If the headline on this post enticed you, you’re already thinking about how year-end fundraising is a BFD (a Big Funding Deal). There’s a ton of money on the line, a ton of work to be done, and a ton of content to create.

Maybe you’ve even gone deep, thinking about what December 31 falling on a Sunday means for your revenue haul, or reconsidering your creative approach to stand out in a world where the fight for every donor’s inbox is bloodier than the Kill Bill movies.

Now, if you’ve read our fundraising pro tips, you already know that the simplest way to raise money is to ask people for money, repeatedly and straightforwardly. And during EOY, that’s doubly true.

But sometimes — either because you want to give your list a quick break from your fundraising cadence, because your traditional asks aren’t raising as much money as you’d like, or because you’re having trouble getting your sends to stand out in your supporters’ inboxes — you need to do something different.

As it turns out, sending your list a curveball after a steady diet of fastballs can raise some serious money.

How? Here are three surprising ways our team has managed to bring in some big bucks for our nonprofit clients:

#1: Quizzes

I’ll admit it: The premise “ask people a bunch of questions, and then they’ll give you money” sounds more like Tuesday trivia at my local watering hole than sound fundraising advice. But it actually works.

Take, for example, this quiz from Partners in Health. Once users complete this very simple, very short quiz, they land on a donation form. The premise is as basic as it gets, but the results have been incredible: After launching this quiz, PIH saw a major influx in donations, thousands of new email subscribers — and even an unusually high rate of supporters opting in to become monthly sustainers.

Why? It’s simple: These quizzes demonstrate an acute need, and then present an opportunity for the supporter to solve for that need. You could see how this tactic could work for just about any kind of organization. A reproductive justice organization, for example, could write a quiz about laws that close clinics — and then direct quiz takers to a donation form that talks about successful challenges to those laws.

(And it doesn’t hurt if you can get influencers in the game, too — as PIH did with this Retweet from Chelsea Clinton.)

#2: Contests

Sure, if you have a great piece of swag to give away, or a presidential candidate who will have dinner with a lucky donor, you’re going to raise some cash. But you don’t need high-value prizes to run successful fundraising contests.

If your organization is cash-strapped, you can still run a contest. It is absolutely possible to surprise and delight your audience without spending a dime.

That’s what we did this year for Heifer International. There were no fancy giveaways here — just a competition to have the next goat on the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas named after you. The combination of a surprising subject line (in my case, “A goat named Chris Coletta”), adorable personalized graphics, and an A+ creative idea led to a successful fundraising push.

To be fair, not every organization can use a cute goat to raise money. But I’d argue that the cuteness here, while great, isn’t what really mattered. What mattered is that we created an engagement opportunity that made sense for the brand and gave supporters a real, tangible reason to want to get involved.

What do your own supporters care about? What kind of things would they give money for? Lock yourself and some colleagues in a room to brainstorm some ideas — or give us a call.

#3: “Add your name” actions

Earlier this year, our client Special Olympics International asked people to take a simple action during their month of Celebrating Champions: signing a virtual card to celebrate Special Olympics athletes.

More than 10% of people who signed this card via email went on to give — including several dozen first-time givers.

This tactic worked in the moment for Special Olympics for two reasons:

  1. First, and most importantly, the initial ask felt core to their brand. We weren’t asking supporters to do anything they wouldn’t already do in their day to day lives. And if you’re already on the Special Olympics team, it’s a pretty easy leap to go from “I just signed a card for Special Olympics athletes” to “Special Olympics needs me to chip in and help those athletes.”
  2. Secondly, the donation form we sent supporters to after signing the card offered a matching gift — a unique opportunity put in front of Special Olympics fans right after they’d taken meaningful action.

Could we have raised more money by simply asking supporters to make a matching gift? Perhaps — but this ask brought in several first-time donors who weren’t inclined to give to any of the many matches we ran in July. If you’re looking for a tactic that could help engage new donors, this may be the one.

Special Olympics Donate

Remember to also cover the basics

Tactics like these can help a good year-end effort become great. Just make sure your overall strategy is rock-solid first.

Looking to get creative with your year-end fundraising? Get in touch with us.