planning year end appeal

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. For giving, that is. And you want to plan for your nonprofit organization to take full advantage of year-end giving. The best way to craft a winning year end appeal campaign is to start planning early, to give yourself time to create ideas, develop assets, and have a plan ready to go. Then by the time you hit the season, it’s all execution, measurement, a little adaptation if needed, and hopefully a lot of success.

Whether this is simply a refresher or you’re new to this process, here are a few key steps to plan your nonprofit’s end of year giving:

  1. Start with brainstorming ideas. If you already know your idea, great! Move on to put it into action. If not, consider what stories you have to share this year. What moves your donors? Who is your primary audience and what do we know about them? What’s happened in the last year (both for your organization and in the world)? What stories can you share about the impact of past donations?
  2. Move into channels. Where are your donors? Where have we found them in the past, and where might we now? Consider not just social and traditional, but the specifics: Campaigns on Facebook and Instagram? Email? If print, is it a postcard or full appeal with return envelope? How do our donors usually like to give (online, check, other)? What’s most cost effective for us? Plan out the optimal pieces of the year end campaign, with the anticipation that we’ll most likely use an integrated approach (combining a few of the above for best impact).
  3. Map out our timing. There’s no reason to wait! Creative materials can be produced ahead of time, and if we need stats or other supporting materials, those can be added later. Then set dates for the campaign specifics. When does it launch? Are we using set dates like #GivingTuesday and any specific holidays? Be careful to include any other materials (digital or print) going out to your audience over that time on your calendar (hopefully there aren’t many), and plan around them as best you can.
  4. Get segmenting. If you know your audience segments, start planning who will get what as part of the timing. For instance, people who like us on social and their friends may get certain messaging while you might be reaching established donors through mail, and you don’t want to incur costs of mailing to that other group. Plan these out early to make implementing (and getting production costs) easier.
  5. Make it pretty and compelling. Here our story comes to life in text and photos. We’ve talked about designing a printed year end appeal before. Whether it’s print, digital, or likely both, choose impactful imagery. Sincere, unstaged photos show how you make a difference, and creating something unique that still ties into your brand will leverage your past engagements with donors. Craft moving stories and a call to action that fits your organization. Then tie those stories into your segments and channels above for a cohesive, integrated campaign.
  6. Set goals and tracking. What are you looking to raise? How often will you report on where you stand? If your social campaign takes off, can you put more resources to it? If that really compelling email didn’t quite perform, how will you adjust? Set your contingencies, what you’re tracking, and how often.
  7. Launch and celebrate your planning! Sure, you’ll need to keep up on your tracking and adapt. And you’ll want to schedule a project debrief to document learnings for next year. But for right now, it’s time to celebrate that your planning paid off. Jump up and down, shout in glee (in an appropriate office voice, of course), high five, go out… however you celebrate, it’s time. You deserve it.

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