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5 tactics to engage and inspire nonprofit donors this end-of-year fundraising season

It’s been a tough road for digital fundraisers the past couple years.

After a surge in giving in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, charitable giving began to drop slightly in 2021. And then in early 2022, economic uncertainty and inflation caused challenges.

After all was said and done, online giving and email giving in 2022 both declined an average of 4% since 2021, according to the 2022 M+R Benchmarks Study. And for many nonprofits, the landscape hasn’t changed much in 2023.

But if there’s any silver lining to this, it’s that these changes are forcing us to work harder and smarter to engage and inspire donors.

And as we turn our attention to the 2023 end-of-year (EOY) fundraising season, we have another chance to balance the tried and true best practices with some novel and new approaches to better inspire your supporters and donors once more.

1. Review your donor data.

Before you map out your EOY strategy, take a look at your email program data, making note of any specific tactics, messaging, or creative–and any downward trends in engagement–in your highest-performing appeals from your last EOY campaign.

What donor insights can you gain from your last year’s EOY data? Did you employ a different tactic or signer in your best-performing message? Did you notice a drop in click-through rate or a higher-than-normal unsubscribe rate? If so, what can these metrics tell you about what to repeat or adjust for this year’s campaign?

2. Segment your audiences and personalize your email content.

Email segmentation and personalization are hugely beneficial for targeting donors and crafting tailored messages during the most critical time of year. Here are a few things you should consider for your EOY campaign:

  • Reference their status as a donor, or the amount of their last gift (or last year’s EOY gift).
  • Segment among your donors and supporters to further tailor the message they receive:
    • Customize a few appeals for your monthly donors to thank them for the impact of their sustained support and ask them for a one-time special gift.
    • Recapture lapsed donors with a series of messages that reference the date and amount of their last gift while emphasizing the ongoing need for support.
    • You can also target potential donors with customized content that asks them to make their first gift today.

The options are seemingly endless–and your fundraising software’s data can help you see which segments of your audience might be the ripest for engaging with personalized content.

3. Make your strongest case for giving.

The data on 2022 EOY giving suggests that donors might have been less inspired to give–which makes an authentic, well-crafted case for giving more important than ever.

What motivates your donors to give–and how can you weave that into your messaging? Consider, for example, the specific challenge or problem your nonprofit is working to solve:

  • How can you clearly and concisely convey why it’s so urgent to meet your fundraising goal?
  • Who or what will suffer if you don’t meet your fundraising goal?
  • What can your organization achieve if you do?

Once you’ve drilled down on those details, weave them into your messaging, framing donors’ gifts as the impact they have on executing your programs and serving your beneficiaries.

4. Use every channel at your disposal. 

Multichannel fundraising lets you stay top of mind among your donors and supporters, meeting them where they are–and driving conversions and retention.

Investing in digital ads, in particular, as another channel in your digital program has a measurable impact on fundraising results, particularly during the end of the year. If your nonprofit doesn’t already have a dedicated ads budget, now is the time to make the pitch.

Regardless of the channels you’ll be using, make sure that your donor journey is consistent and seamless across all of them. Your website (including the homepage, lightbox, and donation page) should reflect the theme, messaging, imagery, and match deadlines–and those elements should all be mirrored in all of your channels.

You can also use different digital channels to target specific segments of your donors. From following up on a direct mail drop with a fundraising email or targeting lapsed donors in your EOY campaign’s digital ads, providing donors with another “touchpoint” will help drive giving when it matters most.

5. Be flexible and adapt as needed. 

You might be tempted to “set it and forget it” after months of tireless work to develop and implement your EOY campaign’s goal, strategy, content, and creative. Unfortunately, the data on online giving in 2022–especially during year-end–makes it clear that we need to keep our fingers on the pulse and adapt when necessary.

M+R’s 2022 benchmarks on GivingTuesday indicate an average 18% drop in online revenue on a day we once could count on to generate giving. And it wasn’t just a slow start–many nonprofits saw their EOY campaign end with more of a fizzle than a bang, with online revenue down 22% year-over-year on Dec. 31.

Boosting email volume and frequency last year helped to mitigate those losses for many nonprofits. And while we don’t yet know how EOY giving will play out this year, you should plan to be nimble and adapt when the moment demands it. Keep your eyes peeled for any opportunities–including resends, match increases, and graphical emails–to boost urgency and effectiveness for your donors.

Get ahead of your end-of-year campaign planning—download Network for Good’s Comprehensive Year-End Fundraising Plan today!

Looking for a strategic partner to take your end-of-year fundraising campaign to the next level? The team at Fresh Eyes Digital has worked for decades with nonprofit organizations to acquire and inspire digital audiences and convert them into loyal donors and activists. Reach out to set up a call to discuss how you might work together!


Published: August 15, 2023

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