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For many nonprofits, 45% of annual online revenue comes during the end of year giving season.
With that much riding on the last 45 days of the year, it’s crucial to have a year-end giving campaign that cuts through the clutter to engage your audience, make a compelling case for support, and inspire more donors to give.
Below you’ll find everything you need to run your most successful year-end campaign yet. Each section includes links to learn more and valuable free resources you can download and use today! Let’s dive in!
How to plan a successful end of year giving campaign
It can be challenging to stand out during the year-end giving season. Especially when you’re planning your campaign last minute and basing that plan on guesswork rather than data.
You end up doing what you’ve always done or mimicking what you see other nonprofits doing. Which means your year-end emails look and sound like everyone else’s and get lost unopened in your donor’s inbox.
So it’s important to use a data-based approach to planning your end of year campaign. Not only will it yield better results—it can also help you plan your campaign with confidence and endure a lot less restless nights!
In this section, we’ll look at some important year-end data and then review proven tactics, based on that data, that you can easily slot into your own year-end campaign.
3 year-end metrics to reconsider when planning your campaign
Each year we benchmark the year-end giving performance of a collection of nonprofit organizations that invest greatly in digital fundraising. And each year the trends are nearly universal.
Below you’ll discover 3 key metrics our research has show you should consider when planning your next year-end giving campaign.
1. 45% of annual online revenue comes in during year-end
16.5% of web traffic for the year came in during the year-end season. 1% of that web traffic made an online donation, and those donations averaged $197.
Altogether, this year-end online revenue represented 45% of annual online donations.
Buy if you want this kind of result from your year-end campaign, you have to adopt a digital-first approach based on data and A/B testing to see what resonates with your audience.
2. Giving Tuesday generates a lot of traffic
3% of web traffic for the year-end season came in on Giving Tuesday—the biggest web traffic day of the season. 2% of that web traffic made an online gift with a $141 average gift size.
This suggests that optimizing your website to maximize the visibility and urgency of your campaign can make a big difference in overall year-end giving.
Additionally, Giving Tuesday represented 6% of online year-end revenue. And while this revenue potential is far short of what’s at stake during the last week of the year, it is not an insignificant figure.
So despite all the fundraising gurus out there suggesting you ignore Giving Tuesday, it may be more prudent to simply recalibrate expectations and invest more heavily during the final week of the year (more below).
3. The last week of the year brings in nearly half of overall year-end giving revenue
14% of web traffic for the year-end season came in during the last week of the year. And 2% of that web traffic made online gifts, averaging $301 per donation.
46% of year-end online revenue came in during the last week of the year.
For most nonprofits, this makes it not only the most valuable week of the year-end giving season but of the entire year! So as we said above, while you shouldn’t ignore Giving Tuesday, it might make more sense to invest the bulk of your resources into the final week of the year.
If you can only send a few emails during your year-end campaign, make sure you prioritize the last week of the year in your campaign plans.
4 year-end giving tactics that can boost your revenue this year-end giving season
You can’t get where you want to go doing what you’ve always done. This is as true for fundraising as it is anything else.
So if you want to earn more revenue this year-end season so that you can make as big an impact as possible in the coming years, try these proven year-end giving ideas to innovate your campaign and get better results.
1. Don’t be afraid to write a really long year-end 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.”
Ignore any blanket advice about how “people don’t read.” It’s simply not true. You know who reads long copy? People who are interested in what you have to say!
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. But sometimes the answer is MORE.
For example, in this experiment, we started with a really, really long email appeal. Well we thought that we could condense the same information down into an email appeal that was half the size (maybe even shorter).
The results? The shortened email got more clicks, but it saw a 57% decrease in donations. This contradicts every best practice out there! So don’t be afraid to write long emails for your year-end fundraising appeals, so long as you have something compelling to say or key information to share.
2. Don’t use videos for your year-end appeals, use them to prime your donors
People get angry when they hear this, but our research has found that videos are not the most effective way to ask for a donation. At least not directly. Here’s an example:
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:
- Experiment #3970 – Removing the video increased donations by 203%.
- Experiment #1985 – Adding a video decreased revenue by 81%
If you want to (or have to) use a video in your year-end fundraising, there are two steps to using your video as a primer to show your potential donors the value of your organization before you make your appeal:
- Send it in an email towards the start of your year-end campaign, without any donation ask.
