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Chances are you just noticed it was somehow already December and frantically googled “last-minute nonprofit fundraising ideas.”
Time indeed flies, especially when you’re a busy nonprofit fundraiser.
But the biggest fundraising time of the year is here.
And if you’re reading this article, you’re likely looking for some last-minute fundraising ideas and tips to help you get the most out of the holiday and year-end fundraising season.
The end of the calendar year is an important time for nonprofit organizations across the globe.
According to Qgiv’s research, 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year and 35% of all giving happens in the last three months of the year.
This happens for many reasons. The holiday season inspires generosity in some donors, some are keen to begin the new year with giving, and others are simply wanting to make use of tax benefits.
Whatever the reasons for this increase in giving are, the stats don’t lie. People are more generous during the holidays.
This is why this time of the year is invaluable for nonprofits of all sizes.
Yet, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with work and for time to simply slip away. If you’re searching for ways to raise money last-minute, you’re in the right place.
10 Effective Last-Minute Year-End Fundraising Ideas + Specific Action Tips
1. Focus on existing relationships
When you’re short on time, it’s more effective to focus on relationships with existing donors rather than on new donor acquisition.
Donor acquisition takes time (which you don’t have at the moment), and furthermore, research shows that existing donors give more than new donors. This is especially the case if we focus on monthly giving programs.
“A donor who stays with an organization for 10 years gives 6x as much as a donor who stays for 2.5 years.”
“Monthly donors are the biggest annual contributors after major donors, giving 7x more than one-time donors.”
Source: AFP 2017 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report
When you don’t have much time, it’s important to prioritize those strategies that have the highest potential return on investment.
So, take some time to identify your key supporters and make the ask.
- Make a list. Organize donors based on their cumulative annual giving.
Who could you reach out to? Here are some ideas:
- Long-term monthly/recurring donors
- Major donors
- Donors who are also long-term volunteers
- Those who speak of your organization publicly in a positive light
Write a compelling fundraising email or a letter. Personalize it to each donor segment if you have the time.
Here’s when you focus and build upon an existing relationship with your donor. Ideally, you’d include a meaningful detail in the email/letter. For example, if the reader has volunteered with your organization in the past or if they came to your last annual gala, you’d mention it. Naturally, if you’re very short on time, you might just have to include a more generic “thank you”. This generic “thank you” is still better than making an ask without it!
If you’re looking for insights on how to keep your donors engaged next year, read our article Donor Engagement - Best Practices for Keeping Donors Engaged.
2. Reach out to your lapsed donors
Focus particularly on those donors that gave last year but not this year. It’s very possible that it just slipped their minds, especially if they don’t have automatic recurring giving set up.
If someone donated in December 2020, it’s very likely that they would consider donating again in 2021. These are really the people you should be reaching out to.
To keep donors from lapsing in the first place, use a fundraising platform like GiveForms where donors can easily set up their recurring donations.
With lapsed donors, a good strategy is to call them. This is a more personalized approach that they are sure to value more than a generic email. You can also send out letters and emails to those you can’t reach via phone.
- Write a phone call script that you can use in conversations with your lapsed donors.
In this script, include a “thank you” for giving in the past. You could also imply that you understand they have likely just forgotten to give (which is often true).
- Make those phone calls! When you do, make sure you provide clear instructions for how to make donations. Offer to take a pledge commitment and/or provide other options for donating. Follow up with a thank-you email.
To make the process of making these phone calls more fun, host a “phone call party.” Create a light atmosphere with some festive lights. Provide drinks and light refreshments. Make sure everyone calling has what they need to do their jobs, such as phone scripts and access to donor management tools where they can update donor status and write notes. Provide plenty of support and encouragement. You can even plan a small prize for those who manage to secure the most donations.
Pro tip: Alternatively, if you have the option to, you can also leave a ringless voicemail. Have your founder or an executive director record a message thanking the donor and wishing them happy holidays, alongside making an ask.
