This guest post is by Claire Axelrad, nonprofit coach and consultant.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's when a majority of people are inspired (or habituated) to think about giving. Not a time your nonprofit wants to miss out on.

If you want to leverage people's feelings of generosity during the holiday season, you need to start planning now. If you've already begun (yay you!), you need to make sure you're not missing any tricks that could be raising you a lot more money.

Your year-end appeal is a terrible thing to waste

Sadly, I see wasted efforts at every turn, efforts that simply do not compel a response - or certainly not a generous one. A few missteps include:

  • Letters in envelopes no one in their right mind would open.
  • Wonderful letters sent to the wrong mailing lists.
  • Letters without a specific ask.
  • Letters with no call to action.
  • Letters with no personalization.
  • E-appeals that strain the eye.
  • Donation pages that would take a degree in physics to complete.
  • Lackluster donation pages that convey zero emotion.
  • One-shot efforts that make no effort to remind folks of their noble impulses.
  • Appeals that lack urgency.
  • Thank you's that lack graciousness or even manners.

Update how you approach year-end fundraising to make it really count

Here are 7 questions you may want to consider:

  1. Do you have a written plan so you know what success will look like? Not just dollar goals, but numbers of donors, rates of renewal for different donor segments, online engagement and so forth.
  2. Does your plan include multi-channel promotion? Are you targeting ways to reach your audiences where you're most likely to find them? Are you cross promoting your campaign across mobile, social, online and direct mail so your message will be tailored to generational and behavioral differences in your audiences?
  3. Does your plan include repetition? Folks are busy! They may not notice the first time you send your appeal. Or the second or third time. Are you coordinating e-mail with direct mail? With social media? What are you planning to maximize the chances your appeal will get noticed? Most nonprofits simply don't mail enough.
  4. Are your fundraising and marketing staffs working as a team? Will messaging appear consistent to your audiences? Coordinated, or confusing? Focused, or working at cross purposes?
  5. Have you made it easy to give to you? Have you spiffed up your donation button, landing page, donation form, remit piece and so forth? Are you easy to find? Easy to contact? Are you including instructions in your online appeals as to how to reach you off line, and vice-versa? Have you tested out what your user's experience might be?
  6. Are your appeals and donation pages mobile friendly? Will you be able to track and measure where your donations come from so you know what works best for next year?
  7. Have you enlisted ambassadors to help, peer to peer? One of the easiest ways your board, staff, donors and volunteers can help you is simply by sharing your message with their networks. You can make this easy by preparing e-mails; setting up Facebook cause pages or prepared tweets; empowering them to host their own fundraising pages (your database or CRM may enable this), and including share buttons everywhere.

This year, take your year-end fundraising to the next level. Why use only one trick when you've got a whole bag full?

Want more pointers on year-end fundraising success? Learn more from fundraising expert and Clairification founder, Claire Axelrad. Click on the these two links to see the slides from her Foundation Center presentation, Anatomy of a Successful Fundraising Appeal Letter, and to see 14 tips from her book Year-End Fundraising To-Do's and Checklist



CLAIRE AXELRAD, JD, CFRE, is a sought-after coach and consultant and was named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She brings 30 years of frontline development and marketing experience to her work as principal of Clairification.

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