perfect themes to reach your donors. Send them holiday cards or emails to remind them that giving can help them celebrate any holiday.
- Create seasonal appeals. Style your mailed materials like postcards for summer, for example, or call your donors to “spring” into action once April rolls around. These types of communications can capture donors’ attention and serve as charming reminders of your nonprofit’s dedication to fundraising year-round.
- Feature your nonprofit’s work. Suppose your nonprofit helps children. Feature children’s thank you letters on your communications. Animal shelter? Send a paw print “painting” to your donors. Heartwarming communications can persuade donors to give based upon your nonprofit’s demonstrated impact.
Creative and heartfelt communications will help you cultivate your donor relationships year-round. You want to continuously inspire your donors, even if they’ve already given to your organization.
After all, past donors are more likely to be future donors — as long as your nonprofit continues the conversation.
Further, when you prepare for next year’s year-end fundraising, you’ll already have a solid relationship that you can build from.
Giving Tuesday is an important date for a nonprofit’s social media component. But #GivingTuesday shouldn’t be the only hashtag in your repertoire.
After all, social media can be used to:
- Communicate general information about your nonprofit.
- Launch or supplement a campaign.
- Tease featured stories.
- Generate excitement for events.
- Thank donors en mass or thank a specific supporter.
- Show your nonprofit’s work and impact.
- Boost peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
Overall, social media is a valuable communication channel that can reach a lot of people quickly.
It’s a channel that allows your supporters to spread the word about your nonprofit if you choose. And, it allows your nonprofit to engage with your supporters!
You can adapt your #GivingTuesday social media strategies to your year-round fundraising by following these tips:
- Integrate social media campaigns across communications. Creating a hashtag for your nonprofit can promote your organization across social media. But you can also include your hashtag in your print communications or feature it on your website, for example. Encourage donors to use the hashtag themselves.
- Engage with social media features. Social media offers unique features that can help you reach your donors. It’s easy to integrate pictures and graphics with your posts, for example. Hashtags and sharing also allow supporters to engage with your nonprofit and spread awareness.
- Plan out communications. Using platforms such as Tweetdeck and Buffer can help you keep track of your posting schedule. Planning ahead will keep your posts from overshadowing each other (i.e. when a post loses attention and engagement due to the timing of another post).
Building solid social media practices will help your nonprofit reach your online donors and spread awareness to new donors.
It’s no secret that almost everyone’s busy during the holiday season. Prioritizing convenience is a key strategy when it comes to year-end fundraising.
But convenience shouldn’t be seasonal.
Prioritizing convenience should allow your donors to easily engage with your nonprofit when they can.
That’s why it’s vital to optimize your online donation pages for mobile devices so that your donors can reach you on their own schedules.
To start, ensure that your online donation page is highly readable on a mobile device and that your donation buttons are big enough to click.
To further maintain convenience across your communications, follow these strategies:
- Include return envelopes. Allow your donors to easily mail their donations by providing stamped return envelopes. Convenience shouldn’t be reserved for online donors. Show your other donors that you value their time by making it easy for them to give via traditional means.
- Implement text-to-give. Text-to-give enables donors to use texting to make a donation. Texting is fast, efficient, and familiar to many donors. Using text-to-give allows nonprofits to stay in touch with donors, all while empowering donors to give instantly and on their own schedules.
- Simplify online donation forms. Online donation forms should be simple, intuitive, and easy to use. Only require necessary information (not accounts, for example) and keep the form to a single page. Complicated forms can deter donors from giving — now, or ever! — to your nonprofit.
These strategies can help you maximize convenience, allowing you to reach your donors within the context of their often busy lives.
Holiday favorites like cookie dough or chocolate are often coupled with year-end fundraising. After all, who doesn’t love to indulge in sweet treats during the holidays?
But product fundraising can be incorporated year-round.
Product fundraising incentivizes donations, but it also markets your nonprofit. Products can help build awareness for your nonprofit, especially if you include your nonprofit’s name and logo on your product.
Just imagine the possibilities. You can sell water bottles during the summer, or maintain a constant line of T-shirts that donors can purchase.
Ultimately, products are not only a great source of revenue for a fundraiser, but they also help establish your nonprofit’s brand. Anyone who sees your products in person or on social media gains the opportunity to learn more about your nonprofit if they’re curious.
There are hundreds of product fundraisers that your nonprofit can try. You can get started with these Double the Donation ideas, or you can research your own.
To make the most of your product fundraiser, try these tips:
- Provide gifting options. Allowing donors to gift your products year-round can help you tap into the giving spirit even when it’s not the holiday season.
- Allow donors to pay processing fees. Giving donors the option to pay shipping and processing fees can inspire them to do just that. A simple box that they can check on their purchase form will incorporate this feature into the process organically.
- Feature products at events. Events are the perfect place to sell merchandise. You can pump up the event by opening an online storefront, so that participants can purchase gear that they can wear or bring to the event.
Following these tips can take your product fundraising beyond festive wreaths come December. Allow your donors to contribute to your organization year round by purchasing products that they can enjoy in any month.
Year-end fundraising generally focuses on donors already in the database rather than on donor acquisition.
Year-round, it’s tempting to focus on gaining new donors — but keep in mind that it’s cheaper to work with donors who already have an established relationship with your nonprofit.
More importantly, practicing donor cultivation will help you better understand your donors, so that you can build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships.
A solid foundation will help you craft targeted asks when the time comes.
And while cultivation is important for all donors, this practice also includes reaching out to lapsed donors. Donor retention, after all, is important for your nonprofit.
Beside the cost-effectiveness of pursuing former donors, these donors have already demonstrated an interest in your organization. Cultivating affinity is half of the battle for nonprofits — now you need to engage with their interest.
Following these tips can help you keep your current donor base involved, well before the end of the year:
- Call your major donors. Calling your major donors to inform them of your fundraisers year-round will keep them in-the-loop about your nonprofit’s work. Asking them about their philanthropic interests directly (which may change as time passes) will help you guide them to the giving opportunities that may interest them the most.
- Mail or email lapsed donors. Depending on their preferred communication channel, you’ll want to send personal communications to these donors.. Beginning your communication with “We Miss You” and explaining how much their support has mattered to your organization can inspire them to take action again.
- Feature supporters in social media. Establishing a “featured supporter” weekly post is a means of showing your appreciation for your current supporters. In turn, your supporters can see how valuable they are to your organization.
Engaging with your current donor base keeps your donor relations strong as you head into your year-end campaign. Further, focusing on your current donors allows your nonprofit to grow with your support base.
Even though the end of the year is a special time for receiving donations, tapping into the giving spirit is an important year-round practice.
Whatever the season, you want to incorporate the strategies that work best for your nonprofit.
Don’t limit these top practices to the end of the year.