Planning is Key for a Successful Year-End Appeal

By Ruth Patrick

It is that time of year again when nonprofits around the world ponder their year-end appeal. An opportunity for donors to support organizations with a meaningful year-end financial gift, the year-end appeal requires planning and organization to maximize effectiveness, and should be multifaceted with a goal of extending giving opportunities to new and existing donors.

This campaign can be as simple as mailing a two-page letter to current donors written by a volunteer board member with a specific ask for a year-end gift. Organizations interested in achieving high-dollar results build year-end appeals that incorporate social media, written and electronic appeals, and a follow-up thank you component. The campaign is built on an 8-10 week schedule of events, which includes “Giving Tuesday” on November 30, 2021.

Several factors should be considered when planning a successful year-end appeal. One key factor is how the funds will support the organization. Is the campaign for a specific program or activity, or for general operating support to meet year-end or upcoming year budget needs? This information is critical to designing an effective campaign strategy. Organization success stories, outcome results, photos, sound bites and quotes will be needed for social media, website and written communications.

A second factor to consider is to ensure that your organization has the ability (time, knowledge, resources and expertise) to effectively plan and carry out the year-end campaign. Often the staff and volunteers have ambitious plans for a complex year-end campaign, and have not fully thought through all of the details of planning, preparing, assembling and launching the campaign. Plan for success. Build in due dates. Assign specific responsibilities, and revise timelines as needed.

A great recommendation here is to involve several organization key staff/volunteer members in a year-end appeal strategy meeting. Begin with a planning discussion of internal and external activities that will be occurring during the months of November, December and January. Identify if any of the in-person or virtual events could be a place to share information about the year-end campaign giving opportunities or a campaign thank you. The next step is to build a project calendar around the year-end appeal, including draft content due dates; social media postings; time for review and revision of materials; time for printing, assembly and mailing for hard copy materials; and end of campaign giving dates. These dates will be helpful in communicating giving opportunities to organization staff, volunteers and constituents.

The third factor is creating a meaningful, cohesive story that supports the financial need(s) of the organization. The need could be general, such as general operating support, or specific, such as scholarships for at-risk students. The campaign components, including written letters, website information and social media, should all include similar messaging, need statements and success stories. The campaign should appear as if it is one campaign on multiple platforms rather than multiple, separate campaigns. By planning the campaign in this way, you show to your stakeholders that they are working with an organization who both believes in and follows a strategy of consistent and meaningful opportunities for donor engagement.

This includes building several specific levels of giving into the campaign, including entry level giving amounts and stretch gift opportunities. The campaign should have a “SMART” goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific. For example, “The year-end campaign goal of organization XYZ is to launch a two-month, year-end giving campaign that has more than X households/individuals contributing and raises more than $XX,XXX to support student scholarships with an average gift size of $X.”

Finally, while it is important to have a campaign goal, it also is critical to build donor appreciation into the year-end campaign. Give thought to when and how donors will be sent a personal thank you or how a thank you can be integrated into social media and website platforms. The donor thank you is an important part of the year-end appeal and is a great way to involve your board and other organization volunteers into the thank you process when they are asked to make thank you calls or write thank you notes.

The year-end giving campaign planning process should begin in late summer with the initial planning meeting with staff and volunteers to discuss the who, what, when, where, why and how of the year-end campaign. Consider campaign results from the prior year and explore new opportunities and strategies as plans begin to finalize for the current year’s year-end appeal. Talk with Sharity Global for more information on planning your organization’s Year-End Appeal.