Because many nonprofits rely heavily on year-end fundraising, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. What you’ll ask for, how you’ll collect donations, what event you’ll host… every piece of the planning is equal parts important and stressful.
When it comes to capitalizing on your donor data, though, don’t stress. You already have everything you need!
Don’t believe it? Here are 7 techniques to elevate your year-end fundraising, all made possible thanks to the donor data you already have:
- Clean up your data
- Determine your communication plan
- Segment your supporter list to tailor your asks
- Craft personalized donation requests
- Encourage donors to upgrade their gift
- Diversify your giving options
- Plan a fundraising event
Year-end fundraising is often a major contributor to a nonprofit’s annual fund. To learn more about annual fundraising, check out DonorSearch’s annual fund strategies.
Let’s jump into year-end fundraising!
1. Clean up your data
It’s hard to run an effective campaign when the data you’re basing it on isn’t completely accurate. So the first step in any big fundraising initiative is always to clean up all the data stored within your CRM or fundraising software.
Why? A lot can happen in a year that you would need to account for. For example:
- Donors could move, get married, or get a new phone number or email address. You need the most current contact information about each of your donors if you want to reach them with your fundraising efforts.
- Your CRM might include duplicate profiles on some donors. Duplicate profiles can sneak into your CRM during large data transfers between platforms, like when you transfer registration data from an event into your main database.
- Lapsed donors might be cluttering your database. You shouldn’t waste resources reaching out to donors who haven’t given in years. Clean these lapsed donors from your database to make your outreach more efficient.
Don’t underestimate the harm of stale or duplicate donor data. You might not be able to contact your supporters if the information you have about them is out-of-date. In the case of duplicate data, you might even reach out twice and annoy your donor — or worse, confuse your CRM and end up not reaching out at all.
You shouldn’t be worrying about the reliability of your data during a busy fundraising time. So stay on top of your database and make updating donor information a routine part of your year-end fundraising.
2. Determine your Communication Plan
Once you’re sure your donor data is current, you can start planning your outreach. How will you spread the word about your fundraising efforts among your supporter base?
If you’ve already been tracking donor communication preferences, then this step will be easy. But even if you haven’t, don’t worry (though you might want to start collecting this information next year). Other information about your donors can indicate of how they would prefer to be contacted:
- Age: Older donors are more likely to respond to direct mail or phone calls than younger donors, who might prefer online or mobile messaging through emails, social media, or SMS.
- Employment: Donors who are in school or early in their careers likely won’t be able to pick up the phone or check personal email much during the work day, while self-employed or retired donors might.
Let your comfort and proficiency guide you to the right communication strategy. Even if you have a lot of young donors, if you aren’t comfortable marketing on social media, it might not be the best option for you. Do some research to gain an understanding of the popular platforms or choose a different way to reach out to that segment of your supporter base.
When planning your communications, remember that you’re not the only nonprofit reaching out to your donors right now. The end of the year is a busy time for all fundraising, which means your messages could easily get buried.
Consider starting your year-end fundraising efforts earlier than you expected. Donors only have so much to give, and you don’t want them to be finished before they open your flyer in the mail. And don’t forget to follow up. As other nonprofits take a break after the new year rolls around, follow up with your donors.
3. Segment your Supporter List to Tailor your Asks
Now that you know how and when you’re going to reach out to your donors, you need to determine what you’re going to ask them for.
Campaigns with specific asks are more likely to receive donations, but your supporters come from a wide range of backgrounds, so you can’t ask them all for the same amount.
Segmentation makes the solicitation process more precise and efficient. By drawing from what you already know about your donors, you can separate your supporters into groups and send different donation requests to each group.
You can build your segments off these two key data points you probably already have:
- Propensity to give: Donors’ giving history (with your organization as well as others) is a strong indicator of how likely they are to give again to similar campaigns. Statistically, in fact, donors who have given between $5k and $10k to a nonprofit are 5 times more likely to donate to another one in the future.
- Capacity to give: Supporters who don’t have a lot of money are less likely to donate it to your cause than those who have a lot.
Why ask a major donor for less than usual, or a small gift-giver for more than they can give? Segmentation allows you to request the optimal donation from every donor in your database.
Wealth screening is a useful tool when determining donors’ capacity and propensity to give. Check out Double the Donation’s 8 Ways to Maximize the Benefits of Wealth Screening before diving in.
It’s important to remember to leave a bit of flexibility even while sending tailored asks to the different segments of your donor population. You never know who might surprise you! Though it’s a good idea to offer preset giving amounts, always leave a fill-in-the-blank option to allow for those welcome surprises, especially at the end of the year when donors are feeling more charitable than usual.
4. Craft personalized donation requests
Nothing makes a donor feel more special than knowing you care about them as an individual, not a human ATM — and everyone wants happy donors!
