Got Plans?

By: Nadine Gabai-Botero, CFRE, President

July 13, 2021

Each year around this time - deep mid-summer, barely post-July 4th -- I start thinking about year-end. You should be too. Especially this year, when there’s still so much uncertainty in  giving as we emerge from Covid times. Whether you have a broader list of first-time donors from 2020 you’ll want to renew, it’s become more challenging to connect with your major donors, or you need to reframe why giving to your organization now is vital (or all of the above), you’ve got to think through your year-end plan now to make sure you get the support you need.

Why Now!? 

I know, it seems early. And it is. That’s the point. There are many details around year-end, especially if you plan for a multi-channel effort that starts in November or even late October. Below are some key elements to consider and strategies you may want to try this year, as well as things to do in early fall to ensure your donors feel connected to you and your organization’s mission well before their year-end solicitation arrives. The most important thing? Get started on your plan by August!

Where to Focus 

Your year-end plan should be comprehensive and, while you may be the one driving efforts, you want to make sure to get input and buy-in from those supporting you including anyone working on major gifts, marketing/communications, events, as well as the board and development committee. 

Before we dive into what you should be doing this summer to prepare for year-end, it’s important to think about the messaging and stewardship you should be doing now so that you’re strengthening your connection with your donors in advance of a November or December ask.  From promoting year-end giving in your membership renewals or sustainer thank you letters; in regular emails to donors and supporters planned for late summer or early fall; messages on your website; and in your fall/winter newsletter, make sure to highlight year-end early and often.

To build your year-end plan, you should definitely build off what you’ve done before. I like to create a spreadsheet that details key elements, using questions to guide action steps:

  • What do you want to convey to your donors about the year, your goals, and how they can help? Will you have a specific goal for year-end (it’s a best practice to have one!) How will you focus attention on what your constituents need most and how you are able to provide it? Most importantly -- in all your messages -- make sure your donors/prospects are central to your story. Their support makes your work possible!
  • Which elements will you include? 
    • Can you secure a match challenge? Studies have shown that having a match can increase giving by 20% or more, so if you can identify a donor willing to put up a match - make the ask! If possible, pool matches together to create a bigger challenge. And, think about timing: some match challenges could time out in November or early in December while others could focus on Dec. 31. This is a great way to boost giving early and later in your campaign. 
    • Do you want to send a mailed letter? If so, will it be to a majority of your list or just a segment of your major donors/prospects? How will the letter and envelope design be distinctive? A plain envelope at year-end is much more likely to end up in the recycle bin so think about how you’ll stand out. Do you need to secure a mailhouse? If so, do this soon! Think through your timing for direct mail: earlier in November can have a better chance at getting noticed.
    • How many emails will you send, and how much can you segment? (Notice I didn’t say “will you send emails/will you segment” -- these are a must!) While there is no set “magic number” of emails to send, you should plan on multiple messages that build on each other to tell your story, culminating with a few messages on the last few days of the year.
    • What’s your Giving Tuesday plan? Each year this worldwide giving day breaks new records, and 2020 was no exception. According to Charity Navigator, last year, 34.8 million people gave a total of $2.47 billion to U.S. nonprofits (a 29% increase over 2019 giving totals!). Given the power to galvanize support early in the year-end season, make the most of Giving Tuesday by coming up with a set goal and securing a match just for that day; developing a story/graphics to use social media effectively; incorporating Giving Tuesday into a mailed piece in advance of the day (if you have the budget); and reaching out to some key supporters with bigger followings in advance of the day and ask them to amplify your messages. 
    • How will you use social media to drive giving? Some nonprofits have a bigger following than others, so if you don’t have a big presence you may not think it’s worth it to incorporate Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter in your year-end plans. If you have a social presence at all, we suggest including this as a way to inform your followers, build on the letter/emails you're sending, and incorporate a creative element to your messages. 
    • Who will you call? Typically, we suggested phone outreach for major donors, but depending on the willingness of your board or others to help out, you could expand that list.
  • What is your follow up plan? By the second week of December, all of your emails for the month should be written and in the queue to send. That should leave time for the personalized outreach by you, key staff, and board members. This could be emails or calls to folks who haven’t responded or new social media messages crafted on the fly to freshen up the campaign. Remember that follow up is vital to a successful campaign, so keep your eye on responses, look for donors/prospects you expected to hear from, and reach out!

I’d love to hear about your plans for year-end and answer any questions you may have. Reach out to schedule your complimentary 30-minute session with a Focus consultant!