To say we are facing a unique fundraising year is clearly an understatement of massive proportions.
Already this year, you’ve probably implemented an entirely new way to hold your annual event, switched to a remote fundraising team, and conducted major donor meetings over zoom.
But our fundraising challenges aren’t over yet.
Not only are we kicking-off year-end fundraising in the middle of a contentious election season — one that is consuming enormous amounts of personal attention and energy, but many donors are likely experiencing economic hardship, trepidation about their financial future, or emotional exhaustion.
And although you may also be experiencing similar personal challenges, and despite all the fundraising challenges you’ve already faced, you’ve still got a job to do and a mission to fund.
First, know that you are not alone… and that you can build a successful year-end campaign in 2020!
Here are some tips for approaching year-end fundraising in 2020.
This is the year to pick up the phone and a pen.
First, do some digging in your database and identify all donors with an address on record who’ve given within the last 3 years, but who haven’t given since July of 2020.
Write a handwritten note on a small-format note card and hand-address it with a live stamp. I 100% guarantee that your donors will be delighted to find your note and will open it and read your message.
During your database research, pull each donor’s history of giving and engagement. If they are a former volunteer or a 5-year donor, for example, you can thank them specifically for their gift or service and tell them to please renew their giving in 2020. The more individualized you can make your message, the more successful you will be.
Recruit a team of volunteers, staff, and board members to help you reach as many people as possible.
Then, you can begin calling to thank those who have already made their 2020 gift.
Don’t Drop your Snail-Mail
I’ve spoken recently with more and more nonprofits who are considering a shift (or have already shifted) to all-digital fundraising. With online fundraising channels growing, and with digital fundraising tools becoming more and more accessible every year, fundraising teams are smartly utilizing these inarguably important fundraising channels.
You may also be temped to drop your printed appeals this year due to all the recent hullabaloo around the USPS. But printed direct mail is still a vital fundraising component, particularly in 2020.
I’ve heard from so many people experiencing serious email fatigue this political season, perhaps more than ever. And while printed political mail has also been filling our physical mailboxes, it is easier to make your printed appeal stand out from everything else.
Rather than sending your appeal in a standard size envelope, use an announcement-sized envelope to make it stand out and look more inviting. If you can hand address your envelopes (even if it is just a smaller segment of important or long-term donors) this will go a long way to getting your appeal opened and read.
Time Your Asks Carefully
When should you plan to send your appeals this year?
I typically advise people to send their first direct mail piece in early November, before the holiday rush begins. But this year, a bit of breathing room between election day and when your appeal hits mailboxes is best – around November 19th (before the Thanksgiving holidays).
But don’t fret if your first appeal can’t get out that fast. Early December is a fine option for a first or second mail appeal.
As usual, send out a minimum of three email appeals (in addition to Dec 1st, Giving Tuesday) — one around Dec 10th and two year-end focused posts December 25th.
Create a year-end campaign timeline to keep you on track (you can download our 2020 Year-end Campaign Timeline Template for free here.)
Create a Unique Case for Support
Illustrate, through donor-centered storytelling, the importance of contributing right now for a specific, unique reason.
Every year around December 31st, too many nonprofits create a generic, false sense of urgency that donors can see right through (i.e. “December 31st is coming!” or “This is your last chance to give!”). Such messages get diluted when every other nonprofit uses the exact same call to action.
This year, make sure your specific reason to give is not just because it is year-end or because your organization is affected by COVID-19. That’s true for most everyone in the entire world right now.
This is the time for a specific, heart-felt story illustrating the change or good your donors will create with their gift to your organization. Don’t forget to focus on the donor in your appeals.
In any year, annual fundraising campaigns would — without a doubt — benefit from adding any of these strategies to a typical, multi-channel campaign (consisting of direct mail appeals, social media outreach, an email appeal series and multiple, personalized thank-you approaches).
But this year, more than ever, it’s critical to keep up your energy up, make as many personal asks as humanly possible, reach out to your best volunteers for help… and keep going!