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Three Year-End Annual Fundraising Tips You Haven’t Thought About

It is that time of year when many nonprofit raise the bulk of the money they will need to continue their important work in the next year.  Think you are doing all that you can with your year-end fundraising? Fundraising guru Gail Perry has some ideas you might not have considered. Thanks for the great ideas in this week’s guest post, Gail.

Three Year-End Annual Fundraising Tips You Haven’t Thought About

Year-end annual fundraising is when the rubber meets the road. This is the time for creative fundraising campaigns!

There’s tons of money at stake at this time of year. It’s the generous time of year, when donors think about giving.

Donors give more, especially in December and the last days of the year.

Here are three simple, no-brainer tips that will boost your fundraising return – raising more revenue than ever.

If you implement these,

  • Everyone on your list will give more
  • Your donors will be warmed up before you ask
  • Your donor loyalty and retention will go up
  • Your mid-level donors will upgrade their gifts

Year-End Fundraising Tip #1: Hold a Thankathon Before You Solicit Your Donors

Get the ball rolling on your year-end annual campaign by making sure your donors are happy and connected to you.  Have they been well thanked?

Before you roll out any year-end campaign, get on the phone, and thank everybody you possibly can.

You are “warming up” your donors for another ask.

Remember, donors love to be thanked.

Thank you phone calls keep your donors on YOUR bandwagon – tuned in to your organization’s work, and thrilled about the support they are giving your cause.

Try a Thankathon.

Get your board members, volunteers, staffers or even clients involved. Make it fun. (They’ll come if you feed them supper!)

Call your donors and thank them for everything they have done to help the (children, students, elderly, poor, hungry, prisoners, sick etc).

Don’t thank them for helping your organization be successful. Instead thank them for the impact THEY are making.

Take the time to appreciate your donors BEFORE you send another solicitation. Then they are much more likely to keep your organization on their short list of favored causes.

They will remember your cause happily when your appeal shows up next month.

Year-End Fundraising Tip #2. Ask Donors to Fund Something Specific

In year-end and annual fundraising, we see donors always giving more when they are asked to fund a specific project or purpose.

All the research shows that donors will give more if they can designate their gift.

Mid-Level Donor Alert!

Especially if you want your mid-level donors to increase their gift, you need to be as specific as possible.

Leah Eustace ACFRE shared this cool info in her webinar recently.

She said that mid-level donors will increase their gift if they are asked to fund something specific, like an ambulance, a technology program, even a specific outreach effort.

Who wants to pay to keep the lights on or to maintain the buildings? Not many people!

Instead, donors want to help the kids, feed the hungry, make art, cure diseases, save the world. So why don’t you let them fund what they want to fund?

TIP: Use my MPI Fundraising Formula: Specific amount of Money, for a specific Project, for a specific Impact.

I know, I know, you are under pressure to raise general unrestricted support.

Here’s how to make an ask for general support that still “feels’ specific:

Mr. Donor, it costs $xxx to run these urgently needed programs that benefit yyyy. Your gift will help bring these wonderful services to our community . . .

You are not asking for restricted gifts — instead you are asking for help to “run” the programs.

The code word is “run” the programs. This keeps it in the unrestricted realm.

Don’t make a generic unrestricted ask. It  is LAZY fundraising.

Be as specific as possible, and you’ll raise more money.

Annual Fundraising Tip #3: Send a followup appeal letter to everyone who has not yet responded.

I can’t believe what I see – too many smart organizations are sending out only one appeal letter. They think that is their entire year-end annual campaign!

Let me be clear: One appeal letter does not a campaign make!

You need a sequence of appeals and most of all, you need to send follow-ups.

Here’s the advice from direct mail guru Mal Warwick, who has written over 22 books on nonprofit direct mail fundraising:

“One appeal letter might bring about a 14% return, but a follow-up appeal or telephone call can raise that return up to about 42%. (Mal Warwick)

Mal told me that the followup letter alone can boost your overall return by 15-25%.

Does that get your attention?

Mal says this is a “don’t miss” fundraising strategy that will definitely bring in more contributions.

Here’s how to create a great followup letter:

  1. Shorter and briefer than the first appeal – just a quick reminder.
  2. Cheerful but very very specific and intentional.
  3. Repeats the theme, look, layout and images in your first appeal.
  4. Consistency is key.



If you are going to have a successful annual fundraising campaign, you have to warm up your donors before you ask them.

You need to ask for something specific. And you need to followup.

Aren’t these easy, no-brainer strategies?  But . . . .easier said than done!

Sooooo, what do you think?

If you’ve implemented these strategies before, how about sharing your results?


Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, trend-spotter, speaker, trainer and thought leader. Her Fired-Up Fundraising Board Workshops have inspired thousands of board members to get actively involved in fundraising. Gail’s book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action (Wiley/AFP) is the “gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards.”