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5 Steps to successful end-of-year fundraising
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5 Steps to successful end-of-year fundraising

Prepare now to capture supporters' attention on #GivingTuesday and build a sustainable base of support for the new year.

Strategically placed after Thanksgiving and the day after Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday has become a powerful kickoff for the end-of-year charitable fundraising season. As reported by 92Y, the organization that founded this annual phenomenon in 2012, 2017’s #GivingTuesday raked in more than $300 million online for a broad range of organizations, not to mention all the time contributions made by those organizations’ scores of volunteers. Further, 82% of the organizations that participated reported trying something new for last year’s big day of giving—showing a commitment across the nonprofit sector to innovate for this important occasion.

As a software platform used by thousands of organizations for fundraising endeavors worldwide, we at NationBuilder have a unique bird’s-eye view of how nonprofits and other organizations can make the most of the opportunity #GivingTuesday presents. An anonymized, aggregated data study of our customer community revealed that our customers raised more than $1.85 million from more than 18,000 donations on last year’s #GivingTuesday alone—with a total of $65 million raised from more than 380,000 donations during the period between November 15 and December 31, 2017. Clearly, end-of-year giving is a powerful thing, but at NationBuilder, we aim to help organizations go further by developing invaluable lifetime relationships with new and existing supporters.

Although it’s just a single day of giving, the nonprofits that get the most out of #GivingTuesday treat it as the first step in a longer-term ladder of engagement. Here are five ways you can follow their lead and use the time you have from now through the end of the year to build a stronger base of support that can sustain your organization through 2019 and beyond.

Know your donors
It’s vital to use as much of the data that you’ve collected from your supporters as possible—not just because it will benefit your organization, but because it will provide the most value to the donors you hope to engage. Knowing things like when each supporter entered your database, which actions they took, what connections they have to other supporters or influencers in your community, and what they care most about can let you know how best to request their help when the moment arises to move them to action. By using hard-won data to target your supporters, you could increase your fundraising conversion rate by up to 60% (according to
a recent MailChimp study of email segmentation stats.)

Some key findings that could make the difference: 1) the longer a supporter has been engaged in your database, the more likely they are to give. Our study of last #GivingTuesday showed that each new donor contributed an average of $85 within the first month of entering an organization’s database, vs. an average of $130 after two years or more—a difference of 150%. Though it may take time to build those key relationships, it’s worth it for your bottom line. We also found that donors who had previously RSVP’ed for an event gave 34% more than those who hadn’t, which shows that it pays to invite supporters to engage in person.

Target emails early and often
In 2017, only 25% of donations logged in NationBuilder on #GivingTuesday came from an email blast. Translation: sending last-minute email blasts doesn’t work. Most people will donate to your organization not because of the email blast you send them that day, but because of the relationship you’ve built leading up to it—so that by the time #GivingTuesday arrives, they’re already primed to contribute. Our most successful customers started ramping up their hyper-targeted outreach about a month before #GivingTuesday, both to prepare their most committed donors for the most ambitious asks and to improve their email deliverability rates with major email service providers.

Create a seamless experience
Based on the findings from Durham + Company’s
most recent Online Fundraising Scorecard survey, nonprofits have made dramatic strides toward reducing the number of clicks required for users to donate online. Whereas 95% of donations in 2013 required more than one click to complete, in 2018, only 56% of organizations made donors stick around for more than a single click. So, if your form takes more than two clicks to complete, your charity donation process ranks within the bottom third  of nonprofit websites for efficiency; and, if your donations take more than three clicks, you’re in the bottom 17%.

The reason is this: reducing the number of clicks required to donate increases the likelihood your organization will receive more contributions. Your best bet is to work with a native payment processor on your fundraising page instead of a more complicated third-party solution, and make sure that each fundraising page you create is optimized for handheld devices—where most of your supporters will likely be browsing on some of the most important giving days of the year. For bonus points, make your privacy policies and credibility indicators front-and-center and easy to read, giving potential donors full confidence in your organization and where their contributions will go.

Make it easy to donate again (and again)
It’s always great to bring in a record number of new donors, but each supporter’s first donation is only the beginning. Though only one third of the donors you engage will donate more than once, the donors in that one third are likely to give in increasing amounts for at least the next two contributions. At around the third donation, the amount may plateau, but at that point their lifetime value is at least two times greater than their first donation. These donors are the future of your organization, so it’s important to treat them accordingly. Make it as easy as possible to set up their next donation—include a prominently-displayed option on your fundraising page to make their donation recurring, so they can set it and forget it. According to
M+R’s 2017 benchmarks, nonprofit organizations have increasingly adopted steady streams of smaller donations as a base of sustainable support, receiving 40% more revenue from monthly gifts in 2017 than in 2016.

Set your best recruiters up for success
Your organization derives its power from the people who support it, and it’s during this end-of-year period that they can make the biggest impact. Across all the use-cases and organization sizes within our customer base, #GivingTuesday donations delivered via recruiter links drove 25% more money per donation than those that didn’t—that means that donors who contributed through a link from their peer gave a average of $125, vs. just $100 from donors who contributed on their own. Make sure your targeted pre-#GivingTuesday outreach includes strategic planning for the engaged donors who are most likely to recruit their peers to give. Equip them with their own tracking links and empower them to take ownership of your cause by asking their friends to support it alongside them.

Research across the nonprofit sector paints a bright picture for the future of digital fundraising. For instance, the 154 nonprofits surveyed in M+R’s Benchmarks report reported a whopping 23% increase in revenue between 2016 and 2017. With any luck and all the right strategies, nonprofit leaders can hope to continue that steep upward trend for 2018 and beyond. Start now, and the relationships you build and strengthen can help sustain your organization for years to come.

Annie Mosbacher is the VP of Customer Engagement at NationBuilder, where she oversees customer support, engagement, and retention efforts to ensure a high quality software user experience. Prior to joining NationBuilder, Annie co-founded and served as the Executive Director of several scholarship organizations devoted to creating access to educational opportunities for young people and underserved communities. Throughout her years engaging customers, donors, and civic leaders, she has become an expert in providing strategic and operational guidance to help leaders achieve success.

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