Maximizing giving in the most wonderful time of the year
By Ann Fisher
Director of Annual Giving, Leadership Annual Giving and Data Services, Michigan Medicine
It is that time again, that special time of year for nonprofits: the season of giving. Starting in November and continuing through the end of the year, many charitable individuals will be making their giving decisions. Nonprofits must be sure to be front and center in the minds of their donors if they want to maximize the potential this time of year has to offer. Here are a few tips on how to make your year-end giving a cause for celebration.
Tip 1: Mail: Hopefully, most of you already have your year-end mailings in production, because timing is everything. Ideally appeals will hit mailboxes just before Thanksgiving. This timing is essential, because postal delivery can slow down significantly during the holiday season, and you want to give your donors ample time to respond. If you have not begun your mailing yet, there may still be time if you move quickly. To reduce production time, consider going with an unsigned statement style piece, or a simple letter with a signer that will be quick with approval. If time and budget allow for it, try to include either a tagline or image on the outer envelope to make your piece stand out in mailboxes.
Tip 2: GivingTuesday: You cannot think of a season-of-giving strategy without considering GivingTuesday. Created in 2012 to encourage people to be charitable, GivingTuesday falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Using the umbrella of GivingTuesday can help amplify awareness, particularly for smaller organizations. The GivingTuesday organization provides easy-to-use toolkits on its website (givingtuesday.org) to give nonprofits a roadmap for success.
There are a few keys to making GivingTuesday successful for your organization. Make sure what you are asking your donors to support is tangible. GivingTuesday is not the time to focus in on more undefined areas of support, like annual funds. Instead, find funds that have clear impact and be ready to articulate that impact in your GivingTuesday messaging. Another key to success is leveraging all your channels to amplify the messaging. Emails should be a series leading up and into GivingTuesday, social media ads and posts should be run during the same timeframe. Phone calling campaigns and text messaging on GivingTuesday can help yield even more giving. Finally, if you can secure a match or a challenge, it will motivate even more donors to participate in your GivingTuesday efforts.
Tip 3: Emails: As we move into December, it is time to ramp up our email marketing efforts to donors. Statistics show that most nonprofits will receive around 30 percent of their giving in the month of December, with the last few days of the year being the strongest. Email is the best way to get the message — and the all-important link to your giving site — out to the donors who have waited until the last minute to give.
Like GivingTuesday, consider sending a series of emails to promote year-end giving. The initial messages will yield some giving but serve more of a marketing tool to create awareness. Your last email will bring in the most donors and revenue, but do not think you can skip the other ones because you will decrease the results of your last email as well as lose the donors and revenue from the other emails you did not send. There is no magic number of how many emails to send in each campaign, but based on marketing principals, three should be the minimum, with the last one coming out early on December 31 for those last-minute donors.
As for content, keep these emails short and to the point. Create a sense of immediacy, not urgency, to get your donors to respond. Also, do not make your subject line an afterthought. People determine what emails in their inbox to read in large part based on the subject line, so be sure to put some thought into that little sentence.
Tip 4: Social Media: Remember, annual giving is really a form of marketing. The more opportunities to get our messages out, the better. Social media is a cost-effective way, particularly for smaller organizations, to get their messaging out. With a small investment, often as little as a few hundred dollars, you can boost posts and run targeted ads selecting audiences based on various demographics, from location to age, gender and even areas of interest.
One final thought. The season of giving is a wonderful time of year for nonprofits, but it is also a great time of the year for donors, too. If our messages are thoughtful, well timed, and full of impact, our donors should experience the joy that comes from giving and we will have given them a gift in return.
ABOUT GOBEL SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS: GOBEL Subject Matter Experts are healthcare philanthropy professionals working in some of the top shops in the country, sharing best practices and insights. For more information about GOBEL’s Subject Matter Expert program, or to suggest a topic for coverage, email email@example.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Fisher is a fundraising professional with more than 25 years of experience in annual giving. Ann began her career at Hospice of Michigan, where she developed numerous skills from database management to grant and appeals writing. From there she moved on to University of Detroit Mercy where she spend nearly 20 years in annual giving, eventually becoming Executive Director of Annual Giving and Data Services. During her time at Detroit Mercy, Ann was instrumental in introducing new initiatives like online giving and crowdfunding, while also improving the ROI in phone and mail and coordinating the University’s President’s Cabinet leadership giving program. Ann then spent two years at UC San Diego as Senior Director of Integrated Marketing, where she launched its first Day of Giving and restarted the grateful patient giving program. Ann currently works at Michigan Medicine where she serves as Director of Annual Giving, Leadership Annual Giving and Data Services. In 2021 Ann and her colleagues were selected as CASE Platinum Award Finalists in the Best Practices in Fundraising Award for their Nurses Week Campaign, which raised more than $80,000 from 1,300 donors during the height of the pandemic. She has also served as a judge for the CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. In her spare time, Ann is an avid runner and has run several half and full marathons as a charity runner to raise money for various causes.