- Then send a direct ask donation appeal without a video within 2 weeks.
3. Try using a survey in one of your year-end emails
The survey you send won’t ask for money. It isn’t an appeal. Instead, 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 this approach, with 50% of the file receiving a direct ask, and the other 50% receiving a survey that led to a confirmation page containing an ask, instead, we found that the treatment group who received the survey displayed a 688% increase in clicks.
That is not a typo — 688% percent increase in clicks!
But, you know, we’re not just 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.
A bonus benefit of sending a survey is that it can provide really good insight into what your donors care about, especially if you leave one question with an open field.
4. Ask year-end donors to upgrade to a recurring gift during the donation process
Recurring donors can be up to 4x more valuable than one-time donors. And with year-end fundraising being the biggest giving season of the year, increasing the rate that donors become recurring donors could have an enormous impact on long-term recurring 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:
- Donors come to your donation page.
- They put in all their info for a one-time gift.
- They click the button to submit the donation form.
- 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.
Putting the tactics above into play could help you seriously grow revenue during your year-end giving campaign. Want even more ideas to optimize your year-end fundraising?
How to write year-end fundraising emails that inspire donors to give
As a fundraiser, you wear a lot of hats — connecting with potential donors, organizing events, understanding donor data, thanking new donors … the list goes on and on.
Not to mention planning and executing your actual fundraising campaigns.
With all of those competing priorities, getting the time to sit down and write a year-end appeal that gets your donors’ attention can be a real challenge.
But when you think about it, if you want to make the impact you signed on to make, those year-end emails are some of the most important emails you’ll ever write.
And when it comes to advice for creating effective year-end emails, you deserve simplicity and clarity. And you deserve strategies that go beyond “best practices,” proven by research and testing to get the open, earn the click, and win the donation.
The 3 tactics outlined below (plus 6 more linked here) will help you write higher converting year-end appeals, even if you’re a busy fundraiser wearing one-too-many hats.
3 proven ways to write persuasive year-end fundraising emails
These tactics for writing better year-end emails will help you engage your donor, hold their attention and effectively call them to give.
1. Say hello and call your year-end donor by name
Begin your email copy by saying hello and calling your donor by name. This might sound overly simplistic, but the implications are profound.
If people give to people (they do), then you’ll want to start your email off like a conversation. You might use a warm greeting or conversational language such as:
- Hope you’re doing well.
- I wanted to share something with you this morning.
- Something came up that I thought you should know about.
This can lower your donor’s defenses and set a personal tone for the rest of your year-end fundraising email.
In this email salutation experiment, a nonprofit wondered what impact it would have if they called simply said “Hi” and called their donor by their name to start the email.
This simple tactic led to a 270% increase in people clicking through to the landing page.
2. Propose a solution
Think about it. When people make transactions online, they’re used to receiving something in return. Explaining the problem is so important … but it isn’t enough.
Your donors need to hear (and believe) that when they donate to your cause their money will be used to help achieve a real solution.
In this email messaging experiment, a nonprofit wondered if taking more of a direct approach to their fundraising email appeal would lead to greater giving.
They present a clear problem & clear solution. And they position the donor’s voice as that clear solution.
The result? The direct appeal outperformed the soft-donation ask and increased donations by 246%.
3. Articulate the donor’s impact
This section is one of the most critical. To see significant donations and conversions from your year-end fundraising email, your donor needs to understand how they can make a meaningful impact.
How does a $100 donor impact the problem and solution when your year-end goal is $1 Million?
Use plenty of copy to help answer key questions your donors may have:
- Who will my donation impact?
- What will it do for them?
- What kinds of programs or services does my gift fund?
- How quickly will my donation be put to use?
You may consider using “gift handles” to explain what certain dollar amounts will accomplish. For example: $50 feeds a family for a month; $100 feeds a family for 2 months; $600 feeds a family for half a year; etc.
In this experiment on how to illustrate the impact of a donation, this organization tested using a story-driven approach. Instead of simply stating the need and a call-to-action, they used a series of stories to illustrate the impact a donation would make.
The result? This story-driven approach led to a 52% increase in donations.
These 3 tactics alone can dramatically improve response rates during your year-end fundraising campaign. If you want to see even more data-based strategies for writing year-end emails, click below for some of our most impactful learnings on sending better end of year appeals.
How many fundraising emails to send during your year-end giving campaign
Most organizations send four emails in December. Why is that?
