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How to Plan the Perfect Year-End Appeal

14 November, 2019

December is quickly approaching. With it comes not just the holidays, but also the key time to reach out to your supporters with a strong year-end appeal for donations. Did you know that almost one-third of all annual giving occurs in December? In the UK specifically, November and December are the peak months for donations. 

Maybe you have a strategy in place for your end-of-year campaign. Or perhaps this will be your first attempt at a year-end appeal. In this post, we outline five key steps to help you plan a great campaign, including a few creative ideas for how to incorporate charitable merchandise for a memorable and money-raising end to 2019. 

1) Start planning – now!

If you haven’t started planning for your year-end appeal yet, now’s the time to start. The earlier you begin planning, the better. As much as possible, allow enough time to sort all the details in advance, from developing marketing materials to assembling fundraising teams to finalising logistics.

A nonprofit marketing blog suggests seven key components for your planning, including asking key questions early on, such as, what are you trying to accomplish? Or, how will you accomplish your goals? This could be through effective storytelling, paid advertisements or a multi-pronged strategy including outreach, events and merchandise. What communication channels will you use? What resources do you need? These are all big questions, making now the perfect time to start answering them. 

This is also an opportunity to optimise past campaigns and improve upon any lessons learned. For example, perhaps you opted out of digital communications in your 2018 appeal, but you learn that online giving increased in 2018 by 17 percent. Mobile is another consideration for 2019 and beyond. Nearly a quarter of all online donations in 2018 were made via mobile. Is your year-end appeal optimised for mobile?

2) Set Clear Fundraising Goals

After your campaign ends, how will you measure its performance to know if you were successful or not? The key here is to establish clear goals for the duration of your year-end appeal. We suggest that you establish SMART goals – this stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Here’s a bit more about each component:

  • S is for Specific: Focus on the Numbers. While you may indeed want to achieve a goal of “raising as much money as possible,” this doesn’t really say anything and can be challenging to accomplish. 
  • M is for Measurable: Establish Quantifiable Goals. Whatever your goal is, make sure that it’s measurable. Monetary goals are easily measurable as you can confirm exactly how much money is raised through your appeal.
  • A is for Attainable: Be Aspirational but Realistic. If you set a goal that is too lofty, you and your team may start to feel disillusioned or disappointed if you don’t achieve it. 
  • R is for Relevant: Does it Support your Mission? SMART goals should be relevant to the broader objective of your charity. Keep your mission in mind when setting goals and identify objectives that are relevant to your cause and your people.
  • T is for Timely: Duration Can be Long or Short. Set a specific timeframe in which you can achieve your goals. In this case, your year-end appeal campaign might happen during the entire month of December or perhaps on the last three days of the year.  

Setting clear and SMART goals early on will give your team something to work toward and track against from now until the end of the year or even into 2020. For more, please see this earlier post about how to set SMART goals for your charity or campaign. 

3) Create a Fundraising Calendar

Sketching out a calendar for your fundraising campaign can help you see the big picture, while executing on a daily or even hourly schedule. You can use any number of planning tools, including Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar or look online for free templates that you can customise for your charity. 

You might, for example, develop an editorial calendar to help you plan, produce and disseminate compelling content and stories in December. Or maybe you’re planning a drip-style campaign to appeal to a certain segment of people over a set period of time. Your calendar could clearly list dates and deadlines for these various appeals. 

 When creating your fundraising calendar, be sure to consider all the different channels you’ll use, such as email, direct mail, social media or telephone appeals. You’ll also want to be sensitive to strike the right balance here. Note the dates when the solicitation will be sent, and be sure to coordinate these appeals so as not to overwhelm potential donors, but also not be forgotten about during this crucial fundraising time. 

4) Send out your Appeals

Once you have a plan, it’s time to execute it. How do you intend to engage your supporters? While digital strategies are an increasingly critical component of a year-end campaign, don’t forget about the power of direct mail as a complementary activity. It’s often overlooked, but direct mail is a great vehicle to tell the story of your charity and encourage action from people. Families today are inundated with online ads and noise, and often straight-to-home or straight-to-office strategies like direct mail prove to be welcome and effective. In fact, did you know that direct mail provides a higher return on investment above paid search and online display?

 To add value, consider including a low-cost yet high-value merchandise item in your direct mail piece. Opt for small and easy-to-mail items like button badges, totes that fold flat, keyrings, fridge magnets or 2020 calendars, and more. These small tokens don’t cost much, but can go a long way in encouraging donors to donate. For the greatest impact, consider including a personal appeal note from your founder, volunteer or any beneficiary of your charity. Here’s a lovely example from Missing People. Charity fridge magnets like this one provide ample space for your message and are an affordable, long-lasting (average of over years in situ) and visible way to keep your charity’s message top of mind at year-end and well into 2020.

5) Say Thank You

Last but certainly not least, be sure to follow up after your fundraising campaign ends to thank your donors. Be sure to include this in your pre-planning calendar so you don’t forget or wait too long to reach out and acknowledge those who supported you in the previous year. Not only is it important to thank people, but it’s also a great opportunity to stay in touch with people who have demonstrated a commitment to your cause. 

A thank you could be in the form of a public shout-out via social media, especially if you’re thanking a local business or group. Another classy and memorable strategy is to send a special thank you gift along with a personalised letter. 

This might be a special keyring, a foldable tote bag or a bespoke premium quality charity badge, like the below example. In all cases, these small gestures will not only remind your supporters of the value of their contribution, but these wearable and functional items will continue to extend the visibility of your charity well after your campaign ends.  For more, please see this earlier post we did with some creative ideas for thanking supporters.

We hope this post helps you plan the best year-end appeal ever. Start planning now – the more focused and prepared you are, the better chance you have to meet and exceed your goals. And don’t forget about three key days – the last three days of the year. Research shows that 12 percent of all giving happens in the last three days of the year. 

What other ideas do you have for your year-end appeal this year? In your opinion, what other charities do an especially good or creative year-end campaign? Please get in touch with us today; we’d love to hear your ideas and help you plan for a strong finish to 2019!

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