The final two months of the year are a vital time for nonprofits to reach their fundraising goals. 

Not only do these months hold the biggest fundraising day of the year for nonprofits (Giving Tuesday), but this trend of increased giving continues through December with one-third of all annual giving occurring in the month, according to Nonprofit's Source.

Needless to say, year-end fundraising is an opportunity every nonprofit wants to take advantage of. We’ve pulled together 7 powerful strategies to help nonprofits make the most of these crucial months:

  1. Start planning early.
  2. Create processes to accept a variety of gifts.
  3. Optimize your donation processing procedures.
  4. Center the donor in your appeal.
  5. Use a variety of outreach methods.
  6. Utilize matching gifts.
  7. Emphasize recurring gifts.

If you’re ready to crush the upcoming year-end fundraising season, read on for a comprehensive look at the above strategies.


Sufficient planning is a powerful tool in year-end fundraising.

1. Start planning early.

Even though year-end fundraising only encompasses the last few months of the year, the best strategy to make the most of these months is to plan for them and to do so early. Year-end initiatives require extensive planning, and you want to have sufficient time to complete it— even as early as six months in advance.

This planning should involve a comprehensive examination of your donor base, which you can then use to inform your outreach as you go forward.

Begin the donor research process by segmenting your donors by common characteristics. Through this process, you want to discover two things: a donor’s capacity to give, or their financial ability to do so, and a donor’s affinity to give, or their perception of your organization (good/bad) that influences their likelihood to do so.

Consider segmenting your donors by capacity with the following characteristics:

  • Real estate ownership
  • SEC stock transactions
  • Other business affiliations

Consider segmenting your donors by affinity with the following characteristics:

  • Previous donations to your nonprofit
  • Previous donations to other nonprofit organizations
  • Other nonprofit involvement such as volunteer work and board membership

Use these segments to guide your year-end fundraising outreach. By reaching out to only those most likely to give to your organization, your efficiency will increase despite the busy season.

Accepting many types of gifts is helpful during year-end fundraising.

2. Create processes to accept a variety of gifts.

Just as you need a strategy for which donors to contact, you need a strategy for accepting donations when these optimal donors reply accordingly. The best way to do this is to provide a plethora of ways to engage with your organization through giving.

Technological innovations have made it easy for your organization to provide a variety of outlets for your supporters. Consider optimizing the following giving processes as you prepare for year-end giving:

  • Online donation forms. Allow donors to give to your cause at any time, and from any place, with this software.
  • Peer-to-peer-fundraising. Empower donors to fundraise on your behalf by raising funds through a personal donation page benefiting your organization.
  • Crowdfunding. Create a crowdfunding page and invite supporters to share it. This extended network gives to your organization and exposes you to donors you may not have reached otherwise.
  • Text-to-give. Enable donors to give to your cause with the ease of sending a single text message.
  • Volunteer opportunities. Provide opportunities for supporters to give that aren’t financial-based and cultivate supporters for life.

If you’re just getting started with digital fundraising, check out this list of the top nonprofit software to help guide your search before investing in a solution.

Optimizing your donation processing methods is important during year-end fundraising.

3. Optimize your donation processing procedures.

If you’re going to be advertising all of the aforementioned donation methods, you need to make sure your internal donation collection processes are optimized as well.

Pairing today’s digital age with the busy holiday fundraising season, you’re probably preparing for a major influx of digital donations. Just as you’re setting up your donor-facing processes, your payment processing procedures need to be ironclad as well.

Payment processing refers to how your digital donation software handles incoming payments. It’s not something you’re likely to have control over changing once you’ve chosen a software provider, so you want to choose a software provider that fits your organization’s needs. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when investing in an online donation tool:

  • The payment types accepted. Most payment processors accept credit/debit payments, but there are other payment options (such as direct deposit/ACH payments) that might be helpful for your organization.
  • The processor’s security. Pay attention to a processor’s PCI compliance and ensure that a donor’s financial information is safe within your software.
  • The fees. Some online donation tools charge a card processing fee and a general usage fee, so it’s important to pay attention to how much of each donation will be lost to fees.

These processes can be confusing, so if you’re looking for more information, check out Soapbox Engage’s comprehensive guide to nonprofit payment processing.

Donor-centric storytelling is helpful during year-end fundraising.