Is that the perfect, magic number of year-end emails to send?
The idea of a “magic number” of emails in a campaign is a myth. But with data-based insights in your own organization, with your own offers, and your own audience…
The optimal number of year-end emails for your audience is very real.
And there’s only one way to find the optimal number of emails to send during your year-end campaign:
So, let’s take a quick look at what’s going on beneath the surface in the quest to stand out by finding the optimal email frequency.
Optimizing email frequency begins by optimizing email relevance
If you just test frequency on its own, what you’re really testing is your donors’ patience … with you. To locate the limit, you have to surpass it. I doubt that’s a test you want to run.
To find the optimal frequency, we need to optimize email effectiveness. Think of it like solving for peak value vs. solving for peak apathy.
We want to find the peak value we can add with email, not just how close we can push our subscribers to the cliff’s edge before they voluntarily hurl themselves over just so they don’t have to read another email from you. See the difference?
The key to email effectiveness is relevance.
The truly perfect number of year-end emails
There isn’t a “magic number” of campaign emails your should send. But there is an optimal number. And that number depends on the quality of your email and the condition of your relationship with your subscribers.
And the best way to improve your “sender reputation” is by maximizing the relevance of your emails, especially during your year-end campaign.
Not every email can be an appeal. If you want to hold you donors’ attention, you have to deliver peak value.
Send more emails that are relevant, and you’ll score a double victory in your end of year campaign: you’ll stand out and you’ll deepen the relationship with your donor.
Remember: Relationship requires relevance. Relevance dictates frequency. More emails will make you stand out, but effective emails will make you stand out in the way you want.
5 ultra-persuasive fundraising emails to send in your end-of-year giving campaign
The 5 year-end email examples below will help you better engage your donors and win more donations by communicating value, illustrating impact, and using urgency to ratchet up your powers of persuasion.
- The “Year-End Overview” Email
- The “Testimonial Pass-Along” Email
- The “Accomplishments” Email
- The “December Holiday” Email
- The “Only Days Left” Email
Each of these emails can help improve the performance of your year-end campaign … let’s take a closer look at how each of these emails work and examples to get you started.
1. The Year-End Overview Email
Category: Fundraising Appeal
When to Send: A week after Giving Tuesday
Summary: This year-end email example is foundational to your entire year-end campaign and may in many ways resemble your campaign donation page. It’s a chance for you to clearly convey what is at stake heading into the new year. And then you can clearly ask donors to give and to make a meaningful impact.
Here’s a brief outline to follow as you write this year-end fundraising email:
- Say hello and call your donor by name
- Explain what is at stake in the new year (i.e. goals, challenges, opportunities, etc.)
- Share evidence of the impact your organization has made to help build trust
- Announce a matching opportunity, incentives, and the year-end deadline
- Clearly ask them to donate
2. The Testimonial Pass-Along Year-End Email
Category: Fundraising Appeal
When to Send it: Mid-December
Summary: Want to build instant credibility with potential donors? Share a story of impact. Rather than telling your donors how great it is to give, testimonial can help you show them what kind of an impact their support can make through a compelling true story.
If possible, you could even send this email from the person who has been impacted. The more you can do to build credibility and trust the better.
Finally, close this email by asking your donors to make this type of an impact with their donation.
3. The Accomplishments Year-End Email
When to Send it: Mid-December
Summary: The goal of the accomplishments email is to prove to your donors that their hard-earned (and generously donated) money will be put to good use.
This is not about how wonderful your organization is – but rather how much impact your donors can make.
Show your donors a list of major accomplishments from the past year that have been made possible by their generosity. Thank your donors for all they have done to make these accomplishments possible. Even if they haven’t donated yet, give them the credit!
And finally, do not ask for money. You could put a soft donation ask in a post script, but don’t make the donation ask the center point of the email.
4. The December Holiday Year-End Email
When to Send it: On or near your preferred holiday (see the notes below for more detail)
Summary: Every organization will have a different approach to the December Holiday Email.
If most of you donors celebrate Hanukkah, you’ll want to send this email around Hanukkah as a way to touch base and build a relationship. If most of your donors celebrate Christmas, try sending this email on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If your donors celebrate a mix of holidays, send a more generic “Happy Holidays” email.
