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9 steps to help you plan for year-end fundraising

The holiday season is just around the corner and with it comes the season of giving. For nonprofits, this means that your year-end giving season (the time of year you’re likely to see the highest amount of donations) is kicking off soon. Capitalizing on this crucial quarter can set you up for success for the rest of the year if you take the time to craft a solid fundraising plan for your organization. Keep reading for an easy, step-by-step guide to doing it right.

Step 1: Conduct an in-depth audit of your current donation portal

Evaluate your donation portal and website from a donor’s point of view. How long has it been since you’ve overhauled the online face of your organization? Keep in mind that you know your website inside and out, which can inhibit you from objectively assessing your pages. Asking newer members of your team to be part of this first step can help you gain a more objective view.

Step 2: Talk to your current donors

More importantly: listen to your current donors. They constitute your biggest, loudest supporters. As they have the most hands-on experience with your donation process, your supporters will know what they appreciate about your organization and areas that could be improved. There are various ways to obtain quality donor feedback, such as events and surveys. Not only is starting this conversation a great way to see your organization through the lens of your donors, but it also has the potential to boost donor retention and brand loyalty.

Step 3: Set your year-end goal

Ideally, you’ve already determined what your fundraising goal is for the year and are on your way to accomplishing that goal. If not, start by defining your goals for the remainder of the year. What do you want to accomplish? Is it a certain percentage of donor retention? Is it brand recognition? Is it funds raised? If it is the latter, make sure to set a clear dollar amount. How much money do you need to make your mission a reality? What figure will you use to determine a successful year for your organization? Be intentional about this figure and be S.M.A.R.T. (you remember this one; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) about it.

Pro tip: Don’t just set your year-end goals. If you haven’t already, use this time of year to determine your goals for the following year, the year after that, and even the year after that. What are your short-term and long-term dreams for your organization?

Step 4: Develop your case for giving

When you’ve set your goal, conducted your audit and received detailed feedback from your current donors, it’s time to evaluate this feedback and decide if and what you will change about your organization. This step in the process is to develop your story or your case for giving.

During the process, ask yourself questions like:

  • Am I making it as easy as possible for donors to find my website?
  • Am I making the donation process as quick and streamlined as possible?
  • Am I providing a great call to action and quality storytelling that inspires people to support my cause and close the fundraising funnel?
  • Am I effectively telling donors what I am going to do with their money, and being timely about it?
  • Is my website in keeping with my organization’s brand, mission and values?
  • Am I targeting both regular donors and monthly donors?

Self-reflection is never easy, but it is crucial when developing your case for giving. At the end of the day, would you donate to your cause?

Step 5: Decide how you’ll fundraise

You’ve already figured out how much you want to raise, so now you’ve got to figure out each action item that is going to get you there. It can be helpful to attach donation goals to each of your tactics in this process. Some things to think about when honing in on your tactics:

  • What is the best way to reach your audience or audiences? Is it email, events, direct mailing, social media, telemarketing? Make sure to be intentional about which tactics you use, when you use them, why you are using them when you are, and how they specifically will help you reach your goal.
  • How often are you going to send out emails asking for year-end donations?
  • When is your target market most likely to be on social media? Are you going to do any social media advertisements or campaigns to take advantage of this exposure?

Step 6: Set your timeline

Human beings in nature work best with timelines and due dates, so make sure to set them for yourself and your nonprofit. This is a busy time of year for everyone, and timeliness is key. Make sure to set your timeline of important dates like current events, upcoming national or commercial holidays, when you are going to implement each of your tactics, when you are going to send out your asks, etc. When are you going to send out your emails asking for donations? Do you have any holiday events that you should be cognizant of, or that you may be planning something for?

Pro tip: The “season of giving” dialogue will, of course, be saturated this time of year, so make sure to factor this into your timeline so that you are standing out from other nonprofits with vivid imagery and emotional appeals.

Step. 7: Hone in on your strategy

Really focus on specific details. Finalize designs for advertisements and any social media campaigns you may be launching. Create and review the written content for all emails you’re sending out, ensuring that they are on-message and free of anything that would deter donors from your website. How are you going to ask what you’re asking, and why do you believe that will close the donation?

Step 8: Find a matching partner

We’ve already discussed the very saturated giving dialogue that is prevalent this time of year. One thing that can help you stand out from the crowd of nonprofits is to find a matching partner to create greater impact. Reach out to your board members, staff and even volunteers and ask if they know of any corporations who might be willing to become that partner during the holiday season. Approach these companies via phone or email and discuss your vision for what this partnership entails. Donors will give more during this season knowing their dollars are being matched.

Step 9: Define your “thank you”

One of the most important things to do is thank your donors for the incredible ways in which they have contributed to the success of your nonprofit. Make them feel good for doing good. Be sure to create thank you emails and other forms of messaging ahead of time to be sent either immediately after a donation is received or after the season is complete. You might also consider sending out a thank you gift to your biggest donors around this time, or even hosting a holiday event of gratitude for them.

Planning for year-end fundraising can seem like a daunting task, but it is worth it in the long run. Not only can this lead to vastly increased donations to end your year, but it can (and will) help you finish off your year with a bang, and a great start to the next one.

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Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, the fundraising CRM that makes recurring, monthly giving a breeze for small nonprofits.

For over 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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