3 min Read
July 1, 2012

Time to kick off your year-end fundraising

Planning your annual appeal? Here’s what you need to do it right.

Ah, summer—a perfect time for barbecues, beach umbrellas, and planning your year-end campaign. The height of fundraising season may feel like it’s a million years away, but those five months between now and December have a way of zooming by. 

To help jump-start your planning, we’ve put together a few guidelines that can make any multichannel campaign—year-end or otherwise—a smashing success.

1. Make it urgent (but keep it real). 
A strong campaign makes a case for why you should act now—not next week, next month, or next year. That means it’s important to have a deadline (like making a gift by December 31st to qualify for a match), as well as a good reason for why you need the clicks or the posts or the funds. But be careful not to cry wolf—urgency can be a double-edged sword. If every other email you send says “URGENT” in the subject line, your supporters may stop trusting you. Make sure your need is real and your ask is genuine. 

2. Strong design and compelling copy go hand-in-hand.
The best stories come to life with a powerful blend of words and images. Your campaign materials should inspire and move your supporters to action, and that means great design and smart use of imagery as well as strong copy. It also means keeping the look and sound consistent across all of the different channels you use and all the different materials you produce.

3. Don’t forget to think about next year…and the year after that…and the year after that…
It’s easy to lose sight of the long view amidst the hustle and bustle of a time-sensitive campaign, but every message you send is part of a bigger story of how your supporters interact with your organization. You want donors and advocates to keep engaging with you year after year, and your campaign strategy should prioritize long-term relationship building as well as the short-term win. Make sure the language you use, the images you select, and the tone that you set all build off of your brand and reinforce the big idea you want people to have about your organization. 

4. It’s all about your audience.
Think about the kinds of people who support your nonprofit. They’re probably smart (after all, they picked you). They’re also probably super busy. And they almost definitely don’t spend as much time thinking about your issue as you do. A strong campaign speaks in their language, respects their time and intelligence, and gets right to the point—while still providing enough background for them to form a real connection and know that they’re investing their time and money wisely.

5. Stay loose.
Campaigns are a moving target. A big news story breaks, a major donor steps up with a match, a staff person moves on to another job, and suddenly your plans need to adjust. Smart campaigners balance clear planning with enough flexibility to roll with the inevitable punches (and seize unexpected opportunities).

6. Keep an eye on the prize.
Campaigns should have a specific, measurable objective, whether it’s about raising money, recruiting participants, changing policies, or something else entirely. Start by defining your objective, and make sure that all of your efforts—every tweet, every email, every postcard, every call—supports your progress toward that target. And when the dust settles, step back and measure everything to see how you did, and what lessons you can learn for next time. 

Excited? I know we are. Let the planning begin!