Why Year-End Doesn’t End in December

December 31st is in sight. If you’re a digital fundraiser, you’re (hopefully) feeling pretty good right now. Your strategy is sound, your emails are drafted, and in the next several days the gifts will pour in. Come January 1st, you can breathe a sigh of relief — and start packing for a well-deserved vacation.

Not so fast!

Fundraising success comes with new donors to nurture, dedicated supporters to thank, and a chance to do a lot of learning.

So before you pack up your sunglasses and swimsuit, make sure you’ve checked these off your to-do list:

1. Say Thanks

After blitzing your supporters’ inboxes for four weeks straight, you owe them a little gratitude. Resist the temptation to treat your thank you email like a throwaway — instead, surprise and delight your supporters by leveraging your organization’s leadership or a celebrity ambassador. For example, our client Partners In Health sent this thank-you note penned (quite literally) by their co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer. The scribbly handwriting might be hard to read, but it’s just what you’d expect from a doctor — and PIH’s fans were thrilled to receive something so authentic and sincere.
PIH Thank You

You could also show supporters how their collective contributions impacted your work. This email from Nationwide Children’s Hospital does a great job of reporting back on actions supporters took in 2017.

Nationwide Children's Thank you

A simple direct-to-iPhone thank you video can be just as authentic and meaningful as something highly produced. This short and sweet video from a Special Olympics tugs at the heartstrings and introduces donors directly to the athletes they’re supporting.

2. Welcome the new people

You probably acquired new supporters during your year-end fundraising push. These first-time donors are valuable, so take time to plan how you’ll give them some special attention past the end-of-year season.
If you already have a welcome series to onboard new donors, give it a second look. Is the content still relevant? Does it need updating? Drop in a new quiz that did especially well ask them to share a bit more about themselves with a short survey.

If you’re anticipating an especially large group of new donors, consider a custom welcome series just for people acquired during year-end. Acknowledge where they came from (“Thanks for joining our community with your year-end gift!”) and tailor the content to be extra-relevant (like asking your newly engaged donors to speak out on an issue in the headlines).

By the way, the final send in your custom welcome series is the perfect moment to make a monthly ask of your new fans. And with that, the next item on our checklist is…

3. Make a monthly ask

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best time to ask someone to make a monthly gift is after they’ve already given: That’s when they’re feeling invested, primed, and — hopefully — appreciated for their dedication to your mission. Plan your monthly upsell campaign for the weeks following end-of-year, and start thinking now about how you’ll invite people to convert.<
Partners In Health provides monthly donors with a beautiful, branded water bottle to welcome them to the monthly community. You could also offer to match their first month’s gift — or even match the first 12 months of their giving.

If you don’t have physical goods or funds to offer, take a cue from UNICEF USA, which provides monthly donors with exclusive impact updates from their CEO and the chance to get on the phone with workers in the field.

Beyond incentives, be prepared to make the case to donors as to why their impact will be greater with a monthly gift than a one-time gift. Framing your ask through tangible outcomes is one powerful way to achieve this: Tell them exactly how many vaccinations their $15/month gift will distribute, or how many athletes their full year of monthly giving will support. Do the math now so you can leverage it into a compelling upsell later.

4. Learn & plan

January isn’t all about the donors. It’s also a time for you to learn from everything you just accomplished and apply those learnings to your program going forward.  Digging into the data after a long end-of-year can be overwhelming. Start by asking yourself what you’d like to learn, and write those questions out: How did those merch sends do? Which email message reactivated the most lapsed donors? Did our personalization tactics work?

Once you’ve determined what you’d like to measure, check out our KPIs Cheatsheet, which provides a quick primer on some of our favorite reporting metrics.

Finally, learnings aren’t useful unless you’re ready to put them into practice. As you plan for your next quarter, determine where you can incorporate everything you’ve uncovered, from test results to tactics.


Want to get your 2018 fundraising off to a strong start? Get in touch with us.