Yes, It Is Time For your End Of The Year Appeal

It’s August.  Do you have your end-of-the-fundraising plan ready?

This may feel early, but truthfully, you are already a little bit late.  You should start the end of the year fundraising pretty much as soon as last year’s fundraising effort is over.

This is really important. Over 30% of all annual gifts come in during the month of December.  Over 12% in the last three days of the month.  But it’s not as if people look up and say, “Golly, it’s December.  I’d better make my end of the year gift.”

You have to convince them to (a) make a gift and (b) to make that gift to you.  And even in asks, the “rule of 7” counts.

What is the rule of 7? Simply stated, a person needs to hear something 7 times before they take action.

So starting now, plan your end of the year appeal.

The first step of course is to decide what your appeal will look like?  What platforms will it be on?  How much of it will focus on larger donors—and, therefore, more personal appeals? And how will you reach out to the larger group of donors, those who gifts are relatively small?

Next you have to segment your list:  Into larger and smaller donors.  For those who will be getting more arm’s length attention, you want to divide your list up into current donors, former or lapsed donors, new potential donors. Each of these groups will need a slightly different message.  And, because you will be using multiple platforms (you will, won’t you?), if you know the ages of your donors, you may want to match the right platform with the right cohorts.  Other ways you may want to segment include volunteers, alumni, current families who use your services.  The more personal you can make a message, the better your results will be.

  • Direct mail is still the best way to attract end of the year gifts. 50 percent of people pay more attention to direct mail than any other marketing channel
  • Depending on the nonprofit organization, the direct mail channel often delivers between 60 and 80 percent of total revenue. The email channel provides between 5 and 15 percent
  • On average, direct mail response rates stand at 10 to 30 times that of email, and even higher when compared to online display.

So now might be the time to start drafting all those letters.  And remember, successful fundraising relies on getting a lot of things right, starting from who makes the ask.  I hate to say to this, but a letter from the Director of Development just isn’t compelling!  One segment of your list may respond to one person; another may be more motivated by someone else.  Now that you’ve got time, think about who you should approach to sign your various appeals.

That said, a letter by itself will not do the trick.  While direct mail is better than most other platforms, even a warm list will only get about a 4% response rate.  Unless you beef up your asking with other ways of getting attention.  In short, you must be multiple spaces simultaneously, with consistent and integrated messaging.


  • E-solicitations
  • An end-of-the year page on your website—visible from (or on!) your homepage
  • Blog postings
  • Social media positings
  • Postcards
  • A video (59% of the population would rather watch a video than read a letter—what are you waiting for?)
  • A call bank
  • A text-a-thon
  • House parties
  • Peer to Peer appeals
  • Anything and everything you can think of to reach out and grab your prospects and donors


And now, calendar this all out.  Don’t be like the organizations that I hear from all too often, calling me just before Thanksgiving, hyperventilating because they haven’t yet started on their end of the year campaign.

Start it now.  As that old saying goes, plan your work, and then work your plan.

At the end of the year, when your fundraising rates have skyrocketed, you will be very glad that you did.




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