Here’s an example script:
Hi Laurie, this is Landon Peterson, the Executive Director at organization X. I’m calling to wish you wonderful holidays and to thank you for your support so far. Thank you for the $500 donation you made last year to provide school supplies for 3 children in Vietnam this year. These school supplies were indispensable for those children to be able to attend school this year.
I want to share with you the story of Cai, one of these three children. Cai is a 12-year old girl from Thanh Hoa, a village about a 4-hour drive from Hanoi, the country’s capital. Cai has been out of school for a few months before we were able to reach her. We found out it’s because Cai’s family lacked the resources to send her to school. With your help, we were able to get Cai the school supplies she needed and she was able to attend school during the whole year. Now, Cai is able to receive an education that will significantly increase her chances of finding employment in the future. She’s statistically more likely to have more educated kids also, and her whole family will benefit from her education. This is the difference your donation made.
Cai will need school supplies next year also. If you’re able to help Cai and others like her again, your gift will be very much appreciated. Today, you’ll receive an email from me sharing a few ways in which you can donate.
Thank you again for your donation to help Cai and the children in Vietnam receive an education. You’re making a huge difference in their lives! If you have any questions at all, please simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at xxxxxxxxxxxx.
3. Plan, create, and send a year-end email campaign
Email marketing has consistently proven itself to be an effective fundraising tactic for nonprofit organizations of all sizes.
First of all, email converts. In fact, email marketing has an ROI (returns on investment) of 4400%. (Source: optinmonster.com)
Additionally, M+R’s 2020 Benchmarks Study has found audiences growing in email and social media platforms. They’ve also reported a slight year-over-year increase in email fundraising response rates overall, for the first time in years.
And if you follow a few simple tips, good fundraising emails don’t have to take long to create, even if you only have a few days.
Aim to send between 3-5 emails to your donors before the year ends, with at least one or two being sent out in the last three days of the year. While we wouldn’t necessarily normally recommend this frequency of emailing, these last weeks of the year are so important that “regular” emailing rules go out of the window.
Here are some nonprofit email best practices to increase chances of fundraising success:
- Make sure your emails include something of value, not just an ask. For example, you can include a video detailing all that your nonprofit has accomplished in 2020, attaching an impact report, or sharing short impact stories. You could even design simple but effective graphics or infographics and insert those in your email.
- Check the analytics. How have your previous subject lines performed in the past? When you’re short on time, it’s not best to experiment with a new approach, but instead, stick with what you know works. If you don’t have access to this data, you can follow the general subject line best practices. For example, keep the subject lines short and descriptive.
- The first link in a fundraising email matters! It’s usually the one people click the most on. Don’t use it to link to a blog post or your homepage. Make sure your first link is to your GiveForms donation page, where people can make a donation.
- Choose a mobile-friendly template for your email. Avoid any templates that might look wonky on mobile (such as templates with multiple columns). Test your emails on different devices before you send them!
- Make the email brief. Wanting to make your emails informative is good, yet it’s important to strike the right balance between informative and “too much”. Avoid walls of text and make the most important points of your message stand out with bold text, bullet points, and headers. Write simple copy. If there’s a lot of information to include, see if videos, infographics, or graphics might be a better choice.
- Have a clear CTA (call to action) inviting people to donate. If you have time, segmenting the CTAs or sending different emails to different donor segments is ideal. For example, ask donors who have only given once or who tend to give in small amounts, for the lowest custom donation suggestion. You can move the mid-level and recurring donors up to a higher amount.
- Centralize your email messaging around what these specific $ amounts will provide for your nonprofit, and watch how donors respond.
- Make sure you note the tax benefits of donations in at least one email right before the end of the campaign.
Pro tip: When it comes to last-minute year-end fundraising, it’s important to utilize many different channels so as to ensure you’re reaching as many donors as possible. Of course, use only those channels you know your audience responds well to. This is not a moment to try out using Pinterest if you’ve never used it before.
For more insights, read our Nonprofit Email Marketing: The Guide You Need to Send Successful Nonprofit Newsletters.
4. Spruce up your donation page
You’re short on time, so this is not the time to fully revamp your nonprofit website. However, small changes that you can pull off in a day or two can make a lot of difference to the success of your year-end fundraising efforts.
