This is your year for a strategic, donor-retaining, higher-earning, year-end campaign!


You're ready to stop leaving money on the table and turn your organization's year-end fundraising into the successful, strategic year-end campaign you know it needs to be.


But it can be overwhelming to figure out exactly what to do, what will be effective, and how to make it happen.


We know. We've been there, too.


That's why we created a course that shares the exact framework we use to create successful multi-channel campaigns.


This 10-module, multi-media course guides you through every facet of planning, producing, launching, managing, and evaluating a manageable, strategic, year-end annual campaign.

Through this course, you'll be able to...

  • Create a unifying, cohesive campaign theme that inspires your donors to renew.
  • Design a simple email appeal series that gets results (and learn how to track those results!)
  • Invest your budget in ways that actually increase donor response and average gifts.
  • Establish a manageable and realistic timeline for each phase of your campaign.
  • Keep your most important donors giving and inspire them to increase their giving level.
  • Enhance your campaign with the most up-to-date digital campaign strategies.
  • Easily evaluate, measure, and communicate your success!
  • Understand two crucial things you MUST do after your campaign to solidify your donor's decision to give NEXT year.

Course Features:

  • 10 multi-media modules

    Each in-depth module is divided into multiple classes that cover the entire process - from planning and preparation, design and production, to implementation and evaluation.

  • Weekly Office Hours

    Get your individual questions answered one-on-one. For two hours most weeks, our phone lines and email will be dedicated solely to course participants so that you can get YOUR questions answered.

  • Exclusive Community Forum

    Ask questions, get ideas and share your experiences with other course participants!

  • Lifetime Access and Free Upgrades

    Course participants will have uninterrupted access to the course every year, including all new upgrades and features.

  • Individual Campaign Materials Review

    Each participant will have the opportunity to submit a draft of their direct mail for private, individual feedback.

  • 7 Pre-designed, Customizable, Downloadable Templates

    Plug your info into our pre-designed reports and tools. Then customize to fit your needs. Includes Campaign Budget and Projections Template, Production Schedule, Project Timeline, Evaluation & Analysis Calculations Template, List Development Worksheet, Design & Print Worksheet, E-mail series planner.

  • Hands-on Workshops & Demos

    We won't just tell you the concepts and leave you to figure it out on your own. We'll walk you through each step, with video demos, worksheets & templates. You'll take action and get results.

  • Case Studies & Sample Appeals

    You'll find plethoras of sample appeals and campaign materials to inspire your own message. Also includes our appeal outline template to guide you through writing a winning appeal.

  • PDF Companion Workbook

    Prefer text-based guides? You'll get our downloadable PDF guide and workbook so you can easily follow along with the video tutorials and workshops.

  • 15-day, 100% Money-back Guarantee

    Try it out with the security of knowing we'll refund 100% of your money if you find the course isn't the right fit for you.

Course Syllabus

Module 1: Fundamentals of Annual Campaigns

Class 1: Course Overview Just like the first day of school, we'll talk about exactly what to expect and get ready to start.

Class 2: Annual Campaign Basics Before we get down to business, we'll make sure you've got all the basic concepts under your belt.

Module 2: Planning & Preparation

Class 1: Constructing Your Campaign  In our first workshop-style class, you'll determine your campaign theme and goals and decide what specific components you'll incorporate into your campaign.

Class 2: Developing a Production Schedule and Timeline Using the pre-designed template, we'll walk through all the tasks you need to accomplish, how long they will take, and exactly when they need to be finished. At the end of this class, you'll have a customized timeline and schedule for your entire campaign.

Class 3: Projecting Costs and Revenue  Once you know exactly what you are going to produce, we'll come up with our best estimates of what it will cost, and then forecast how much money you'll bring in! You'll have a working budget that you'll tweak as we move through the process.

Module 3: List Development

Class 1: Optimizing your list You'll look at your donorbase and identify the donors who are most likely to respond. Then, you'll optimize your list for maximum return on investment.

Class 2: Segmentation We'll use your donor database to tag and track your key donor segments.  Then we'll determine the best approach for each segment you decide to target.

Class 3: Upgrading Gift Amounts In this advanced class, we'll talk about strategies and logistics of asking for gift increases during your campaign. You'll also learn how to test, track and evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy.

Module 4: Writing Your Primary Mail Appeal

Class 1: Find Your Story Where can you find a fresh, compelling story that inspires your donors to renew their giving?  Whose story do you tell and who should tell it?

