Not doing a year-end appeal? Uh-Oh

December is the biggest giving month. So, if you’re not doing a year-end appeal, you’re probably missing out. That’s because, according to nonprofit software firm Neon:

  • 31% of all annual giving takes place in December.
  • 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.
  • 28% of nonprofits raise between 26% to 50% of their annual funds from their year-end ask.

These stats show that there’s a lot of donor activity going on in this time frame. But get this:

  • Two-thirds of the people who give do no research beforehand.

That’s even more surprising. It tells you that donors are primed for giving at year end. The money is there, and it’s just looking for a place to go where it can do some good. That place can and should be your nonprofit. That’s why the single most important thing you can do at year end is simply to ask.

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What’s missing from your fundraising multiplier offer?

Is your multiplier offer working as well as it could be? What’s missing? Maybe something critical. Multiplier offers are pretty common in fundraising, and there’s a good reason for that.

Telling your donors that their gift will do two times, three times, or even ten times more good (or even more) is usually something they want to hear. And why not? Donors like getting a good deal.

But when those offers lack the essential element of credibility, you risk undercutting your own efforts. Because when you trumpet a multiplier like “Your gift multiplies 25 times!” without explaining how that might be possible, you’re making an unsubstantiated claim. See more here in my guest post on GuideStar blog.

Naturally, some donors might take your claim at face value, but it’s likely that many more will not. Why risk it? Here’s what to do so that your multiplier offer is as believable and as effective in raising funds as it could be. See more here.

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Year-end fundraising: easy way to get the messaging right

It’s true – now’s the time to start thinking about year-end fundraising. The end of the year is a crucial time for nonprofits, because most of the gifts that nonprofits receive come in during December. We’ve all seen that stats about how important year end is.

So, sure, you want to do a year end appeal. That’s a given. But what do you say to donors to get them to respond?

Luckily, the messaging for this appeal is pretty simple and straightforward. Basically, you want to emphasize:

  1. The urgency of the December 31 deadline.
  2. Tax deductibility. Even though most donors don’t itemize, tax deductibility is still a potential donor benefit, and should be part of your year-end appeal. You can even say on the reply form: Any gift that is postmarked before midnight on December 31 could be fully deductible on your taxes.
  3. Sustain the nonprofit’s programs and services.
  4. Help the nonprofit end the year strong.
  5. Help the nonprofit begin the New Year in a better position to pursue its mission.
  6. Do one more act of compassion before the year comes to a close.

The year-end appeal is essentially these message points.

You can include a story about someone who was helped, accomplishments that the donor helped make possible, or other donor-focused elements if you’d like, but often this isn’t necessary.

In most cases, keeping the appeal simple and direct, focusing on the deadline, is the most effective copy platform.



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Fundraising: the 2 key “abilities”

Donor retention keeps falling, while donor skepticism keeps rising. So, it’s more important now than ever to connect with donors in a personal way if you expect to engage and keep them. But how?

There are two key “abilities” that are vital for effective fundraising. They’re credibility and likeability. It’s essential to convey both to donors if you expect them to join with you in your mission. See more in my article in Nonprofit Pro.

  • Building credibility takes financial transparency, testimonials, and the like. But it’s more than that. There are specific things you can do to gain donors’ trust or win it back if you’ve lost it. See more here.
  • Establishing likeability is a lot about tone and presentation, including a conversational copy voice. But again, it goes deeper than this. Likeability is more than the way an appeal is written. It’s a strategy that embraces donors on a personal level of shared values. More about that here.

It’s all but guaranteed that failing to convey credibility and likeability in appeals and content marketing will hurt your fundraising efforts – which will drain revenue. For some nonprofits, the result is some belt-tightening, but for others, it could be a question of survival.


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The 3 kinds of deadlines for fundraising appeals

You see deadlines all the time in fundraising appeals. But are they helping or hurting response? It depends. There are roughly three kinds of fundraising deadlines:

  1. Real deadlines, like year end, fiscal year end, Christmas, and others.
  2. Reasonable deadlines, like those for fund drives, matching grants, and things like National Doctors’ Day and Giving Tuesday.
  3. Arbitrary deadlines. These are just made up and slapped onto an appeal. They can be trouble.

See more about this in my guest post at Future Fundraising Now. Some deadlines will almost immediately set off donors’ BS alarms, possibly causing them to toss the appeal. There are better ways to heighten the urgency in fundraising. See more here.

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Is social media fundraising worth it?

With all the controversy about Facebook and selling user data and undermining user trust, it’s a good time to think about how and why we’re using social media for fundraising.

It might not seem like it at first, but there’s a lesson for nonprofits and fundraisers in Sport Rider magazine. This popular motorcycling magazine went out of business a little while ago, even though they had 2.4 million Facebook followers — 2.4 million!

Looking at 2.4 million followers, anyone could be forgiven for thinking, “Our readers love us! What could possibly go wrong?”

But as vintage-motorcycle esthete Paul d’Orleans soberly observed, “A ‘like’ isn’t a dollar.” So true. In the cold light of day, those social-media vanity metrics aren’t really worth much.

How many charities and fundraisers will learn this same, hard lesson about social media?

How many ‘likes’ does your nonprofit get? How many followers do you have? Thousands? Millions? Chances are, all that means very little.

Shareable content – that’s the key to social media, we’re told. Think about how much time and effort you’re spending to come up with clever videos, catchy photos, and other shareable content for social media all in order to chase likes and followers. What is it really achieving?

Sure, the social media proponents say that Facebook and Instagram and the like are supporting and bolstering email response rates. And that may be true. After all, we know that email helps drive up direct mail response rates, so, yes, there may be some cross-channel benefit. But the problem is that when you use Facebook and other social media, they’re the ones in control of the platform, not you.

As fundraising expert John Hayden explains, an over-reliance on social media is risky, and as an online strategy, instead of putting too much emphasis on social media, it’s smarter to focus more on email, which you can control and which actually produces fundraising results.

For the fundraisers chasing vanity metrics like the number of followers, likes, impressions, and even more vague measures like awareness, it’s probably time to take a hard look at social media and then at actual donations.


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Donor retention keeps falling – what to do about it

Donor retention was down again last year. It’s part of a steady downward trend that’s been going on for the past decade. What’s going on? There are four possible reasons for donors’ increasing lack of loyalty:

  1. Completing the story in fundraising appeals – which leaves the donor out.
  2. Using safe, euphemistic language that doesn’t inspire anybody.
  3. Pairing a dire headline with a smiling face, sending mixed signals to donors.
  4. Sending out boring thank you letters.

See more about each of each of these problems – and their solutions – in my guest post for Guidestar blog.

Each of these can be addressed in the communications that donors receive. When retention drops, charities are forced to spend more on acquisition. And because it costs much more to acquire a donor than to retain one, charities end up spending more and more just to keep a sustainable donor base. It’s unfortunate, because donors want to give and will give if the opportunity is presented to them in the right way. See more here.

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