Regardless of which holiday(s) you recognize, this is a chance for you connect with your donors around your shared values. They may be religious and faith-based values. Or you could simply wish your donors joy and peace during a busy holiday season.
The point is this: connect with your donors without asking for money, remind them of your shared values, and wish them a happy holiday.
5. The Only Days Left Year-End Email
Category: Fundraising Appeal
When to Send it: Last week of the year
Summary: At last, we’ve reached the last week of the year. There are lots of ways you can maximize donations during the last week of the year. And they all revolve around creating urgency.
Ideally, you’ve been explaining why a donation is critical and impactful all season long. The last week of the year is the time to remind donors of the deadline and incentivize them to give now.
Use the email to recap and summarize the most important challenges and opportunities at stake in the year ahead. Commit to tackling these challenges and making an important impact. And then clearly ask your donors to give, reminding them of the deadline.
Create a compelling end-of-year donation page that convert
One of the most common mistakes online fundraisers make when planning their year-end campaign is assuming that your general donation page is good enough to use for all of your fundraising efforts.
And on one hand, it makes sense:
- All your tracking is consolidated into one page.
- Any updates you make affect all your campaigns.
- You only have to ever send your donors to one URL.
So what’s the problem?
All these are focused on the needs of your organization, not the needs of the donor.
The truth is, having only one donation experience for all initiatives will keep your donors and potential donors from being as generous as they could be. And your cause will pay the price.
Building a campaign donation page is the firs step to creating a catered experience for donors that aligns with the messaging in your appeal emails, explains why it’s so important to give now, and ultimately motivates more people to donate.
7 elements of a year-end campaign donation page
If someone isn’t navigating to your website to make a donation on their own, you should probably be using a campaign donation page. These types of pages are used whenever you are specifically asking someone to make a donation.
7 ways to build an effective campaign donation page
- Get rid of the navigation at the top of your page. And please don’t put a “Donate” button that jumps your visitor right to your form. It sounds like a good idea, but it decreases donations.
- Don’t over-invest in design. As long as your page is readable, additional design elements rarely make a significant difference.
- Clearly spell out the effect of someone’s donation right in the headline.
- Try using either a progress bar (showing how close you are to a fundraising goal) or a count-down clock to a specific giving deadline. But don’t put them both in the same spot.
- If you use a background image, make sure it’s directly related to the reason why someone should give.
- After your headline, write in introductory paragraph that relates to the specific reason someone clicked through to your page. (Your email call-to-action, for example.)
- Don’t use videos. I know most people hate hearing that, so here are 3 times we tested using copy instead of a video and increased donations by 203%, 342%, and 560%.
How to get Giving Tuesday right during your year-end campaign
In 2022, Giving Tuesday accounted for 6% of all year-end revenue.
And while that just scratched the surface of total year-end giving, it’s not an insignificant figure. So you may want to ignore those talking heads saying you should skip Giving Tuesday this year.
Let other organizations skip it—more donations for you!
Giving Tuesday is also a great time to kick things off and begin priming your audience for the busy giving season ahead. But the key to getting Giving Tuesday right is setting yourself apart.
Because your donors are getting absolutely slammed with donation appeals that day. The competition will be fierce. So you have to stand out.
You can’t fall into the trap of thinking that Giving Tuesday is enough motivation for someone to give in and of itself. But the truth is that a day of the year isn’t a reason to give.
Your donors may be primed to give because they are familiar with the day … they may even like giving on that day for the communal experience. But you must give them just as compelling a reason to give as you would at any other time of year.
Below you’ll find 3 Giving Tuesday emails you can send to stand out from the crowd, communicate your value proposition (why someone should give to you), and start getting better response rates and more donations during your next year-end campaign.
3 fundraising emails to send for Giving Tuesday
To help you make a plan for Giving Tuesday, here’s a simple 3-email timeline that you can use to raise more money from your own Giving Tuesday appeals.
Email 1 – November 26th
GivingTuesday begins before Tuesday. Try getting a head start on your Giving Tuesday campaign by sending your first email on November 26 – the Sunday before.
This is something we call priming. You’re preparing your donors for a bigger ask by reminding them about your organization and the purpose of your campaign.
This email is meant to educate donors on the significance of Giving Tuesday (they may not know what it is), announce any match or goal you may have, and finally calling on them to participate immediately.
