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This post is brought to us by Victoria Dietz, Vice President of The Curtis Group. Learn more about The Curtis Group at the close of this article. 


As you probably know, 40% of giving occurs in the last four months of the year. Of course, December remains the prime time for when those gifts are actually made.

Does your fundraising plan include month-by-month steps for year-end giving? If you haven’t already started your year-end campaign, you’re behind. But if you act quickly, there’s still time to bring in some sizable donations. Ideally, your year-end fundraising will follow this timeline:

Learn more about year-end appeals with this helpful timeline.

Here are some of our top tips for maximizing your donors’ year-end giving.

Get your board on board.

One of the first pieces of the puzzle you need in place is board support. All board members should have made meaningful personal gifts and are thinking about other ways to get involved—making calls, setting appointments, giving tours, signing appeal letters and thank-you cards, or maybe considering issuing a challenge gift to the community.

Let’s face it: board members will not wake up one morning and think of these ideas themselves.

You, as a staff leader, need to communicate with them early at board meetings and through one-on-one conversations to help them get engaged and maximize success. 

Don’t wait until November 29 to send the first communication.

We know starting early is a must. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re asking in September, but it should mean you’re planning and ramping up communication so that when a donor is thinking about where to give toward the end of the year, you have laid a solid foundation and built a great case for a gift.

Use the early fall to show impact and tell your story so your organization is top of mind.

Stay on message.

It’s essential have a coordinated message that is clear to donors.

When writing year-end appeals, you need to:

  • Use a multi-pronged approach  (in-person, direct mail, online and social media).
  • Make sure written and electronic communications complement each other.
  • Tell strong stories that tap into donors’ emotions.
  • Demonstrate impact.

Besides not being asked, one of the top reasons donors say they stop giving to an organization is that no one reports back on what their gift did before they are asked for the next one.

Now is the time of year to get those messages out, if you have not already started doing so. When creating the materials, remember you don’t have to spend an enormous amount of money—it should be appropriate for your organization and mission.

Donors don’t want to see a small human services organization with highly flashy materials, but they may expect that from their university, or a statewide arts group.

Don’t simply wait by the mailbox.

You can’t assume last year’s gifts will be repeated, especially for your top donors.

You must ask—and for your top donors, this should be in person and prior to December.

Sitting down with your donors and prospects for specific in-person asks does so much—to not only secure higher-level gifts, but also to build a relationship.

Bottom line: If your strategy does not involve in-person meetings, you are leaving serious money on the table.

Make sure your website is donor-friendly.

While online giving is less than 10% of giving overall, December is the biggest month by far for these gifts, so it’s important that you are leveraging this channel.

A donor-friendly website will be:

  • Clean and easy to navigate.
  • Mobile optimized.
  • Clear about what your organization does.
  • Easy for visitors to find the donate button (preferably large and at the top of the page).

Your e-giving strategy should include e-blasts that weave together messages of impact, solicitation and gratitude—so, not every email should be a solicitation.

Consider sending testimonials or creative “thank you for your support” messages using engaging stories in between solicitations. This pattern should also be how you use social media to drive traffic back to your website.  And don’t forget to plan around #GivingTuesday!

Contact people who have already made a gift.

You’re leaving money on the table if you’re only contacting those that haven’t given yet. The people who already made an investment in your organization this year have demonstrated they are interested in your mission! Don’t ignore this pool of possible repeat givers.

Speaking of the past, another really important point to consider is what worked well in your previous year-end communications.

Pull records on the last three years’ appeals and compare them to the results. Did one outperform the others? Build on that. Also look at drop dates compared to response—all of this data will tell you how and when your donor base likes to be communicated with.

Remember to follow up!

While we know December is exhausting, don’t use January for an organizational nap! Send impact statements, testimonials, or thank-you postcards. And don’t forget to involve your board and staff in this process. Was this the year you raised the most money? Report it, and tell them what you are going to do with the dollars!


This helpful article was contributed by Victoria Dietz, Vice President of The Curtis Group. Thank you for these informative insights into year-end fundraising!

About The Curtis Group

Since 1989, The Curtis Group has helped nearly 200 nonprofits across the mid-Atlantic—conducting over 150 planning studies and raising hundreds of millions of dollars. This firm of consultants to nonprofits is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Curtis Group is a member of The Giving Institute, the nation’s research and thought leader on philanthropy, and president Keith Curtis is immediate past chair of Giving USA Foundation. Learn more at www.curtisgroupconsultants.com.

The best annual giving strategy will include a concerted effort for year-end appeals.

Tips to Make Your Year-End Appeals More Appealing