How to Maximize Year-End Donations

Last updated: December 15, 2021

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With #GivingTuesday behind you, what’s your next step?

For most fundraisers, a huge amount of effort went into making the most of Giving Tuesday, but now is not the time to take your foot off the gas! In fact, your #GivingTuesday efforts may have provided you with the perfect platform to maximize your year-end donations.

Statistically, your biggest fundraising days are probably still in front of you this year. Two of the biggest donation days are typically December 30th and 31st as people make last-minute contributions for tax purposes. The bonus is that the gift size is often more than what they give on Giving Tuesday. Attracting year-end donations is important and can be crucial to your fundraising strategy!

The challenge for fundraisers is to be able to maximize year-end contributions toward your cause. In this guide, we’re providing some tools and tips for encouraging those donations to flow in:

What do we do after #GivingTuesday?

Giving Tuesday has hopefully given you some momentum in terms of attracting new and returning donors. You should have a whole lot of new entries in your donor management system as well as a freshly-prominent profile in the public eye. This can sometimes be daunting with the influx of new donors and learning more about them and determining the best approach with them.

The first thing we suggest is that you keep building on the work you’ve done for Giving Tuesday. One great reason for doing this is that 52% of Giving Tuesday donors say that they’re doing it because they want to be part of something bigger. Your work in attracting those donors only just began with Giving Tuesday – the aim is to retain them long-term.

What does this have to do with year-end donations? Giving Tuesday donations are typically smaller, so in the last few days of the year, some of those donors may be ready and able to make a bigger gift. 

Get to know your new donors better

You collect several valuable pieces of information about every donor that you get. Your follow-up to Giving Tuesday should include analyzing that data and understanding who your donors are. With the right fundraising intelligence solution, you can segment your donors by capacity, inclination to donate, affinity with your cause and more.

Of course, you should also keep your past donors in-mind. For example, your data might tell you that some donors who have made major gifts in the past have yet to donate this year. Now is a good time to collate that information for some personalized outreach.

Keep the momentum going

You’ve probably run campaigns on social media using the #GivingTuesday hashtag and generated some traffic – if so, now is the time to keep that traffic engaged. Did you grow your followers? Keep their interest up with frequent posts that engage a response. If they are new followers, they may not know a lot about your organization and your cause, so be sure to share more about your mission to keep them interested and engaged. 

Social media algorithms generally show posts from pages with more engagement to more people, so you’ve got to be consistent and keep building on any momentum you already have. You don’t want to be an organization that only posts around Giving Tuesday – keep it up for year-end and for the rest of the year, too.

What if you didn’t really use your social channels for Giving Tuesday? You probably missed some opportunities, but it’s not too late to use them to find year-end donors. Check that your profiles are up-to-date and get onto a regular schedule with posting. Consider what you would like any new donors to know about your organization as a means of prioritizing posts. You can also research events or dates that are of importance to your mission and capitalize on those opportunities to create engaging content for your audience.

Maintain contact with your donors

Your first post-donation contact with a new donor should always be to thank them. All recurring donors should be thanked too! You can use thank you messages to keep donors informed about how their contributions are used. People tend to like seeing the connection between their donation and the good work that your organization is doing. Ensure you’re double checking prefixes, pronouns, and spelling to ensure a positive communication experience with your donors.

It’s important to maintain contact via email or other methods for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it helps to keep your organization in the minds of your donors. They may even already be thinking about making year-end donations, so you want them to think of you!

Secondly, with email communication regular contact is important so that your emails get seen. When people seldom hear from an organization, they may forget about you and skip over your emails. Some may even get marked as spam, which can impact your ability to get into other inboxes too. 

How do you target the right donors?

With your focus moving onto maximizing year end donations, a targeted approach to attracting donors tends to be the best strategy. For this you need to understand:

  • Who is looking to donate at year-end?
  • What entices people to choose who to donate to at year-end?
  • What messaging will resonate with those people?