Yes, it isn’t Giving Tuesday quite yet, but if you don’t give them the opportunity to donate now, then they might not donate at all. And remember: the idea here is to give a little more than, “hey it’s giving Tuesday so could you make a gift, please?”
Here are some key things to include in this email:
- Acknowledge their name and the reason for your email (Giving Tuesday is coming)
- Educate them on the day itself and why it’s important for them to participate
- Ask them for a donation now as a result of your shared values
- Announce a match (if available)
Email 2 – November 28th (morning)
Your next email will actually be sent out on Giving Tuesday.
In the morning on November 28th try sending an email without an ask.
Instead, provide a free offer and ask them to get the offer in exchange for their email address.
Now you may be thinking – “but I already have their email.”
I know you do. But by asking them to go through a process before getting a free offer, you’re adding even more value to the offer.
This is crucial when you reach the next step in the process – an instant donation page.
Once they fill out their information to receive the free offer, quickly thank them and then make your ask.
Now that they’ve received something from you for free and they had to put some effort in to get it, they should feel gratitude and more encouraged to donate.
The key things in this email should be:
- Acknowledge their name, their time, and their contribution
- Call them to download something free that you’ve made especially for them, as a way of showing your own participation in Giving Tuesday
- DO NOT ask for money in the email or on the email acquisition landing page
- Follow up by asking for a donation immediately after they have accepted your free offer (confirmation page)
Email 3 – November 28th (evening)
Finally, it’s time to make the big ask.
In the evening on November 28th, try sending an email reminding them of the significance of Giving Tuesday, ignite urgency, and ask them to donate now.
This email will be pretty similar in structure to the first one you sent, but now you’ll make your ask and close the deal.
Here are the key things that should be in this third email:
- Acknowledge their name and the reason for your email (reminder)
- Remind them of what’s at stake, as well as the physical deadline
- Make a direct donation ask
Giving Tuesday fundraising email subject line examples
Just to state the obvious…
Before someone can engage with your appeal email, click, and hopefully make a donation … they have to open it. Which means you can’t just mail it in when it comes to writing your subject lines.
This is especially true during the end of year giving season in general and even more so on Giving Tuesday, when the competition in your donor’s inbox is fiercest.
But if you receive Giving Tuesday appeals in your own inbox, you may begin to notice that they all have very similar subject lines. “You can make a difference.” “It’s Giving Tuesday.” “We need you.” etc.
Subject lines like that are easy to ignore. So to help you cut through the clutter on Giving Tuesday, here are 3 subject line examples that you can use as a starting point for writing your own!
1. Focus on impact
Use the subject line to demonstrate impact right out of the gate.
Whether you do that by agitating the problem, proposing a solution, or demonstrating accomplishments, use your subject line to get your readers attention by cutting right to the heart of something they care about — your cause.
And remember to keep it donor focused. Use “you” instead of “we.”
2. Say their name
By addressing your donors by name you get their attention and really make them feel like they’re receiving a personal email from a friend — or at least a person.
Once I received an email with the subject line, “How are you doing, Riley.” I thought it was my mom.
But I guess HomeGoods just wanted to make sure I was still filling every available nook and cranny of my home with warm, homey decor!
Nevertheless, the data shows that I’m not the only one who is enticed by my own name. This organization saw a 12% increase in their email open rate when they included the recipient’s name in the subject line.
3. Add a little bit of… spice
You should try using mystery to get the attention of your donors.
The experiment below isn’t from a Giving Tuesday email but similar to example 2, it brings humanity to the email subject line. Think about it. When we receive emails from colleagues or friends, it’s usually so clear, it’s vague … as if you, the recipient, already have the context that is being left out.
This tactic of creating mystery in your subject line makes it very hard to ignore your email. As humans, we want to “close the loop” when our curiosity is piqued and in this experiment using mystery in the subject line increased the open rate of the email by 11%.
On Giving Tuesday, when so many nonprofits are sending emails with subject lines that practically scream, “THIS IS AN APPEAL!” using a subject line that mimics the mystery found in personal emails may be able to pay off big.
And there you have it. An ultimate guide for the ultimate giving season.
Use the tactics, examples, and strategies outlined in this guide to year-end giving to plan revenue-lifting year-end campaigns with the cool, collected confidence of a year-end fundraising genius!
Ready to take your year-end giving campaign to new heights? Click below to start your free 30-day trial of NextAfter Institute and take our in-depth course on year-end fundraising completely free of charge!