Class 2: The Writing Process Clear your desk and grab some coffee. In this hands-on workshop, we'll work through easy, painless baby steps to help you craft your appeal.  Before you know it, you'll have a working draft ready for review.

Class 3: Collateral Materials Development In this workshop, you'll finalize the copy for your reply device, outer envelope, inner envelopes, mailing inserts, and your thank you response receipt letter.  You'll learn the important elements that make these pieces critical to the success of your appeal.

Module 5: Production Phase

Class 1: Graphic Design  Since we fundraisers aren't typically trained as designers, here are the  most important things you need to know to understand the design process. Also, you'll learn the essential elements of design specific to fundraising appeals that your professional designer may not know. Do you even need a professional design?  We cover it all in this class.

Class 2: Printing Your Campaign Pieces.  Here's where things can often go very wrong.  Learn how to avoid those common printing pitfalls and get it right from the very beginning.

Class 3: The Mailing & Distribution Process Should I or shouldn't I use a professional mail house? What's the most cost-effective postage option?  You'll get all your questions answered and we'll walk you through the process.

Module 6: Producing The Follow-up Direct Mail

Class 1: Your Mailing List & Logistics Based on responses to your first appeal, you'll determine who's included on your second print piece's mailing list.

Class 2: Writing Your Content How is the second mailing different from the first?  We'll talk about strategies specific to the second mailing and produce a draft of your follow-up piece.

Class 3: Production In this mini-version of the previous modules, we'll walk you through the process for design, print and mailing of appeal number 2.

Module 7: Digital Campaign Strategies

Class 1: Digital Campaign Overview  What makes a successful online campaign?  How important and how effective are digital strategies?  We'll discuss trends and best-practices in digital fundraising and when to incorporate these elements into your campaign.

Class 2: Integrating Social Media into Your Campaign  Are you ready to take your campaign social? What is a successful strategy to spread your campaign message this way?  We'll walk through case-study examples and help you consider applying them to your campaign.

Class 3: Crafting a Digital Campaign (Workshop)  You'll craft a plan, design your components, and write your online fundraising copy.

Module 8: Crafting an Effective Email Appeal Series

Class 1: Elements of Strategic Email Appeals In this presentation-style class, we'll talk about what makes an email fundraising appeal different from a print appeal and how it should be structured for success.  We'll work through examples of actual email appeals and you'll decide where they got it right or got it wrong.

Class 2: Testing, Evaluating, and Reporting This class is a case-study of a first-time email appeal series and how they designed a test to prove whether adding an email series was effective.  We'll talk about ways you can apply these strategies in your own campaign and how to evaluate your email's success.

Class 3: Workshop: Creating Your Email Appeal Series  In this workshop, we'll walk step-by-step through crafting your own email appeal series.

Module 9: Following-up with Your Donors

Class 1: Conducting a Thank-a-thon Here's a step-by-step guide to organizing a volunteer-driven thank-a-thon, including pre-drafted telephone scripts for you to download and customize. We'll walk through a case study that demonstrates why it is worth the time and effort.

Class 2: The Gratitude Video & Email   How to share your post-campaign results and why video is an excellent way to share your gratitude and engage your donors.

Module 10: The Post-Campaign Task List

Class 1: The Evaluation Workshop You'll gather your data and evaluate each individual campaign element, and then see how you did overall. We've included all the formulas and math you need so you won't have to remember.

Class 2: Analysis & Documentation  Take the data and information you've gathered, and determine what it says about your campaign, what you got right and where you have room to grow.  Then you'll put it all together in a report that is easy to understand and apply.

  • This has been an amazing class! I've learned so much already and can't wait to learn more as I work through the rest of the modules.
    Kathy Heath, Director of Development
  • This course was incredibly helpful to me as someone brand new to year end campaigns. I am one of two staff for a small nonprofit with very big goals. Not only was this course an awesome guide, with great templates and how-tos to work from, the instructor, Donna, was nearly always available to answer any and all questions.
    2017 Smarter Year-end Campaigns Course Participant
  • It was extremely helpful! I learned a lot and I appreciated how in-depth it went. I often find that trainings don't provide enough concrete examples, which are what help me learn. This course had a great deal of examples and case studies which were helpful.
    2016 Smarter Year-end Campaigns Course Participant

The 2019 Smarter Year-end Campaigns Online Course

Enrollment for 2019 closes Monday, September 30th.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Smarter year-end Campaigns Course

What is the format of the course?

