Guest post by John Killoran of Snowball
As you likely know, the year-end giving season is one of the most important times for nonprofits across the country. In fact, nearly one-third of annual giving occurs in the month of December!
Because year-end giving is so important, you want to do everything you can to maximize its potential — and that means planning early. According to Nonprofit Hub, only 53.8% of nonprofits start planning their year-end fundraising in October and, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a lot of time.
Being forward-thinking will ensure that your organization reaches its fundraising goals before the year’s end. By planning early, you can set yourself up for success for the crucial holiday giving season. Maximizing fundraising efforts during the holidays can make a big impact on how much your organization is able to raise overall.
Ramping up your fundraising efforts as you enter the last few months of the year is essential to meet your goals and start the new year with good momentum. There are lots of different ways to engage your donor base for end-of-year giving, but however you go about it, always focus your strategy on connection.
To help you prepare, we’ll discuss these five strategies:
Turn Your Fundraising into a Gift-Giving Opportunity
Offer Volunteer Opportunities
Optimize Your Website and Donation Page
Plan Out Your Marketing
The holidays are a perfect time to improve donor relationships through the events you host and the communications you send out. As you read on, keep your unique donor base in mind and think about how our tips can help you strengthen your donor relationships.
1. Utilize Storytelling
As the holidays approach, you should focus your communication strategy on tapping into supporters’ emotions and empathy. With many people already in a giving mindset, utilizing storytelling in your communications can forge a deeper connection between your supporters and your cause.
Storytelling can be integrated into your communication strategy in a variety of ways, from email marketing to social media captions to donation request letters. Regardless of what story you’re telling, where you’re telling it, or who your audience is, the main elements should be the same. All stories need a main conflict, which is the problem you’re working to solve, a protagonist who is the central character in the story, and a resolution. By describing your conflict in greater detail, you can get supporters invested in your cause. At the end of the story, you can tell supporters how their help can make a difference in resolving the conflict.Snowball’s guide to optimizing donation letters can help you adapt your story to target different audiences. Try telling an impact-focused story about how last year’s holiday donations made a difference for your cause in your next communication.
2. Turn Your Fundraising into a Gift-Giving Opportunity
As everyone is searching for the perfect gifts for the holidays, hosting a gift-themed auction is a great way to raise money while helping your supporters find gifts for their loved ones. You can ask local businesses to donate items that would make good gifts and organize a holiday-themed event to auction them off.
If you don’t have the time or resources to pull together an auction for the holidays, you can still turn donations into a gift-giving opportunity for your supporters. Through your online donation platform, you can create an option for donating on behalf of someone. Donors can donate and receive a certificate of their donation as a gift to someone in their life who cares deeply about your cause.
Let’s face it: donors are busy! That’s why offering them an opportunity to check something off their list while donating to your organization can give them a greater incentive to get involved. If you choose to create a gift-giving opportunity through an auction or individual donations, make sure to market it properly so your donors understand the added benefits of donating.
3. Offer Volunteer Opportunities
While many people are in the giving spirit around the holidays, they may also be strapped for cash from their holiday shopping. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still help your organization.
We’ve all heard the saying “time is money.” In this case, it’s true! If your supporters don’t have money to donate, they could turn their volunteer time into a donation through a volunteer grant program.
Volunteer grants are a form of corporate philanthropy through which corporations donate money to an organization where their employee spends time volunteering. The amount of money donated and the volunteer hours required to qualify for a grant vary for every organization but a volunteer grant database quickly and easily provides the information you need. This Double the Donation resource on volunteer grants can help you get started.
To maximize the potential of volunteer grants, consider adding additional volunteer opportunities for the holiday season. When you’re gathering volunteer information, make sure to ask about their employer to check if they’re eligible. Most volunteers will be happy to submit the necessary paperwork if you help them find out about their eligibility.
4. Optimize Your Website and Donation Page
The holidays are often a hectic and stressful time for many. With your donors already short on time (and possibly patience), you don’t want your website to be another point of frustration. As the holiday season approaches, make sure your website, especially your donation page, offers a great user experience. Here are a few features to make sure your website has in order to improve the online donation experience for your supporters:
Easy navigation. If visitors to your site have to click around for a long time or search to find what they’re looking for, they are much more likely to get discouraged and give up. Make sure you have an easy-to-find navigation menu that includes all of your most important pages.
Fast load time. If your supporters have time to make a sandwich while your website loads, it’s too slow! Fast load time on your website will ensure that visitors don’t get distracted or lose interest by the time they actually get to your site. You can improve website speed by optimizing your images, reducing redirects, and using page caching.
A visible “donate” button. Your donation button should be easy to find, and the design of your website should draw attention to it. After all, donating is the ultimate action that you want visitors to take on your website. You can draw attention to your button by making it larger, using an eye-catching color, and placing it in a highly visible part of your page.
A simple donation form. Once you get someone to click on your donate button, you’re almost there! You want to make sure they actually complete the form and submit their donation instead of clicking away. Keeping your donation form simple and asking for as little information as possible makes it easier for supporters to donate. You can always give the option to create an account and supply more information, but requiring it may discourage donors who are short on time.
Consistent design. Design alone will not engage donors but it is a great way to improve the donor experience on your website. Having consistent branding and design that’s apparent on your site helps build brand authority and awareness as users get accustomed to recognizing your color palette and logo. Aesthetics also create a better user experience, as long as the technical parts of your website work just as well.
Hopefully, your website already has a lot of these features. Even if you think your website is in good shape, it’s worth doing a quick audit to make sure you aren’t missing any opportunities to further optimize your website.
5. Plan Out Your Marketing
The end of the year is not the time to relax your marketing efforts — in fact, you should do just the opposite! But remember, everyone is getting bombarded with ads and requests at this time of year. Because of this, it’s a good idea to lay your foundation early so that your supporters enter the holiday season already thinking about your organization.
If you’re planning a big end-of-year event, your marketing should start early to ensure the highest attendance possible. Give people advance notice so they can free up time on their calendars. Also, be sure to send out regular reminders as the event gets closer. Lastly, keep your marketing materials fresh and new across all the channels you’re using to reach supporters.Multi-channel marketing gives you the opportunity to reach different segments of your audience and keep your communications fresh. As you form your strategy, focus on a few different channels and create marketing materials that are specifically tailored to each of those platforms for maximum impact.
While fundraising is important all year long, the holiday season offers some unique opportunities that you should take advantage of to reach your goals. It can be easy to get overwhelmed during this busy time of year, but now’s not the time to hold yourself back. The extra effort you put into your fundraising now will pay off as you enter the new year with last year’s fundraising goal exceeded.
About the Author
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.