4. Center the donor in your appeal.

After discovering which donors are most likely to give to your organization, you can begin crafting your appeal.

In your appeal, focus on storytelling rather than data and metrics. Though these statistics may impress your board members and potential corporate sponsors, they’re unlikely to impress your donors. For donors, giving is often attached to emotions, which are affected by stories. During the year-end holiday fundraising season, this phenomenon is amplified. 

This doesn’t mean that you should broadcast every heart-wrenching story your nonprofit comes into contact with as a desperate appeal for gifts. Focus this storytelling on donors and their impact. Check it out:

  • Exhibit the work of past donations: Include stories of impactful actions taken by your organization, fueled by past donations, to inspire donors to give toward future impact.
  • Anticipate the impact of new donations: In your appeal, include information regarding what you plan to do with the donations brought in during your year-end fundraiser
  • Ask donors why they give: Ask donors why they’ve gotten involved with your organization and highlight those aspects of your nonprofit in your appeal. Inspire donors using the stories of their peers!

Once you’ve put together an appeal, it’s time to begin outreach.

Use a variety of outreach methods in your year-end fundraising.

5. Use a variety of outreach methods.

We know there isn’t  “one perfect channel” for hosting your fundraising ask and that the best method is a multi-channel strategy. When reaching out to donors with your year-end ask, use a plethora of contact methods to ensure no donor is left in the dark. 

Innovations in technology means there are several options for digital communication with donors. Whether the various social media networks, email, or a combination of both, there are a few best practices for using digital methods to reach your donors:

  • Keep your copy concise. The digital attention span is significantly lower than other communication methods, so you want to communicate all the needed information efficiently.
  • Choose the right outlet for you. Not every social network will be well suited for every nonprofit. Choose one or two that best serve your needs and focus your attention accordingly.
  • Remain genuine in all communications. Work to maintain the genuine nature of your organization’s ask, despite the quick-and-concise nature of these communications.

However, don’t neglect other tried-and-true, non-digital methods of reaching donors. Direct mail fundraising is a powerful tool to reach those donors less interested in digital methods, and you should use it as well. 

Ultimately, you want to reach every potential donor with your year-end appeal, regardless of which outlets they use for communication. For more information on successfully incorporating both digital and physical methods, check out Salsa’s guide to direct mail fundraising and how you can use it in conjunction with digital mediums.

Market matching gifts to increase your year-end fundraising success.

6. Utilize matching gifts.

Corporate philanthropy programs are a powerful force for year-end giving. Specifically, you should focus on matching gift programs in your holiday appeal.

Matching gift programs involve an employer matching the donations made by their employee to an approved nonprofit. These programs are woefully underused, especially considering they allow your nonprofit to receive twice the donation for the effort of soliciting one!

In addition to receiving two donations, however, there are other benefits to marketing matching gifts to your donors. For example, when a donor is aware that their employer will match their gift, they’re more likely to donate and give a higher amount at that.

In your appeal, include educational information about matching gift programs and how your donors can search their eligibility. If you want to take this outreach a step further, consider providing donors with a searchable matching gift database along with your online donation form.

Use recurring gifts to extend your year-end fundraising throughout the year.

7. Emphasize recurring gifts.

Did you know that 45% of donors around the world are enrolled in a monthly giving program?

During year-end fundraising, it’s easy to focus on prioritizing those one-time, major gifts that so many donors engage in during the holiday season. 

However, with almost half of all donors participating in recurring giving, it’s clear that this is a major opportunity that nonprofits should be capitalizing on.

The year-end giving season brings in the majority of a nonprofit’s total donations for the entire year, so most nonprofits end up budgeting these gifts to sustain them throughout the next year. Recurring gifts help combat this intensive budgeting.

These gifts have benefits for both the donors and your nonprofit. The donors are able to extend their impact through the year and do so without much further thought, as these recurring processes are often automatic. Meanwhile, your nonprofit gains a regular resource that you can count on throughout the next year.

Add a recurring giving option to your year-end appeal and secure regular fundraising beyond the major fundraising season. 


The end of the year is the biggest fundraising opportunity for nonprofits, and often provides the majority of an organization’s funding for the next year.

With the above 7 strategies, you’ll craft year-end fundraising practices that will carry you through the following year. Happy planning!

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