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The Ant and the Grasshopper: Six Tips to Plan the End-of-Year Campaign


The Ant and the Grasshopper, one of Aesop’s Fables, is the story of the grasshopper who plays and frolics all summer long, while the ant plans and works for the coming winter. Soon enough, along comes the cold weather and the grasshopper is left unprepared and hungry, while the ant thrives and meets her annual fundraising goal! (Or so the fable is told in development circles.)  

Let’s face it, in summertime it’s easy to be more like the grasshopper than the steadfast ant. But, it is worth acting now to plan for your end-of-year campaign. The future payoff will come from work done today, since December is the highest giving month of the year.  It commands 17.4% of annual donations, according to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report.  

These six tips will help prepare now for year end:

1. Launch with #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is in its fifth year and has reached mainstream popularity. A message sent on this day will attract a positive response from your donor base. Online donations on #GivingTuesday have increased 470% since the event’s inception in 2012. The number of online gifts increased 52% from 2014 to 2015!

#GivingTuesday can be a call to action in November to leverage the Thanksgiving Holiday too. Their website provides free, open source tools.  And, our #GivingTuesday article from last year provides detailed advice on how to leverage this national day of giving.

2. Line up matching gifts now.

Act now to seek a matching gift from a major donor for the end-of-year messaging. It is well suited for a matching gift as it provides a natural deadline and a sense of immediacy for donor action. A 1:1 match is effective due to the simplicity of message and the appeal to the donor’s ROI. Both sides of the match feel they are getting a bigger return on their investment knowing that the money is leveraging other donations.

Don’t forget that the board of directors can be helpful in securing major donor candidates for the match.

3. Send messages through multiple channels.

Use every channel available to the organization, including email, social media, direct mail, mobile web and peer-to-peer. Each channel echoes the same message in order to provide multiple touch points and reminders.  And, for the digital channels, send messages up to three times throughout the campaign. According to the AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Study, the average donor retention rate for nonprofit organizations is 46%. Utilizing multiple channels of communication to your donors can increase the likelihood of a repeat gift.

Giving USA 2016 data shows that online giving continues to increase significantly, up 19% from 2015. Since more donors prefer the convenience of making a gift online, make sure each channel, including direct mail, has the web link to donate online. Also, be sure to have a clear donation button that links directly to the donation form in each electronic message, especially since giving by mobile device is on the rise.

4. Appeal to the head and tug on the heart.  

First, appeal to the donor’s head by demonstrating the measurable impact of your organization. Draw upon specific numbers and make the case as to why it’s a good investment of philanthropic dollars. Today’s donors want to know more about where their money is going and what it will do to make a difference.    

But, don’t forget to tug on the heart by making the appeal visual according to your brand and by telling compelling stories. Emotional still rules! Make the direct connection that a donation will impact an individual’s life in a specific way, and how that will happen.

5. Segment your list.

Segmentation makes all the difference for more end-of-year donations because it helps you focus specific messages on targeted audiences. An end-of-year appeal that addresses the prospective donor by first name, recognizes their specific interest in the mission and acknowledges how they have been involved in the organization will yield a better result than a more generic message. The most popular ways to segment the constituency list are by name, giving category, age, affinity group, and geography.  

Effective segmentation relies on a quality donor management database. The CRM system can perform segmentation functions to deliver customized messages in an automated format. Learn more about data management systems

6. Remember the IRA Charitable Rollover.

Last year, Congress made the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) rollover permanent.  The IRA Charitable Rollover provision allows individuals who have reached age 70½ to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their IRA, without treating the distribution as taxable income. This rule received a lot of publicity last year, but don’t forget to mention it to your donors this year. Reminding them about this provision may result in a major donation in December!

So, a little bit of work today can make a big difference come the end-of-year campaign. These tips make it easier to plan and work to meet your fundraising goals. Be a bit more like the ant in July. Frolic like the grasshopper on New Year’s Eve. (That’s how the fable is told in development circles.)

joined Benefactor Group with over ten years of experience in non-profit fundraising, operations, and management.

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