Did you know that year-end giving during November and December is the most profitable part of the year for most non-profits and schools? The average non-profit raises almost a third of its revenue during this time, and an astounding 15 percent or more of its funding occurs on December 31st!
Donors give at year-end for many reasons, including:
- A desire to receive current-year tax deductions
- Excess money left in their philanthropic budget for the year
- Positive feelings and emotions during the holiday season
Every school—including yours—should have a plan in place to run a successful year-end fundraising campaign. This article and its companion worksheet, Four Steps of Year-End Fundraising at Your School, will give you actionable advice to raise more money than ever before.
First: Prepare the Campaign
Remember, year-end fundraising is like any other fundraising “campaign," which means that it should have a theme, a design aesthetic, and a distinct appeal for support.
Why are you asking donors for money at the year-end? What will you do with the money? Why do you need it? How much do you need? Answer all of these questions and create a theme to use consistently throughout the 3-6 week year-end fundraising effort.
Second: Warm-Up Donors
The second phase of your year-end giving campaign is to warm-up donors by introducing them to the theme and the necessity to give. You can do this by any of the following:
- Include information about the year-end campaign in all regularly scheduled newsletters during the final two months of the year
- Create a year-end campaign page on the school's website and highlight it on the homepage
- E-mail the school's potential donor list to introduce the year-end campaign (don't make an ask at this stage, it's a “stay tuned!” message)
- Introduce the campaign on social media
- Create a committee comprised of the school's most committed donors to help spread the word about the year-end campaign
- Introduce the campaign to the board and any other donor clubs, committees, or affinity groups at your school
Third: Make the Asks
This phase will constitute the “meat” of the year-end fundraising campaign. Send out fundraising asks across all communication channels, remembering to stay consistent with the campaign's theme and message.
Here’s what you should do:
- Call top donors to request a gift personally
- Ask board members for a year-end donation
- Send out a snail-mail fundraising letter to current donors asking for a contribution
- Send special postcards or letters (in addition to the letter mentioned above) to all of the school's donor clubs, legacy groups, and affinity groups asking for year-end gifts
- Send out an e-mail fundraising letter
- Make asks on social media, pointing people back to the year-end campaign page on your website
Don’t be shy—it’s ok (and, in fact, preferable) if the same donor gets a letter, e-mail, postcard, and a social media message asking for a year-end gift. Donors forget. They have busy lives. But many of them want to contribute during the year-end giving season, so you need to stay in front of them.
Fourth: Follow Up!
Finally, and very importantly, you need to follow-up with donors to remind them to give. Every donor should get at least one or two reminder e-mails during the final two weeks of December (including one between Christmas and New Year) reminding them to make a gift.
You should also remind people on social media, make follow-up calls after the mailed letter (if you have the staff or volunteers to do so), and if you have the resources, follow-up with a second letter to everyone who didn't give after the first mailing.
Successful year-end fundraising requires persistence. Put together a great theme and message, get in front of donors, and keep reminding them to give. These efforts will pay off with more donations, larger gifts, and more engaged donors.
Don't forget to download the worksheet, Four Steps of Year-End Fundraising at Your School.