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Year-End Dash: Winning the Fundraising Race with Supermarket Sweep

Published by Rebekah Josefy

Shoppers, let’s start the clock because it’s time to learn how you can win your year-end fundraising race

You may already be thinking, “What does year-end fundraising have to do with the 90s game show Supermarket Sweep?”

Let’s look at three taglines from the show, and you can decide if you’ve ever felt the same way about your year-end fundraising.

So the first tagline is “Race against time to grab the priciest items you can find.” Have you ever felt like that at year-end?

What about this tagline? “A frantic free-for-all all to find the most expensive items (or the most valuable donors) to fill your cart.”

This third tagline might really resonate with you. “Run wild down the aisle.” Have you ever felt like your team is running wild sending email appeals to your file at year-end?

The Last 45 Days of the Year

So we can already see some correlation between Supermarket Sweep and year-end fundraising.

Another correlation is that a lot of contestants on Supermarket Sweep have the same go-to strategy.

There are some aisles that are the most popular. The contestants are going for the same items.

And we also see that in the nonprofit fundraising space. For instance, most organizations tend to all show up on the same aisles: Giving Tuesday and December 31st.

But you also want to consider the surrounding days, not just focus on these two popular aisles, right?

So we actually did a research study with our friends at Virtuous looking at how nonprofit organizations communicate with their online and their offline donors at year end.

Through this study, we learned that about 45 percent of the average nonprofit’s total online revenue for the year comes in during those last 45 days of the year.

That’s why this is so important.

And that’s why we want to help you achieve your goals during those 45 days.

When we look at these two days—Giving Tuesday and December 31st—they’re very popular aisles. But there are some aisles that might be more worthwhile to spend your time on. 

In the research, we found that for the average nonprofit (when we look at the last 45 days of year-end), about 6% of online revenue during that window comes in on Giving Tuesday.

Now when we look at December 31st, we see closer to 50% of your year-end revenue coming in on that last day of the year. So what does this mean?

It means that when we compare Giving Tuesday and December 31st, 334% more revenue comes in on December 31st than does on Giving Tuesday.

And when we expand that window of comparison to a full week, December 25th through the 31st, we see 942% percent more revenue brought in during that final week of the year than what comes in on Giving Tuesday.

But we didn’t just analyze these two days in the study; we looked at the full 45-day window.

And that brings me to what I want to share with you today: there are three key findings from this research study that will help you identify three strategic items you can put in your year-end fundraising cart. 

So we know the popular aisles. Everyone’s already doing something for Giving Tuesday and December 31st. But I want to show you a couple of other aisles that you can also explore.

Aisle 1: Multichannel Communication

The first “aisle of opportunity” uncovered in our research is that 65% of organizations did not communicate with their online and offline donors via multiple channels.

What does that mean? 

It means if I give online, you’re only talking to me via email and online. Whereas if I give through direct mail, you’re only talking to me through direct mail. So we’re not crossing those channels. We’re not talking to our email donors via postal and vice versa. 

So, we’re going to do a little Supermarket Sweep, and we’re going to put a postcard in our cart for year-end fundraising. And why would we do that? Why do we want to add a postcard to our cart? 

Because when we tested this, 50% of the file, (the control) did not receive a postcard in November ahead of calendar year-end.

The other 50%, (the treatment group) did receive a postcard, even though they gave online. We sent them a postcard in November, just saying “hi” and “thank you for your support.”

And what we found was that there was a 204% increase in donor conversion from the treatment group that received the postcard compared to those who did not.

So I’m going to put that in my cart for sure.

Aisle 2: Survey Appeal Emails

Now I’m going to take you to the second aisle of opportunity. Let’s put a survey email in our cart!

But the survey doesn’t ask for money. The survey asks your donors and your email subscribers about their opinions … their thoughts, their feelings, and their feedback.

And why would we do that? Because when we tested it, 50% of the file received a direct ask, and then we put the other 50% in a treatment group and sent them a survey instead.

And what we found when we sent that survey to the treatment group was there was a 688% increase in clicks.

That is not a typo — 688% percent increase in clicks!

But, you know, we’re not really concerned about clicks. We want to know, was there more revenue?

Well, it turns out there was a 126% increase in donations as a result of all the extra traffic that came through the file when we sent them that survey. So we’re adding the survey to the cart!

Aisle 3: Content Offer

Now we’re going to go to your third aisle of opportunity. Our year-end research evaluated over 120 nonprofits and how they communicate with their online and offline donors. 

The majority were not cultivating their donors during year-end, meaning they were only showing up in the donor’s inbox when they needed to ask for a gift.

But what would happen if we added a content offer to our cart?

But not just any content offer, a FREE content offer.

What is a free content offer? It’s anything of value you can give away to your file for free. 

So it could be an ebook, it could be a petition, it could be a pledge, it could be something that asks them to fill out a statement of beliefs to see if they align with your organization. It could be an online course. 

So what does this look like?

You’re going to create a free content offer, you’re going to send it out through an email, an advertisement, maybe even a postcard with a QR code, and you’re going to send your donors to a landing page where they have the opportunity to exchange their email address for the thing of value you’re providing.

And then, yes, we are going to ask them for money after they’ve completed the survey. So, we’re going to ask them to make a gift in context with the content we know they just requested and received and said, “Yes, this is something I agree with or care about.” So, why would we add a free content offer to our basket?

Because again, when we tested it, we discovered that when we sent cultivation emails to our treatment — and remember, our research study showed us over half of the organizations studied weren’t sending cultivation emails during those last 45 days of the year — then examined how their giving behavior changed over a 6-month timeframe, based on just changing how much cultivation they were receiving, there was a 42% increase in online revenue.

So cultivation is going in our cart.

Wrapping Up

So, that’s three items.

  1. Multi-channel communication
  2. Surveys
  3. Cultivation

Now we’ve filled up the cart.

But I want to give you one extra helpful hint as you get started planning. If you are a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, it might behoove you to do some research ahead of time. So if you’re running to the gourmet cheese aisle, you know which one to grab, which is going to add value to your cart, right?

So I want to challenge you as a fundraiser: are you doing your research before you start running wild down the aisle? Because you want to know what’s most valuable to your organization? Where are those donors coming from? Does it make a difference if they were online-acquired or offline-acquired? 

And I’ll tell you that our research has shown, again through this study, that multi-channel donors can be up to three times more valuable than an online-only donor or an offline-only donor.

So some of you are already doing your research, right? There may be others of you who are worried because you just realized you’re quickly running out of days left until December 31st. 

But don’t panic. We have tons of free resources to give you so that you’re not starting from scratch.

We want to send you to these aisles of opportunity equipped to know what you can put in your cart that would be helpful.

So we have a Year-End Fundraising Online Course, we have year-end fundraising timelines, we have email appeal templates to help you craft better appeals. We even have an 8-point Donation Page Friction Checklist to help you make the donation process on your donation pages as effortless as possible.

So, when you are at your year-end checkout line and you hear that beep, I want you to remember how much fun you had learning from Supermarket Sweep.

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This content was originally shared at the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit. To watch the session and others like it, head to

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Published by Rebekah Josefy

Rebekah Josefy is an Optimization Director at NextAfter.