Learn how expanding your end-of-year toolkit beyond the standard fundraising appeals can help your organization raise more money, improve relationships, and keep your donors happy year-round.

Ahh, end of year. The time when donors’ wallets are wide open, and all we have to do is ask. Right? 

Not quite! 

Your supporters expect and need more from you. It’s important to build and maintain meaningful relationships with your donors so that they feel inspired by your mission and understand why their contribution is impactful. Saying thanks, giving donors the opportunity to engage, and communicating results helps deepen your organization’s connection with supporters — and will help you stand out in a crowded market. Here are a few ways to accomplish this during end of year (or, you know, EOY):

1. Make it a two-way conversation

Yes, your EOY calendar should be packed with powerful fundraising asks, but the success of those moments relies on what you say before and after each one. It might not feel like you have room for content beyond fundraising, but we’ve found that engagement campaigns can help you generate more revenue at key moments.

First, and most generally, they educate donors on the importance of the mission and the gravity of the issues that matter to your organization. Engagement campaigns also keep donors “content curious” — priming them to continue opening your emails. Finally, these moments can inspire true emotion in a reader, like trust, empathy, understanding, and desire to help (our favorite!). Here are a few cultivation ideas that could add some inspiration and delight into your donor’s inboxes:

  • The campaign report-back email: After a big fundraising campaign, let your donors know what they collectively accomplished. Send a sincere note of appreciation, and some topline, impressive statistics that will help them understand that their generosity has truly made a difference. You could include the total number of donors who participated in the campaign, how much you all raised together, and, critically, how their donation will be used to support your mission. 
  • The “Buzzfeed inspired” email: Fun engagement emails align well with the cheeriness of the holiday season. Use quizzes and one-click questions or surveys to keep people engaged, opening your emails, and to keep your deliverability high. Use holiday poems, cards, and “best of the year” recaps to tap into the audience’s connection to the season. Sometimes, these activations perform just as well or better than fundraising asks. Think of it as a reward for providing surprise and delight to our audience’s inboxes.
  • The soft appeal: Have a great video to share? A note from a beloved founder or CEO? An incredible note from the field or from a donor? Share it — and make sure to include a donation button tucked into your email footer, or a link tucked into your social post. (This one’s kind of cheating because it’s a sneaky fundraising tactic, but we’re including it anyway!)

2. Give donors a (strategic) break from fundraising appeals

Yes, fundraising emails raise money. No, you won’t miss out on tons of donations by giving your donors a rest. In fact, we promise that donors will like you more if you take a step back once in a while — without asking for anything in return. Here’s when you shouldn’t send a fundraising email:

  • Holidays: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are ideal for taking a break from the heavy fundraising cadence of EOY. These non-fundraising holiday messages are good opportunities to use personal senders, e.g. an organization’s president or a beneficiary, to share stories of hope and thanks. ’Tis the season of gratitude and joy, after all!
  • After Giving Tuesday: The days following Giving Tuesday are another time to pull back on fundraising messages. While some email programs have seen success on Wednesday (even Thursday!) using goal-extension or match-extension language, most of our partners have not experienced lift in extending fundraising campaigns through to the end of what we call “Giving Week.” This is likely due to success on Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and the increasingly crowded space in email fundraising during that time of year. Instead, send a cultivation or thank you email on Thursday or Friday to acknowledge the impact of your donor community while lightly setting the stage for what’s to come in the final weeks of the year.

3. Say thanks!

Your mother was right, it’s important to be polite! That’s why we recommend always expressing gratitude for your donors. Spoiler alert: saying thanks can also help raise revenue. This one is easy, and we can’t say it enough:

  • Personalize every. single. email. Content personalized by donor status is an extremely effective tool to make donors feel seen throughout the year, but especially so during EOY campaigns. Each fundraising email is an opportunity to combine a brief message of thanks (one sentence, even!) with a donate call to action.

    Here are some examples:
    • High-dollar donors: “You’re one of our strongest supporters and our work is not possible with your generosity. Will you continue that commitment this holiday season?”
    • Monthly sustainers: “Each month your life-changing support is transforming lives. Please, if you can, make an additional one-time gift before the year ends so that we can reach….”
    • Recent donors: “Your recent generous gift is already making a difference for families in need. Thank you. Today, you have another opportunity to….” 

Content personalized by donor status is an extremely effective tool to make donors feel seen throughout the year, but especially so during EOY campaigns. Each fundraising email is an opportunity to combine a brief message of thanks (one sentence, even!) with a donate call to action.

  • New year. New thanks. Remember to say thanks in January for your donors’ EOY efforts! Your relationship doesn’t end when the EOY tax deadline expires. Think of your first pieces of January content as an incredible report back and priming moment for the next fundraising moment (or even for next EOY because EOY never truly ends).

There you have it! Three non-fundraising tactics to help your organization raise more money this EOY. We know prioritizing non-fundraising messages at this critical time of year can feel scary, but every organization can benefit from mixing it up. Still not convinced? Then test it out to learn what works best for your organization, audience, and mission. We have tips for that, too.

Want to discover best-in-class engagement moments to spice up your end of year? Give us a shout anytime.

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