Summer Strategy: Plan Nonprofit Year-End Giving Campaigns Now (2024)

When I worked at Help Heal Veterans, planning year-end campaigns as soon as summer started always seemed strange. But I learned that the most successful campaigns—and we all know how important year-end giving is to nonprofit fundraising—really did get started in the middle of the summer.

Why Plan Year-End Giving Campaigns in the Summer?

There are a few reasons I recommend this summer strategy to nonprofits. You can:

  • Beat the rush. By September, your donors will be overloaded by year-end giving. If you plan your strategy now, you can start promoting the campaign to your supporters and get them excited.
  • Take your time. Summer tends to be a little slower, and you can craft a comprehensive, multichannel campaign that includes messaging for emails and social media, timing of direct mail pieces, and other elements like phone calls or SMS outreach.
  • Clean your data. This is also a great time to focus on data hygiene. You want to dedupe your data and ensure that all mailing lists are accurate and up to date. This will help with email deliverability and saveyou money.
  • Analyze last year end. When your team gets together and talks about your previous campaigns, you’ll quickly get ideas of what worked and what didn’t. I would ask anyone who'd give me an answer for their feedback, and I’d apply it to the upcoming campaigns.
  • Check your tech. I can’t overestimate the importance of the right fundraising software. Personally, I appreciated the native tools that CharityEngine offers. Find a system that will grow with you; it’s painful to have big plans but outdated technology.
  • Bring some donors back. Summer is a great time to reach out to lapsed donors and try to regain their support. Sharing your plans for an exciting year-end campaign can be the hook you need.

Five Steps to Plan Year-End Campaigns

Now that you’re sold on the idea of early planning, I can share the initial steps my team and I took when we were ready to plan our year-end.

  1. Establish Clear Goals. These should be SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) so you can clearly measure your progress and success. These are also metrics you’ll review next year when you’re assessing the effectiveness of this year’s campaigns.
  2. Segment Your Audience. With the right technology, this is easy. You want to group your donors and craft personalized messages that will resonate. At Help Heal Vets, for example, we would send veterans a different message than we would send other constituents.
  3. Craft Your Story. Regardless of how long your nonprofit has been around, there must be a compelling impact story you can share. This story can become the lynchpin of your campaign, so choose one that clearly demonstrates your impact and can encourage donors and prospective donors to give.
  4. Develop a Multichannel Strategy. Not only do different demographics like to be contacted in different ways, but they also donate through different channels (direct mail postcard, clicking on a link in an email or text, answering a phone call). By using various channels to communicate your message, you’re ensuring more people can see it and engage. One person seeing the same message on multiple channels is more likely to engage.
  5. Create a Written Plan. Whether you like to use a fundraising calendar or the project-planning features of fundraising software, document what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and who is going to do it. You could start with social media announcements this summer and then layer on emails and direct mail pieces. You might be planning an event,and you’ll have tasks around that. A comprehensive, detailed plan will help when fall comes and it’s time to go into fundraising overdrive.

Best Practices for Year-End Giving

I’ve seen a few different things work for nonprofits. At Help Heal Veterans, we distributed therapeutic craft kits, so most of our campaigns were centered around those kits and how much they helped veterans. Centering campaigns around your nonprofit’s impact is always a good idea.

Make sure you have a roster of engaged and excited volunteers. Take some time to think about what needs you’ll have at year-end and build a team that can help.

Optimize your donation form and consider adding a matching gifts button. Double the Donation shares that billions of dollars in matching gift funds are unclaimed annually. And people are 84% more likely to donate if their gift will be matched.

Using your website or email, spend some time educating donors about the tax benefits of year-end gifts. It’s one of the reasons there’s always a flurry of donations at year-end, and you want to make sure your donors understand the benefits.

Upgrading current donors and acquiring new donors as recurring givers is the ultimate compliment to your work. Once they commit to this extended relationship effort, make sure you thank them and have a credit card strategy (such as automated monthly donations) to keep them giving.

And, finally, have fun with your campaigns. You want to stand out from the crowd and engage people, so it’s a good time to stretch your creative limits and craft some compelling and memorable ideas.

Year-End Giving, All Year Long

It can seem as though you only get a brief respite from planning and executing your year-end campaigns, but they’re valuable enough to be worth the time. It seems that planning your year-end campaigns gets the rest of your year in order, as you’re suddenly thinking of social media, direct mail, or email pushes you can launch in the spring and summer.

When it’s time to run your planned campaigns, keep an eye on the metrics that align with your goals. One of the greatest things about having real-time data is that you can look at a dashboard, see that engagement is flagging or surging in a channel, and address it immediately. You’re constantly tweaking campaigns to make sure they’re effective—and you raise more money.

If you want to talk year-end campaigns from my nonprofit days, or fundraising platforms from my current days, reach out to our team. And get started with your year-end planning!

Summer Strategy: Plan Nonprofit Year-End Giving Campaigns Now (1)

Summer Strategy: Plan Nonprofit Year-End Giving Campaigns Now (2024)


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