2023 has been a year of “how has time moved so slowly” but also “where on earth did this year go?” Somehow it’s almost November and that means it’s time to start planning your ideal year-end timeline.
Autumn definitely means “go time” in the life of a fundraiser, often because it signals the start of year-end, a period of time you may get upwards of 60% or more of your annual donations.
Even if you don’t follow a definitive fundraising calendar, it’s still vital to come up with a year-end fundraising plan—and stick to it. To get started preparing for the most wonderful time of the year for nonprofits and charities, ensure you’ve covered your year-end fundraising basics with this year-end fundraising campaign timeline.
View and download our Year-End Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar by inputting your email address below:
Here are some key dates to keep in mind as you plan your year-end fundraising calendar:
- November 1: Set Goals And Make A Plan
- Suggestion: Pre-Thanksgiving Thank You Campaign
- November 15: Soft Launch Your Year-End Campaign
- November 28: GivingTuesday – Big Fundraising Kickoff
- December 15: Build Urgency
- December 31: Final Year-End Push
- January + February: Thank Yous
For more on year-end planning, get your free ticket to the Year-End Fundraising Fair on 11/4!
By November 1st: Set Goals And Make A Plan
Set a Goal: Hopefully, your nonprofit or charity has a clear, board-approved budget that you follow. If this is the case, then you should have a clear idea about how much you need to raise for the next fiscal year. Don’t hesitate to use this budget as a guide for your year-end fundraising efforts.
Use the SMART Goal setting strategy to craft your fundraising goal. SMART goals help you streamline a reasonable goal for any situation.
- Specific: Have a set number or level you want to reach, such as dollars raised, volunteers mobilized, etc.
- Measurable: Ensure it’s trackable and measurable
- Attainable: The goal must be achieved through reasonable effort
- Relevant: The goal should match the needs of your cause
- Time-bound: Set a start and end date
Here’s an example of a SMART year-end fundraising goal: We have a goal of raising $15,000 from GivingTuesday through December 31st through a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and an email campaign.
Have a Plan: What types of fundraising activities are you planning to use? What are the methods do your supporters respond to? These are the questions that must shape your fundraising plans. Take into account your staff and volunteer time, fundraising budget, and your donor’s normal year-end giving habits when formulating a fundraising plan. Here are some ways you can fundraise during year-end:
- Email “asks”
- A phone-a-thon
- Online crowdfunding campaign
- Peer-to-peer fundraising
- Direct mail pledges
- A one-day giving blitz such as GivingTuesday
- Virtual events
- Incorporate a matching grant
Delegate Tasks: Once you set your goal and plan, it’s time to delegate. Before the start of November, give everyone involved with the fundraising process their “to-do” list. Make sure that you have strong communication plans set up for the last two months of the year. Spreadsheets and shared files (such as on Google Docs or Dropbox) are phenomenal ways to keep everyone on the same page.
Download this Sample Year-End Fundraising Goals Spreadsheet:
You’ll see this fundraising goal sheet is broken up into 2 parts: A donor thank-you campaign from 11/2-11/13 and a fundraising campaign from 11/14-12/31.
Suggestion: Pre-Year End Fundraising Thank You Campaign
Give Thanks: Thanksgiving is a key date for your nonprofit or charity and it is a wonderful time to remind your donors that they can build community with friends and family by supporting an organization they love.
It’s also a perfect time to tell your donors thank you. They’ve been here for you through a lot this year. This is absolutely the time to let them know that you appreciate it. There are a number of ways you can tell your supporters “Thanks” on Thanksgiving, including:
- Social Media
- Email blast
- Direct mail
The goal of this engagement touchpoint is to show your donors, volunteers, board members, and other stakeholders how vital they are to your organization and equate their commitment with impact.
Remember, it’s always a good idea to simply say “thank you” without any strings attached. For more ideas on giving thanks, read our post: 21 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas.
Prepare Your Supporters for GivingTuesday: If your nonprofit or charity is one of the hundreds of thousands of organizations set to participate in GivingTuesday fundraising efforts, then the preparations for the campaign should begin well in advance.
To guarantee you cover all your bases, we suggest following our GivingTuesday Planning Guide. After the ball starts rolling, prepare your potential donors for the campaign through targeted outreach.
It is important to get your donation page setup in advance, or to send a GivingTuesday email to build momentum leading up to the launch of your campaign. Innovators Who Care did exactly that in the example below. They created a page with details on what their organization does, why they are celebrating, a powerful story AND how your donation makes a difference, including a detailed and transparent list of where the money will go.
By November 15: Soft Launch Your Year-End Campaign
As we head into November, it’s time to start thinking about sending your first solicitation. “That’s so early!” I hear you all yelling at your computers. Ah, but it’s not. This is the perfect time to start introducing your year-end campaign to your supporters, and you definitely want to put your nonprofit into their minds before November 28.
This 2022 campaign from Associate Alumnae of Douglass College prepared donors for GivingTuesday by sharing a window of time from November 5th to GivingTuesday, the big day! This can be helpful for donors who want to get started giving early, and also to beat the noise of GivingTuesday by launching your campaign a few weeks in advance.
You can start with a soft ask, or if you’re feeling ready, dive right into full solicitation. If you’re interested in the soft ask, you can check out our post on soft launches to learn how to start your campaign before you really start it.
