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3 Steps to Writing an Effective Year-End Appeal

Year-End is a critical time for fundraising. The latest M+R Benchmark Study of US fundraisers using a social media platform showed that fundraising for donations is most successful at the end of the year. Often, donors are trying to get in their charitable contributions before the end of the year for tax purposes, hence the end of year spike.

There are a lot of strategies to make your Year-End Communication and Fundraising effective. One crucial task is to finish the year right by sending a Year-End Appeal. The message should be able to summarize the organization's yearlong achievements, celebrate success stories, and give thanks to all donors volunteers who made it possible.

Below are three simple and easy to follow steps in composing a compelling Year-End Appeal.

Step 1: Say Thank You

The ideal way to start a Year-End Appeal is to begin by saying, "Thank you." It is essential to make prior donors feel appreciated and recognized first before mentioning the achievements of the organization. A heartfelt and genuine thank you goes a long way.

Here are some best practices when saying thank you:

  • Focus on the donor. Make sure to frame the message so that the donor is actively involved. Make use of "you" and "your" language as much as you can. 
  • Highlight what your donors have already done for your cause.
  • In some cases, framing the value of their contribution to something tangible works well.


Example: Thanks to your generous gift of $200, 5 underprivileged children received school supplies this year.

Thank you for your support for this year's Hurricane Fundraising Campaign. Generous donors like you have provided over 1,000 temporary shelters for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Grand Street Settlement uses photos of people using their services to tell the story of who benefits from their donations and how they are put to use.

Step 2: Tell this Year's Story

Storytelling is a great marketing tool for nonprofits. The Year-End is an opportunity for storytelling; to narrate this year's conflict, problems, and, ultimately, success stories that make your mission and fundraising worthwhile.

Choose a Story

It's essential to choose a simple and brief Year-End Story. Ideally, the story should be condensed to around 3 to 6 sentences. Make it too long, and the reader will likely tune out.

Generally, it's not hard to find a good, concise story that you can mention in the Year-End Appeal. But, if you're fresh out of ideas or might need some inspiration, have one-on-one conversations with the most passionate members of the team. Volunteers have lots of stories to tell, and their experiences are powerful tools to engage and inspire.

Put the Story in Perspective

Typically, Year-End Stories can be framed through the experiences of volunteers, individuals, or communities involved. It is also possible to narrate it from an organizational standpoint or a mix. Each approach has its advantages. 

Most nonprofits might prefer a personal approach, storytelling through the eyes of their volunteers or individuals they've helped (like Seasons of Sharing). Personal stories establish a human-to-human connection and demonstrate that the donor to make a positive change. This approach works well for nonprofits who want to appeal to individual donors.

Some nonprofits (like American Red Cross) may venture into general stories that use facts and figures, as well as mentioning communities that they served. Though uncommon, this approach is effective in appealing to corporate or business donors. Donors like these tend to put more weight on your ability to deliver.

Other styles balance both general and personal stories and fall somewhere in between. There's really no strict rule on what perspective you adopt. As long as it's condensed, fits the narrative, or showcases the core mission of the organization, use it.

American Red Cross uses numbers and statistics to showcase their impact.

Other Contents

Numbers and statistics - Use them if they help simplify your message and/or if they can make it more compelling. Avoid them if they complicate the message.

Photos and other visual elements - A picture of volunteers and the communities they serve are nice to have. They show an emotional connection between the organization, volunteers, and community. Photos are particularly useful and effective if you plan on posting social media platforms that use visual cues (like Facebook and Instagram).

Video Links or Links to another website - If you intend to send your message via email, links to a video or another website might distract readers, so its best to avoid them. There are two exceptions to this --- if its a donation form link or social media promotional video. In these types of links, keep them in the latter part of the message or the signature section.

Step 3: Call-to-Action

Sending a Year-End Appeal is a call-to-action for additional or continued support for your cause. Hence, it needs to be clear, direct, and outlines exactly what type of support you need. 

In appealing for support, your main goal is to make it easy to give. Here are some tips:

  • Offer "Suggested Amounts" and link it to tangible impact. (Example: For a $50 donation, you'll be able to sponsor 3 families in need with a food basket this Christmas Season.) Suggested Amounts will make it easier for donors to choose their level of support. Online Donation Forms, such as GiveForms, has this built-in functionality. So if you're a GiveForms user or you plan on using GiveForms in the future, make sure to put descriptions on each of your donation levels.
  • Make sure your website's Donation Button is prominent. Don't hide it under menus or subfolders, and make it stand out with bright color and bold text.
  • If you plan on placing links to a video or a social media post, make sure that it's easy for the reader to navigate back to your message, website, or donation page. 

Review and Checklist:

As a recap, when writing an effective Year-End Appeal, you need to say thank you, engage in storytelling and call for continued support. In doing so, your appeal should be able to carry out the following:

     ☑  Rekindle sympathy for the cause or mission.
     ☑  Subtly justify your organization's ability to carry out its mission.
     ☑  Acknowledge that the donor helped make an impact.
     ☑  Excite supporters to donate in the future.

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