Here are a few small things you can do:
- Make your donation button visible and enticing. Visit your donation page. Is it easy to find the “donate” button? You can even include a photo with the donation button!
- Include a compelling story. Use a story that you already have or reach out to a beneficiary that you know is responsive. Get them to write a few sentences that you can use on the donation page. For a different spin, ask them to write a handwritten note!
- If you’re really short on time, generic fundraising pages are okay, however, specific campaigns always perform better. Is there a specific project you can fundraise for? Or a specific sub-segment of your beneficiaries? Make sure your donation page reflects that.
- Change your online donation form and increase the suggested donation amount(s) since donors tend to give more during holidays. You can then change the form back sometime in January.
- Use a fundraising thermometer to increase urgency.
- Make sure the donation process is smooth and hassle-free. If you haven’t already, set up a virtual fundraising tool so you can collect and process donations online. GiveForms offers a powerful, intuitive, and easy-to-use fundraising tool that you can start using in only 15 minutes.
- Make your holiday fundraising campaign front and center on your home page. Here’s how charity: water did it:
5. Promote monthly giving and other types of giving programs
Monthly giving is a gift that keeps giving, quite literally.
Instead of inviting your donors to give just once (for holidays), invite them to sign up for your monthly/recurring giving program instead. This will help your organization more long-term. If you don’t have a well-developed monthly giving strategy, simply share with your donors that your GiveForms donation form has an option for recurring giving and invite them to set it up. If you have a bit more time, you could even name your monthly giving program.
If it feels right for your nonprofit organization, you can organize a campaign called “I forgot to buy a gift”. On one hand, you get to solve a problem for all those who procrastinated their holiday gift shopping until the last minute. On the other hand, you get to raise funds for your mission.
Offer to send a personalized e-card or a physical card/memorabilia (if you have access to expedited shipping and can ensure it reaches the person of the donor’s choosing in time).
Design an appealing message, advertise this campaign to your networks, and make sure you have a staff member or a volunteer ready to quickly respond to messages and inquiries.
Make use of pop-up donation forms to help this campaign reach as many people as possible.
Pro tip: You can also mention other giving programs and ways of giving that might resonate with your donors. For example, this might be the ideal time to mention that donors can give in honor or remembrance of someone. You can also promote your text-to-give option, alongside “call to donate” — if you offer those.
6. Reach out to your top supporters and peer-to-peer fundraisers
Mobilize your top supporters to help you. For example, ask these supporters to encourage their friends and family to give to your organization at year-end.
Because time is of the essence now, you should be reaching out to those people who have a close relationship with your organization.
Asking for help from people that you already know care about your nonprofit is a quick way to raise more funds. These last weeks of the year are really all-hands-on-deck.
Help them out by creating a few social media posts that they can just copy and paste. You might want to encourage them to “donate their Christmas” to your cause. In this case, you’d ask your supporters to ask their friends and families for donations to your nonprofit instead of holiday gifts, having them raise money to help your cause. Tailor the theme and goal to your nonprofit’s unique needs.
Pro tip: You can also reach out to your Board members and corporate sponsors asking for their help. For example, they could post on their social media accounts and send out emails. Your corporate partners might even have some last-minute ideas of their own!
7. In-kind donations campaign
Depending on what your organization does, this might not be a relevant idea for your nonprofit. Yet, if there’s any way in which in-kind donations could help your nonprofit organization — now is a good moment to ask for them.
You could designate a drop-off point and ask for specific items you need (clothes, shoes, used furniture, functioning computers and phones, and more). These can be either used directly in your programs (depending on what your nonprofit does), or you can partner with organizations like Second Wave recycling. This idea is more suitable for locally based nonprofits or those that have access to a lot of eager and active volunteers.
Alternatively, and more simply, you can create a quick and simple gift catalog with the most essential items you might need to serve your beneficiaries better. Many people are shopping for holidays and feeling more generous than usual, so this fundraising idea is sure to be a hit!
You can also simply list the items on your website. Just make it easy! Link to any item that can be purchased online.