The best way to show donors you care (and to benefit from that positive relationship) is to leverage the small details about them you have in your database.
These details may be small, but they are mighty. They’re things like:
- First name
- Preferred title
- Past giving to your organization
You should incorporate these bits of information into your fundraising requests. Year-end fundraisers are giant undertakings, so every bit of specificity makes your asks feel less like impersonal mass communication.
Something as small as using a donor’s first name instead of their last name can go a long way. If you want to be more formal, use their preferred title. A Ms. probably doesn’t want to be referred to as a Mrs., or vice versa. You could even work a thank you for past giving into your solicitations to reference a long-term relationship between you and your donor.
Especially for your year-end fundraising campaign, be sure you also craft personalized thank-you messages to send afterward to donors who participated. You couldn’t pull off such a huge undertaking without your supporters, so make sure they know you appreciate them!
5. Encourage Donors to Upgrade their Gift
While you know that your database can tell you what your donors have been giving, did you know it can also tell you what your donors might give in the future?
The best way to secure larger donations is to notice patterns. Many nonprofits bring a major gift officer on board to help identify those major donors and coordinate the larger asks. But it doesn’t always take a designated board member to pick up on these patterns.
Take a stab at these example situations:
- Christina has given a small gift for three years in a row. She’s a loyal donor, so maybe this year is the year she could increase to a medium-sized gift.
- Zach has just started a new job and moved to a neighborhood where the median income is significantly higher than where he used to live. He might have extra resources to donate this year.
- Beth has always given at the lower end of the medium-sized gift spectrum. Last year, she upped her donation to the higher end. This year may be the year she becomes a major donor.
See how the patterns in your CRM can help you predict where your donations might be headed?
If you can identify those donors who are on the cusp of a larger donation, you can send them more targeted communications to encourage them to up their gift.
This strategy may take some extra effort for your organization. But consider that nonprofits in many sectors have major gifts to thank for a majority of their fundraising success, and you’ll see that it’s worth the time spent to encourage donors to give more.
6. Diversify your Giving Options
The array of giving options is dizzying, and new giving spaces can be intimidating but costly to ignore.
That’s why it’s worth your time to dig into your donor database to find out which giving channels are best for your supporters. You should definitely offer as many giving opportunities as you can, but devoting resources to platforms your donors won’t use is wasteful.
Before venturing into new giving options, take a look at your donors’ history. Which options that you currently offer are the most popular and profitable? What about the options offered by other organizations your donors support? Make sure you’re proficient with these already tried and true options.
Once you’ve got those down, brainstorm other areas that might be well-received based on what you already know:
- If social media is popular: Have you considered configuring a Facebook donate button? What about an HTML plugin you can install on your social media profiles?
- If mobile giving is popular: Do you have an app? Have you tried different kinds of text-to-give campaigns? What about mobile bidding during silent auctions?
However your donors prefer to give, you should make sure you know enough about the platforms to avoid any technical hitches in your fundraising activities.
7. Plan a Fundraising Event
There’s nothing like an in-person event to get everyone in the spirit of giving. And when it comes to year-end events, your supporter base will already be feeling charitable thanks to the holidays. It’s the perfect time to stage an inspiring fundraising event!
Your event options are practically limitless, but here are a few of the most popular choices:
- Silent auction: One of the most adaptable events, a silent auction allows flexibility with your venue, guest list, auction items, and bidding process. Your guests can mingle with each other and members of your organization’s staff as they place bids.
- Gala: A high-profile option for the holidays is a charity gala. The more interesting the dinner, venue, and entertainment are, the more amazing an experience your donors will have, and the more they’ll want to help your cause.
- Cook-off or bake sale: The most present theme throughout the end of the calendar year is food! Everyone has a family recipe for pie or stuffing or mac and cheese, so invite them to bring it competition-style for a good cause.
How do you know which is the right event for your campaign? The answer is in your donor database. A donor’s lifestyle, interests, and giving histories can guide you to the event that your supporters will be most likely to attend.
You should also carefully consider your guest list. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to invite everyone who’s ever supported one of your campaigns before, so you’ll have to invite a subsection instead.
Luckily, events with exclusive guest lists are great choices for special events you want to drum up excitement for. Take a cue from university fundraising — many universities plan alumni-only events to make those potential donors feel special and give more.
When putting together your guest list, be as strategic as you can. Consider just inviting those who’ve donated above a certain minimum amount in the past year or those who’ve given loyally for a minimum number of years.
However you put together the event and the guest list, you can make it even more special by taking the extra step and framing it as a thank you to your donors on behalf of your cause!
Year-end fundraising should be an exciting process for you and your organization. It’s an opportunity for you to raise funds and awareness for the cause you care about and to rally your donors together.
Allow your donor database to guide you on your year-end initiative, and you’re already on the right track!
This article was provided by Sarah Tedesco, the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch.