6 Year-End Fundraising Tips

by Seth Rosen

Year-end fundraising can be critical for the financial health of nonprofits. But what if it’s getting late and you’re just getting started? Here’s a plan…

We’re now entering our most important time of the year. A time when all our financial dreams come true. Right? Right?

I’m sure all of this is true at your nonprofit:

  • Your hard copy solicitations are printed and stuffed, each with a gracious handwritten note from your Executive Director.
  • All of your fundraising emails are perfectly formatted and waiting patiently in the cloud for you to press send. Each email will land at the top of your donor’s inboxes who just happen to already have their credit cards out.
  • Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts are pre-loaded and have videos and hashtags that will surely go viral within 20 minutes of them going online.

To paraphrase Oprah, each of us dream that every November and December we will be living our best fundraising life.

However, let’s be honest. year-end fundraising never looks that perfect.

It reminds me of something that happened to one of our clients last year. Every year, this client sends out lovely holiday cards with personal notes written by their Executive Director. Donors and VIPs love them. It’s a great way to send a personal thank you and it makes a demonstrable difference in donations.

But last year, the cards were ordered on thick glossy paper. They looked beautiful. But there was a problem.

The cards were too glossy to write on! So much for personal notes.

Now, this client had planned a lot of their year-end fundraising strategy early enough to rebound. But what if you’re still trying to decide what to do?

Maybe you only started at your job recently.

Perhaps a staff member quit and now you are picking up the slack.

What are the best credit cards for travel?

Or it could be that you are the only fundraiser and it has been impossible to get ready for year-end while also handling all of your normal fundraising responsibilities.

Trust me, I get it. It happens.

As fundraisers, we are nothing if not flexible. We always rise to the challenge.

For you, I have a last minute plan to help you get it done.


Now let’s get cracking. Here is my week-by-week guide for year-end fundraising success.

This plan is mostly for those who are behind and don’t already have a plan in place. If you are in the weeds and need help, this plan is for you.

If you are already chugging along with your own end of year time-table, great (though you should still review this to make sure you’re not missing anything important.)

Step One: Take a Deep Breath

I believe the best thing I’ve ever written on this blog is my post about how to avoid fundraiser burnout. Before you do anything else, read that post.

Step Two: Say Thank You (Again)

It is vitally important to thank your donors one more time before they get an end-of-year solicitation. Draft a short note of thanks to your email list and send it out from your Executive Director or Board Chair. This doesn’t need to be long or fancy, but it’s vitally important. Make sure this goes out on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Step Three: Drop Everything Else and Write The Solicitation

If you have not written your year-end fundraising solicitation by the week before Thanksgiving drop whatever else you are doing and write it.

It will take longer than you think, and if you wait any longer you are going to feel way too rushed and stressed.

Once you have the version for your hard copy letter done, modify it for email. The email version should be shorter and needs at least one picture.

Your solicitation should drop no later than December 1st. Earlier is even better.

Step Four: Get Those Call Lists Done

As soon as your solicitation is out the door it’s time to start your follow-up calls. These calls are to as many donors as you (and your board) can handle. Each call has three parts:

  • Thank the donor for their past support
  • Briefly tell them how their previous gift was used
  • Ask them to renew at a specific amount

These calls should go on throughout the entire month of December. In my experience calling people is the best way to make sure they make a gift before the end of the year.

Step Five: Send Reminder Emails

Frankly, December is not the time to be timid about asking for money. Send a reminder email to your list around the 15th, and a final reminder on or about December 30th. At the least. There is some evidence that you should be emailing an awful lot more than this.

Step Six: Capitalize On Social Media

While Facebook and Twitter may not be the best way to get money in the door they are perfect channels to remind your list of the great work your organization is doing, they might also be looking to buy Instagram followers. Be sure you are leaning into your social channels and telling your followers about all of the successes you have had in the previous year.

What other end-of-year fundraising tactics have worked for you? Please let me and your fellow fundraisers know on Facebook and Twitter and use the hashtag #EOYFundraising on your posts. I look forward to seeing your responses, and we’ll share your best suggestions on Joan’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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