As we approach the last quarter of 2016, we begin to change our mindset from planning for the year to finishing strong. To think about how we can maximize this season and make the most of what’s been given to us.

One of the most important ways to do that is through the year-end giving appeal – perhaps the most critical donor development effort that all non profits must do. With increased generosity during the holidays, plus the need for donors to meet budgets or secure tax deductions, the year-end offers the perfect opportunity to create urgency, reach donors and get your organization into a strong position for the upcoming year. In fact, according to a 2011 Charity Navigator research report, charities reported that they, on average, received 41 percent of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year!

But with every organization out there vying for funds this season, how do you stand out from the crowd? Follow these four tips to make this year your best year-end ever!

      1. Start NOW.

Sure, it’s still 95 degrees and humid out (at least here in the South!), and you’re probably far more focused on planning your Labor Day cookout than thinking about the end of the year. But creating a great campaign takes months of preparation – first taking time to plan, then time to develop assets, then time to actually run and promote it. Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of December, trying to throw together an appeal in the last two weeks of 2016. Get started now to get the results you truly want.

        2. Give people a reason other than a tax write-off.

Most year-end appeals focus on the oh-so-altruistic motivation of getting a tax deduction – because nothing is more compelling than giving someone other than Uncle Sam your money! Okay, we’re half kidding, but using the tax write-off hook to create urgency can be a highly effective tool and very real reason for donors to give. But don’t stop there. Give your donors a compassionate, emotionally-compelling, life-changing reason to give as well. Tell your story. Reinforce your mission. Create a real movement. There’s no reason your year-end appeal has to be contained to the “December 31 at midnight” formula. In fact, while donations do reach a high in the last few days of the year, many donors cite other factors such as transparency, impact and their relationship with an organization as their primary reason for giving.

         3. Don’t make it all about you.

Another pitfall organizations fall into is using their year-end appeal to talk about everything THEY need. Maybe you are operating at a deficit and need to reach your budget. Maybe you were hoping to buy this or do that or expand here or start there.  Guess what? That’s not your donor’s problem. While there is nothing wrong with presenting a specific need or cause, asking your donors to do something for you is not as compelling as making them the hero and showing them the impact they can have. Make it about your donor and how he or she is making a difference, not about your financial concerns or strategic plan for 2017.

         4. Take an integrated approach.

Don’t be basic when it comes to your year-end appeal. Yes, you should send a direct mail piece with a complementary email, but think about the countless other tools you have available as well: storytelling, social media, graphic design, text messaging and so many more ways to get your message out. Put all of these tools to work, and make them all work together with consistent visuals and a campaign leading up to your year-end ask.

For example, last year, our friends at Reach Youth Global ran a storytelling campaign throughout the holiday season, themed “All I Want”. During this campaign, the organization shared stories from children around the world as they shared their hopes for the holidays: peace, joy, education, family, God, a future. The All I Want campaign was supported by emails, social media graphics and a fundraising platform where supporters could help make these children’s dreams come true by planning fundraisers on behalf of the organization. As the year’s end approached, the organization’s founder, Sal Sberna, planned a fundraiser himself with the goal of raising enough funds to help 20 orphans by the end of the year. After a month of hearing children’s stories, donors were given the opportunity to participate by making a tangible impact on the lives of orphans who needed their help.

This integrated approach, telling stories across various channels leading up the year-end along with the compelling and specific ask, made for a much more engaging campaign than the standard year-end appeal.

If you still feel a little unsure about where to start, we can help, whether you need someone to look over your plan and offer suggestions or you need a complete campaign. Don’t wait to start planning and making this your best year yet!

Digital Growth Strategies