8. ‘Tis the season to give thanks
Even as you’re trying to raise funds for your nonprofit, donor relationships need to come first. Especially if you want to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of your nonprofit.
Prioritize giving thanks to your donors for all the way they supported and enabled your work throughout the year.
Here’re some ways in which you can give thanks to your donors:
- Send Christmas/New Year’s/holidays cards.
- Create thank you videos, as personalized as you can.
- Send handwritten notes.
- Highlight donors on social media.
- Send small gifts (if you can ensure they reach them on time).
- And more!
Donors want to feel seen, valued, appreciated and acknowledged. And they want to feel like their gifts are making a difference to the mission they care about.
The key lies in making your donors feel like more than just wallets. It’s crucial to make your donors feel like the heroes of your organization, like part of the team.
Read more about how to sincerely thank your donors in our article “15 Sincere Ways to Say Thank You to Your Donors”.
9. Get social
Share uplifting messages of encouragement and hope on social media. Stay visible - you should be top of your donors’ minds when they decide to donate this holiday season.
Here are some things you can do to stay social and raise more funds:
- Compile your best photos, videos, and success stories from the field and use them to showcase the amazing things your organization has done and will be able to do with the funds raised this holiday season.
- Create engaging videos, infographics, and blog posts to engage your audience. There are plenty of online tools out there to help you out.
- Mention that donations are tax-deductible.
- Make sure you ask for donations in your posts and ask for a specific amount.
- Link to your donation page.
- Consider doing some ads! Social media ads are affordable and can be very powerful.
- Consider doing a live stream on one of your social media platforms.
If social media management seems daunting, learn more in our article “Basics of Social Media Management for Nonprofits”.
10. Offer a holiday-themed service
Here is a simple fundraising idea that can work even in a pinch: holiday gift wrapping!
Find a high-traffic location (such as a mall), get the supplies, mobilize your staff and volunteers, and offer a service that you know is needed during holidays. Try to get the location for free, so you can raise as much for your cause as possible. Additionally, try to get some stores to donate the gift-wrapping supplies.
Prepare the supplies you’ll need:
- Cash box and cash
- Tape (have some extra)
- At least one scissors per volunteer
- A variety of wrapping paper (holiday-themed, birthday-themed, generic)
- Gift boxes and bags
- Gift tags
- Markers, pens
- Ribbons, glitter, and other accessories
Charge for this service, and make it clear it’s for a charitable cause. This way, people will be likely to choose your service and maybe even donate some extra. You can also provide some refreshments.
You can also offer babysitting, Christmas house cleaning, Christmas tree delivery and disposal, and more!
Pro tip: If you have some extra time, you can also bake big batches of holiday-themed cookies and create holiday-themed cards that visitors can purchase at an extra cost.
Where to start?
The end of the year is a crucial time for fundraisers. Even if you have just a few weeks or just a few days left before New Year’s Eve, the opportunity to raise funds during this time shouldn’t be missed.
Even if you can’t do everything you’d ideally want to do, it’s better to do something than nothing.
The holidays can be stressful, especially when it comes to fundraising. But the effort that’s put into fundraising at this moment can yield high results, and set you up for success in 2022!
As you incorporate these fundraising tips and practices, remember to prioritize your donors’ experiences and focus on thanking them for their contributions. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that doing one thing well is better than doing many things half-heartedly. Especially when you’re short on time. So, just choose one or two of these ideas and give them your all this 2021 holiday season.
However, no fundraising campaign online, no matter how creative and well-planned, will work unless you have the right online donation software. This is the moment to get your online fundraising spruced up!
GiveForms can help you raise funds by helping you seamlessly accept donations online. Your website visitors can donate using a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or bank transfers. With a focus on intuitive, human-centered design, GiveForms goal is to help you increase your online donations.
When you use GiveForms, you gain access to a plethora of nonprofit-specific benefits:
- A customizable donation page optimized for mobile
- Embeddable donation forms directly on your website
- Donor dashboard to help you search, view and export your donations
- Monthly recurring donations and social sharing options