It’s not too late to improve year-end giving!



Okay, I know it’s late. But, there’s still time to ensure that your organization is primed to reap the benefit of end-of-year donations.

So, as you get ready for your end-of-the year push, I want to share my personal pet peeves that make me think twice before supporting a nonprofit. These were originally posted last year – Putting together the puzzle pieces for your end of the year fundraising:

  • No way to send an email and/or make a phone call to a specific staff member
  • Sending me a letter and/or an email addressed to ‘Dear Friend” – There’s just no excuse. You need to send personalized email and letters.
  • No one to answer the phone and/or respond to email the end of December – It boggles my mind when nonprofits completely close down during this most important fundraising period. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard from ‘almost’ donors who moved on to support organizations where they could reach a human being.
  • Making me hunt for a way to make a donation – A donate now link is not enough. Visitors to your website need to see a donate button regardless of where they land when they enter your site. Complement each page with a donate pitch with an easy to find donate button
  • Donate now buttons that don’t link directly to the donation page – For each extra click you are losing potential donors.
  • Donation pages without contact information and an address for regular mail – Personally I like to charge my donations. But, there are still people who like to send a check. Be sure to invite visitors to do so.
  • No way to make a tribute donation – I’ve developed deep relationships with nonprofits who provide a phone number and/or email address for tribute donation details. On the flip side I’ve crossed off nonprofits that don’t have some mechanism for making these gifts.
  • No personal thank you notes for online donations – Most online systems have an automated response system. Be sure and follow up with a personalized thank you.
  • A registration that promises an online newsletter that never comes

Recently I read an interesting article by Curtis Chang, founder and CEO of Consulting Within Reach, posted in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. I found myself nodding my head as I read the article.

Here’s a summary of End-of-Year Appeals: Five Bad Habits to Kick. (I strongly suggest you read the article. It contains a number of great links).

1. Sending everyone the same message

Do you really want to send the same message to people who have already donated this year and to people who have never given? Not acknowledging a previous supporter’s donation is like greeting a good friend at a party by extending your hand and saying, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.” With all of the database technology at hand, every organization should be customizing their appeals.

2. Over-reliance on emotional stories

Stories are important to appeal to prospective donors. But end of the year letters also need to contain data that demonstrates the overall impact of donations. Don’t forget to compile your stats, and display them in a compelling way to help persuade people to support your organization.

3. Killing with words, words, words

In our communication era, people have a decreasing capacity to consume long stretches of text. During the holiday season, as more and more physical and electronic letters arrive than usual, that capacity plummets even further. Nonprofits would be well advised to look for other media to embed in their annual appeals.

4. Neglecting the little things

Almost ¼ of all email opens occur within the first hour of being sent. This means that a little thing like when you’ve scheduled delivery of your electronic appeal can make a real difference. Your placement—and testing—of your hyperlinks to a giving opportunity can also have out-sized impact. For physical mailings, the biggest little thing you can do is to include a handwritten message: Some studies show that this increases the chances of a donation by 300 percent.

5. Botching the thank you

One very obvious bad habit is to forget to send a timely thank you to donors. Thank you cards matter—but beware: According to other studies, thank you gifts can backfire by ruining the donor’s sense of altruism.

Don’t let these stumbling blocks keep you from reaping the end of the year fundraising benefits.

Do you have any further suggestions? Would love to hear from you.