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10 Proven Fundraising Ideas to Grow Your Year-End Revenue

Published by Nathan Hill
10 Year-End Fundraising Ideas to Grow Revenue - image

Almost every fundraiser or marketer I’ve talked to has a similar story about year-end fundraising: they spend hours and hours coming up with new ideas and new strategies, only to end up doing the same thing they did the year before.

Doing the same thing over and over again will never help you grow your year-end fundraising revenue. You have to try something new.

Here are 10 simple year-end fundraising ideas that you can easily apply to your campaign this year to help grow results – all based on data and results from more than 10 years of fundraising research and thousands of fundraising A/B tests.

Year-End Idea #1 – Don’t be afraid to write a long year-end fundraising email (or a really, really long email)

One of the most common questions about email fundraising is, “How long should my emails be?” Here’s the short answer:

“Your emails should be as long as it takes to thoroughly explain why someone should give to your organization.”

The hard part is understanding exactly how much information is needed for your donor to trust that investing their money in your organization is the right decision.

For example, in this experiment, we started with a really, really long email appeal. We thought that we could condense the same information down into an email appeal that was half the size (maybe even shorter).

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Write a longer email

The results? The shortened email got more clicks, but it saw a 57% decrease in donations. This contradicts every best practice out there.

Here’s the main takeaway: It often takes much more copy than you think to thoroughly explain why someone should give to your organization. Don’t be afraid to write long emails for your year-end fundraising appeals.

Year-End Idea #2 – Ask donors for a phone number, and send a thank-you voicemail afterward

Generally speaking, adding more fields to your donation form is a bad idea – especially if you’re asking for excessive or too personal of information.

But if you don’t ask for a phone number, you can make phone calls or send voicemails to cultivate your donors. And according to a study from GuideStar, donors may give up to 42% more after 14 months if they receive a thank you call from a board member (more on how to make this super easy and scalable in a second).

How do you ask for a phone number without asking for too much information? Make your phone number field optional.

According to our testing, using an optional phone number field doesn’t affect donations. But requiring a phone number can decrease donations by 42.6%.

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Ask for an optional phone number

Once you have the phone number, you need to be able to make some thank-you calls. But depending on the size of your organization, that may seem impossible.

The good news – there are services popping up left and right that will let you send voicemails in bulk to your donors without having to even ring their phones. Obviously, it’s better if you can make a personal phone call, but here are some tools to make it easier:

Year-End Idea #3 – Use content as a bridge to ask for a donation; especially for new donors

It’s tempting to flip all of your communication channels to ask directly for donations during year-end fundraising. But not everyone is going to be ready to give, especially those who have never donated before.

Here’s what I’d recommend…

If you have any acquisition campaigns (free downloads, online courses, email sign-ups, quizzes, petitions, etc), keep them running. But try using what we call an instant donation page as your confirmation page.

In short, the instant donation page becomes your confirmation page after someone submits a form. This page briefly thanks them for downloading your ebook, opting into your email series, or whatever the offer was. But it then pivots into a donation ask, making an appeal related to the original acquisition offer.

The key here is to make sure your donation form is on this page – don’t force people to click again to get there.

Here’s an experiment that illustrates the model, and shows its effectiveness:

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Use an instant donation page

The direct donation ask resulted in zero donations. The content offer to the instant donation page resulted in a 209% increase in clicks and a 1.18% donation conversion rate.

Want to learn more about how to use the instant donation page? You can read a quick blog post about it here. You can download a free template here. Or you can take the free online course (it’s covered in session 7).

Year-End Idea #4 – Don’t use videos to make your year-end fundraising appeal; use them to prime donors for your appeal

People get angry when they hear this, but videos are not the most effective way to ask for a donation. At least not directly. Here’s an example:

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Don't use a video on your donation page

In this case, replacing the video with text that explained the same message led to a 560% increase in donations.

Let me say that again…Removing the video led to a 560% increase in donations!

If you think this is just a one-off example, check out these other experiments showing the same type of result:

If you want to (or have to) use a video in your year-end fundraising, use it as a primer to show your potential donors the value of your organization before you make your appeal like this:

  1. Send it in an email towards the start of your campaign without any donation ask.
  2. Then send a direct ask donation appeal without a video within 2 weeks. 

Year-End Idea #5 – Ask donors to upgrade to a recurring donation when they click to submit their gift

Recurring donors can be up to 4x more valuable than a one-time donor. And with year-end fundraising being the biggest giving season of the year, increasing the rate that donors become recurring donors could make an enormous impact on revenue.

One way we’ve found to help boost recurring giving numbers is to use a pop-up prompt on your one-time donation form. It works like this:

  1. Donors come to your donation page.
  2. They put in all their info for a one-time gift.
  3. They click the button to submit the donation form.
  4. A pop-up appears that asks the donor to upgrade their gift to recurring.

We tested this model and saw a 64% increase in recurring donations – all without affecting the overall donation conversion rate. In other words, we had the same total number of donors, but a larger percentage were recurring donors.

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Use a recurring gift pop-up prompt

Year-End Idea #6 – Use a match to incentivize donors to give now

Your value proposition is the primary way to help a donor know why they should give to you. But we also want to make sure donors know why they should give to you now instead of later.

One way you can incentivize someone to give now is by using a matching challenge. Now, I know this takes some additional work to get a board member or a known major donor on board, but letting a donor know their gift can be matched can go a long way towards increasing donations.

Just look at the experiment below.

Year-end Fundraising Idea - Matching Gift image

In this experiment, this organization tested using a matching opportunity in their email. The copy spent a little more time emphasizing the financial need and then offered the match as a means of helping meet that need.

This organization saw a 50% increase in donations by using a match in their email copy.

Consider how you can use a match during your year-end fundraising campaign – both in your year-end emails and on your donation page.

Year-End Idea #7 – Use a countdown clock to convey urgency in your year-end fundraising

Another tool we have to convey urgency is a countdown clock. Now, there is some research to suggest that introducing a countdown clock too early in your campaign doesn’t make much of a difference.

But using a countdown clock in the last week of your year-end fundraising campaign could increase donations.

In this experiment, the original donation page had no countdown clock. In the treatment, this organization added a countdown clock at the very top of the page.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Countdown Clock image

It’s clear what kind of impact something as simple as a countdown clock can have. In this case, the countdown clock led to a 61% increase in donations.

Year-End Idea #8 – Be careful when using a progress bar and a countdown clock together

Progress bars are another great tool to use to convey a sense of urgency, as well as tap into the “bandwagon effect.” However, using a progress bar and a countdown clock together could have an unintended effect.

In the experiment below, this organization placed a progress bar and countdown clock together at the top of their donation page.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Progress Bars and Countdowns image

Using the progress bar and countdown clock together actually led to a 29% decrease in donations.

One reason this might be is that the progress bar and clock were implemented too early in the year-end fundraising campaign.

It’s possible that the countdown in tandem with the minimal progress towards the goal actually made people think, “Well, my gift is never going to help them meet the goal in that short of time.”

As a result, this combination of tactics may have demotivated people to give.

Year-End Idea #9 – Visually emphasize your desired gift amount

Social proof can be a very strong factor in influencing your donors to give. And one simple way to utilize social proof on your year-end donation page is to emphasize a “most popular” donation option.

One organization put this strategy to the test with a very simple design. They took the default gift option on their gift array and put text above it saying “most popular”.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Social Proof image

Emphasizing the desired gift amount led to a 23% increase in revenue per visitor, and it actually increased mobile conversion by 44%.

*Note: Make sure that you emphasize a gift amount that is slightly higher than your average gift size. If you emphasize a lower amount, you may actually drive down your average gift size.

Year-End Idea #10 – Make sure your donors know their transaction is secure

The last tip I’ll leave you with today is this… make sure your donors know their gift is secure.

In all likelihood, you already have a secure donation page. But just having a secure donation page doesn’t mean your donors know and feel that their information is secure.

One way to emphasize that your donor’s information is secure is to visually set apart their most sensitive information (i.e. credit card fields).

In the experiment below (and many others like it), this organization wrapped their credit card fields in a little gray box. They even placed a padlock icon near the fields to communicate that it was safe to provide the credit card details.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Security image

Visually emphasizing that the donation was secure led to a 14.4% increase in donations.

Take note…these design changes didn’t make the page any more secure. They simply reminded the donor that it was safe to provide their sensitive data.

We just covered a lot of great year-end fundraising ideas. But don’t feel overwhelmed. You shouldn’t feel pressured to use all 12 ideas at once. Even using one or just a few of these ideas can have a dramatic effect on year-end revenue. But there’s only one way to know…

You have to test them out for yourself. And the best (and safest) way to prove whether or not a new fundraising idea will inspire your donors, is to A/B test that idea against a control.

Looking for year-end fundraising email examples? Check out 12 Year-End Fundraising Email Examples to Add to Your Campaign

Need more year-end fundraising ideas?

In the 4-session year-end fundraising certification course, you’ll discover new ideas to craft a successful year-end fundraising campaign for your organization based on years of research and thousands of fundraising experiments.

Activate your free access to the Year-End Fundraising course here.

Have other ideas you’d like to share? Just drop them in the comments below.

Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President, NextAfter Institute.