Here are some strategies that will help with those questions, and building a profile of who you are targeting:

Know why people donate at year-end

The donor mindset of year-end donors as compared to Giving Tuesday donors tends to be different. On Giving Tuesday, people are motivated by the concept of donating to a good cause at a time that often exhibits excess (those Black Friday sales!). Donations are often smaller and many donors will choose to contribute small amounts to multiple different organizations.

Year-end donations tend to bring out some of the biggest individual contributions. This is because the donor mentality tends to be focused on the tax benefits of the donations. It’s the last possible minute to engage in financial activities that bring a tax deduction when they file for the year.

Tax deductions are generally more beneficial to larger donors who itemize their tax returns. In 2021, as a general rule within the US, they can deduct up to 60% of gross adjusted income via charitable donations, or 100% if the donation is in cash (There are some exceptions based on the type of contribution and organization).

There is another common motivation for year-end donations – many employers will match employee donations to their favorite year-end charities as part of their own tax-deductible giving. Don’t neglect those smaller donors at this time either!

Use a multi-lens modeling tool

You might run different campaigns in parallel at year-end, especially if you’ve identified that you have more than one key donor group. iWave’s multi-lens modeling enables nonprofit organizations to view wealth screening results and donor profiles under multiple settings depending on their fundraising goals.

Importantly, with more ways to view donors, you can hone in on exactly how to engage with them effectively. What is their motivation? What are their donor habits? What affinity have they shown for your mission and campaigns? How much should you increase your ask?

What might your fundraising campaign look like?

End-of-year fundraising campaigns begin with having some clear goals in place. Some examples of these might be:

  • To encourage current regular donors to increase their donation amount by one or two percent.
  • To encourage new smaller donors from Giving Tuesday to set up a regular, monthly contribution.
  • To bring in big year-end donations, particularly from those motivated by a tax deduction.
  • To inspire engagement among your volunteers.

Some campaign ideas include:

Tell an inspiring story

Storytelling has effectively captured our attention for millennia. Some of the most effective advertising campaigns, including those for nonprofits, have leaned heavily into telling a relevant story that engages the emotions of the viewer.

These stories should highlight the transformative impact of giving and leave the audience feeling compelled to take action and that their donation can help to make a difference. Video campaigns are great for this and can easily be shared across multiple channels, including social media, or television if you have the budget.

The written word can also be effective though – it’s all in how the story is told. The Facebook page, Humans of New York is a great example of this, and they’ve actually often used stories to help launch fundraising campaigns for the people the story is about. Their strength lies in capturing the absolute humanity of their subjects.

Highlight any donor matching components

Many donors respond well if there are ways that their donation to an organization can be maximized. People love donor matching because it gives them that extra sense of value for their contribution. 

You may have already identified donors in your database whose employers are offering donor matching, in which case, you can reach out to them directly with instructions as to how they can take advantage of the offer. Similarly, connecting directly with the employers to ensure their staff are aware of their donor matching may also encourage them to make a donation.

Otherwise, you can also run a general campaign asking people to check in. Ask people, is your employer matching your donations this holiday season? Encourage them to consider contributing to your organization.

“Give to gift” campaigns

The holiday season is the ideal time to encourage people to donate in honor of someone else. This is the gift they can give to those who are difficult to shop for, or for those who they know have a special affinity with your organization.

Highlight the tax-deductible aspect

Tapping into people’s motivation to donate can make doing so a no-brainer for them. Highlight the benefit of donating before December 31 to maximize their tax deductions.

Some nonprofits have successfully tapped into the urgency of this. For example, by providing a countdown of some sort: “24 hours left to maximize your tax-deductible donations this year.” You might be surprised by the number of people who genuinely do leave this decision until the last couple of days or may have forgotten the deadline was approaching!

Use the right fundraising intelligence solution

A fundraising intelligence platform is a must-have for every nonprofit that wishes to identify, cultivate and get to know donors better. The right system helps you to segment your donors effectively so that you can ask the right people for contributions at the right time.

iWave offers a fundraising intelligence solution that makes screening donors easy, so that you can maximize year-end donations and your regular campaigns.

Request your free demo of iWave here and enjoy the top-rated fundraising intelligence platform.


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