The course consists of 10 modules, each containing between 2 and 4 video-based classes and workshops that run between 6-20 minutes each. The classes are in-depth, "everything-you-need-to-know" content, but intentionally broken into smaller chunks so that the concepts can be easily digested and tasks can be easily managed step-by-step.  

How is the course delivered?

The course is delivered through our online Learning Management System on the Smart Annual Giving website. Our Learning Management System technology allows you to mark completed courses so that you'll know exactly where you are at all times working through the material. You'll also be able to bookmark notable material and can quickly return to review the most applicable lessons.

The presentations are available to stream from the website page or in full-screen mode. Most classes, particularly those that are workshop-style, have downloadable worksheets and report templates (PDF and Excel) that you'll follow as we move throughout the course exercises. The course materials include a companion PDF guide and workbook to supplement the course video classes and help you apply the material.

The course officially begins on September 4th, with a new module released on select Tuesdays from September through December.  A detailed syllabus will be provided to all course participants.

Who is the instructor?

Donna Mehr, the editor of Smart Annual Giving and course instructor, has over 20 years of nonprofit management experience. She has designed and managed fundraising campaigns for nonprofits of all sizes - from small community organizations to large universities. Donna holds an undergraduate degree from Florida State University and earned her masters degree (focusing on women in philanthropy) from Duke University in 2008. She also holds a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.

Do I have to be present on the exact date of the presentation?  What if I'm not available on a specific date?

You do not have to be present on a specific date and time. The course modules will be released over the span of the course, on specific dates corresponding with our suggested campaign calendar.  

However, we've designed the course to be self-paced and "on-demand" with presentations that you can watch based on your own timeline and schedule.  You don't have to be present on a certain date to participate.  

What if I find out that the course isn't for me?

If within the first 15 days you find the course just isn't what you expected, simply send an email with your feedback and reason why you've requested a refund. We'll refund 100% of your money right away.  It is very important to us that you feel you received much more than your money's worth from your course participation.

How is this course unique?

There's a lot of great information on the art of writing effective annual appeals.  But there just haven't been many places to turn when you need to understand the details and logistics of planning an entire comprehensive campaign.

This course answers all those nagging, hard-to-find-answers-to questions; it tells you exactly what to send, when to send it, how to do it, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. We were never able to find a comprehensive "everything-you-need-to-know" package like this when we needed it. So we created one!

While most year-end campaign webinars and presentations tell you only what you need to do, this course walks you through every detail of how to do it.  From the logistics of using your database to segment your mailing list into multiple appeals, how to design a test of your campaign elements, to calculating and presenting your campaign results. We don't just tell you to do something - we demonstrate exactly how to do it.


  • For over 20 years, Donna Mehr has managed individual fundraising for nonprofits.  In 2012, she founded Toccata Development, LLC and to help nonprofits build strong, systematic annual fundraising programs. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University, a Master of Arts from Duke University, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management also from Duke.
    Course Instructor
    For over 20 years, Donna Mehr has managed individual fundraising for nonprofits. In 2012, she founded Toccata Development, LLC and to help nonprofits build strong, systematic annual fundraising programs. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University, a Master of Arts from Duke University, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management also from Duke.
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Who Should (and Shouldn't) Enroll?

Who is this course for?

  • Development Directors, Executive Directors, Annual Giving Managers, Development Committees, or anyone involved with launching an annual campaign for a small to mid-size nonprofit organization.  If you are ready to grow your annual or year-end appeal or campaign into a more sophisticated, strategic, multi-channel annual campaign, this course is for you.
  • This course will be most helpful for groups with an established list of donors - even a small list - and who are currently using a donor database software system.
  • Even if you don't have the financial or staff resources to implement every campaign component we recommend, but want an in-depth look at where you can and should aspire to grow over the next several years,  this course is absolutely for you!

Who is this not for?

  • This course is much more than how to write a fundraising appeal.  While we will discuss the critical components of a successful fundraising appeal, and go deep into constructing successful email appeals, this course is focused on the logistics, management, and strategy of fundraising campaign production as well as incorporating up-to-date digital fundraising components.
  • This course was developed specifically for small to mid-sized organizations with limited resources.  While much of the course will be informative for larger organizations and universities, especially those with development staff new to annual giving, the course is most applicable to organizations, schools with limited development staff and financial resources.