Whatever you do, make sure that your supporters are thinking about your name in connection with holiday giving.
Year-End Fundraising Campaign Goals
Here’s an example of what a year-end fundraising communications calendar can look like before Dec 1:
Want this template to create your own year-end fundraising plan? Download yours when you enter your email here:
By #GivingTuesday (November 28th, 2023): Big Fundraising Kickoff
Engage in a GivingTuesday Fundraiser or Friendraiser: while you build your general plan, you should definitely take GivingTuesday into consideration. This day can have a big pay-off if you put together a clear plan.
Even if you decided not to run a full-blown fundraising campaign on this International day of giving, it’s vital you work to keep your organization top of mind. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of causes vying for your donor’s attention. If you don’t reach out now, you’ll be missing out. Make sure your donors know how they can give to you on this day, regardless of your other plans.
Try one or more of these strategies to engage your supporters on GivingTuesday:
- Run a 24-hour online fundraiser
- Engage supporters in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign
- Ask your audience to share your org’s posts regarding impact on social media and via email
- Call all donors just to say “Thank You”
By December 15th: Build Urgency Through Communications
Build Urgency: By December 15th, New Year’s Eve is just a few short weeks away. Whether you’re near your year-end fundraising goal or are still struggling to meet your goals, use this date to build urgency in your communications with donors.
Let them know, politely and pleasantly, that the end of the year is nearing. If you’re comfortable doing so, let them know how far you are away from your goal.
Last year, The Cancer Support Community of San Gabriel Valley set and met their goal to raise $3,750,000 by December 31st. Their progress bar highlighted to their nearly 300 donors how close they were to reaching their goal, and together, they did it!
Encourage Supporter Participation: Social media and social sharing, in particular, have completely transformed the donor to nonprofit relationship. Today, your organization’s visibility and credibility are tightly linked with the fervor of your online and offline audience.
To tap into the power of a good recommendation, it’s a good time to ask your supporters to “vouch” for your cause. Some ways they can do this include:
- Sharing your post
- Using a special, organization/campaign-specific hashtag
- Becoming a personal fundraiser for your year-end campaign
- Posting about your organization on their own page
By December 31st: Final Year-End Fundraising Push
Create a Final Push: As time winds down, a final push may be necessary to capture those last-minute donations. The last few days of December are the highest giving days of the year: be sure you have communications going out on December 29, 30, and 31st to drive donations.
Before December 31st, you also want to follow up with any donor (major or minor) that hasn’t renewed their gift using their preferred communication method.
You can use whatever language suits your organization best, but it is nice to include some highlights from this year as well as program goals for 2024.
Remind donors how much they mean to your organization, and how they are the true heroes that make your important work possible. The Irish Immigration Pastoral Center exemplifies this well on their campaign page below.
They clearly share the impact they have had in the community for the previous year, and appeal to their donors to help them continue and expand these programs for the coming year. Donors love to see impact, so share all the amazing work you are doing proudly.
Ready to get started building your own year-end fundraising calendar? Access the free Year-End Fundraising Sample Plan + Calendar Template below:
January and February: Thank Yous, Impact Reporting, and Further Engagement Planning.
Thank Your Donors: Immediately following the end of your year-end campaign, don’t hesitate to thank your donors. Yes, this post may sound like a broken record but this step can’t be stressed enough.
To cover your bases consider doing a 2-part thank you. Start with a blanket “Thanks” through social media and email to let your donors know their efforts will make a difference. Be sure this comes out on or around New Year’s Day.
Follow that up with a personal thank you to each donor. This is also a wonderful place to start letting your supporters know what you’re thinking about for 2024.
Compile Impact and Results: Gather all the information you need to report the results of the campaign. Tally the number of donors, dollars raised, volunteers/fundraisers mobilized, and even the number of social shares. Use this information to build on your next campaign.
When the time comes, report those findings on your website and/or annual report.
Plan Next Engagement Opportunity: In 2022 we saw charitable giving take a dip. In 2023, we experienced a year of climate crisis and global unrest; however inflation slowed and the economy began to gradually improve. With that, we anticipate annual giving this year to improve and our giving study found that 81% of respondents planned to maintain or increase their giving this year! Looking forward to 2024, it’s time to emphasize thoughtful planning to be prepared for whatever lies ahead. Start considering how to maintain donors, measure the success of your events, campaigns, and fundraisers as well as how to appeal to the younger audiences.
Use the donor engagement cycle as a guide to keep your donors as active participants in your organization.
There’s no doubt about it, you’re going to be busy these next few months. Help ease the burden by preparing ahead of time and following this timeline to a T. Once you ace your year-end fundraising efforts this year, you can build and grow annually.
CauseVox offers a multitude of resources on year-end and GivingTuesday campaigns. Here are a few of our favorites:
- 2023 Comprehensive Year-End and GivingTuesday Toolkit
- How to Plan for a Successful GivingTuesday Campaign
- Fundraising Planning Guide, Calendar, Template & Goals Worksheet
- How to Incorporate GivingTuesday Into Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign
Ready To Make Your Year-End Fundraising Fantastic?
Are you ready to build out a digital fundraising campaign for all your year-end fundraising needs?
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