Home Fundraising Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaigns: Ideas to Steal

Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaigns: Ideas to Steal

by Janie Richmond
year-end giving ideas

It’s common knowledge in the nonprofit world that many organizations bring in a large portion of their revenue during the end-of-year giving season, so implementing a fundraising campaign during that window can be an extremely effective strategy. Because many people are already in the giving mood during the holidays and ready to donate to compelling causes, put your organization out there so people can find it.

Looking for some fun, creative ideas for your year-end giving campaign? Take these ideas and run with them or use them to spark additional fundraising ideas. Not every option will be the best fit for your organization, and that’s okay. Just use what you like.

Tip: Mix and match ideas to create a strategy of your own! For example, if your organization involves culture and the arts, you could host a paint night where you also sell paintings or photos from local artists, present your new arts membership program, display your Text to Give number on screens and at tables, make appeals for monthly giving, and ask for major gifts.

Many of these ideas can also be used for other giving campaigns, not just at year-end, so save the ones you like and modify them for a campaign sometime next year.

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Steal These Ideas for Year-End Fundraising Campaigns

1. Event Campaigns

Fundraising events can be highly successful if they are organized and well-executed. They are a perfect avenue to meet supporters and build relationships with them. As a bonus, your supporters will be able to mingle and meet each other, knowing they already have your organization’s cause in common.

Events can range from simple to elaborate. Here are some year-end giving campaign event ideas.

Organize a Fun Run

Gather your supporters for a year-end fun run. Consider using color powder or chalk bombs in seasonal colors, and encourage people to dress in fun holiday attire for the event. You could also set up the course to symbolize the end of the year, where people pass by signs marking the 31 days in December and then cross the finish line into the new year.

Fun Run Campaign Event Idea

Host a Themed Dance

Pick a fun theme, such as the 80s, the Roaring 20s, glow-in-the-dark, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Winter Wonderland, or a Hawaiian holiday. Decorate the venue accordingly, choose music to fit the event, and include as many themed appetizers, drinks, and photo booth props as you can.

Throw a Silly Holiday Party

Make it quirky to encourage fun and laughter. Invite people to dress as their favorite animated character, wear the silliest holiday outfit they can create, or wear a goofy hat. You can also invite people to participate in an exchange.

Exchange ideas:

  • White elephant gifts
  • Cookies
  • Ornaments
  • Your favorite coffee or tea
  • Regift the worst gift you ever received

Host a Classic Dinner

Plated or buffet dinners are classic fundraisers, with good reason. Everybody’s gotta eat and people love good food. Consider hiring an illusionist to perform a magic show or a clean comedian to do a comedy show before or after the meal to make the night even more special.

Host a Paint Brunch or Paint Night

Invite your supporters to a paint event, complete with appetizers and drinks. Offer one or two end-of-year or holiday paint options for people to choose from.

Tip: Include your cause in the painting choices. If your organization provides veterinary services, options may include a kitten or puppy wearing a Santa hat in a wagon in the snow. If your organization repairs bicycles for kids, maybe you include a vehicle with presents stacked in the window and a bike attached to the back or a bicycle lying on a lawn with snow falling on and around it.

Paint Event Campaign Idea

Hold an Auction

Get ready to make some phone calls or visits to local businesses and community members, and ask them to donate popular items, gift baskets, vacation packages, and whatever else you think your supporters might bid on. It’s smart to include some smaller items too so people of all income levels can participate. Then set up a silent auction where people can bid on the items that were donated or hold a live auction where people can get caught up in the excitement. You can also do a combination of both so all personality types can enjoy themselves.

2. Sell Mission-Based Merchandise

Selling merchandise that aligns with your organization’s mission can boost your year-end (and year-round) fundraising to the next level. Although there are guidelines for how nonprofits should sell goods or services, it’s a common practice that creates another revenue stream as well as an avenue for new supporters to find you.

Here are some ideas for melding your mission with your merchandise:

  • Animal shelters can create a pet-of-the-month calendar to sell and set up a photo shoot for pets and their humans so the humans can purchase the photos. They could also sell picture frame ornaments for those photos.
  • A literacy organization can sell books, bookmarks, and coffee.
  • An organization that sets up scholarships for students can sell educational toys, books, or games.
  • Environmental organizations can sell packets of seeds, seedlings, small plants, and books about how to plant greenery and keep it alive.
  • A soup kitchen can sell bottles of their signature spices and spatulas with their organization’s logo on them.
  • A food bank can sell quality reusable grocery bags with their logo to remind people to buy a few extra groceries to donate.

Get creative with what your organization sells, and don’t forget to keep track of the income separately for reporting purposes.

Merchandise Sale Ideas Books

3. Engage in a Giving Tuesday Campaign

Giving Tuesday often kicks off the year-end giving season for nonprofits. Any organization can participate and running a Giving Tuesday campaign doesn’t have to be complicated. While December is often the time people make their end-of-year donations, particularly in the final days of the year, many people choose to donate on Giving Tuesday because they want to participate in the movement. Making Giving Tuesday part of your annual year-end fundraising routine can also bring more awareness to your organization and its mission.

4. Start a Membership Program

What would it look like for your organization to have a membership program? Consider starting one and having special pricing through the end of the year. Zoos are an excellent example of how membership programs work. They invite people to become members of their organization for a fee, and in return, members get perks as part of their membership. Perks may include free or reduced-priced parking, a percentage off at the food court and gift shop, special member-only hours, and invitations to exclusive events. If members of your program get perks such as these, make sure you track these funds differently than standard donations because the membership includes services or goods in exchange for the membership fees.

5. Make Targeted Donation Requests

Building solid relationships with your donors over time makes it easier to ask them to partner with you in an even bigger way. It also helps you know the right things to ask from the right people.

When setting goals for year-end giving, you already know you need to set an amount of money to raise, but don’t forget about donor goals as well.

Other goals to consider:

  • Securing the renewal of current donors
  • Reengaging lapsed donors
  • Acquiring new donors

Ask for Major Gifts

Dive into your CRM and pull reports of top donors who have given to your organization in the past. Also consider generating a list of mid-level donors you think might be able and willing to give larger gifts. Then make some phone calls or schedule some coffee time to make these personal appeals for major year-end donations.

Make Appeals for Monthly Giving

As part of your overall fundraising strategy, make sure to let people know how they can make a difference beyond annual donations by becoming monthly donors. Include a monthly giving option on your online donation forms, widgets, and mobile-giving platforms, and point out the option in your newsletter and on your website. If there are donors who regularly give one-time gifts, call them up or meet with them and ask them to consider becoming monthly donors.

Monthly Recurring Donors Online Donations

Reengage Lapsed Donors

Go back to your trusty CRM and generate some reports for lapsed donors, including a LYBUNT (last year but unfortunately not this) and SYBUNT (some year but unfortunately not this) report. Then create some emails, send cards, or make some phone calls. Make the communications as personal as possible. If you have notes of previous contact with these donors in your donor management software, use them to jog your memory and remind them of a previous encounter, like seeing them at one of your fundraising events a couple years ago. If your list of lapsed donors is long and you are short on time, ask your board and some volunteers to help.

6. Work With Other Donors and Companies

Set up Corporate Partnerships

Talk to your board about setting up a corporate partnership. Chances are at least one of your board members will have some ideas of companies that may be willing to support your work. It’s also possible someone on your board is in the position to set up a partnership with a company they work for. A corporation may partner with your organization for a year-end campaign, but they also might be willing to partner for a longer period. Supporting your cause can also help the corporation because people like to do business with companies that give back to the community.

Organize Matching Gifts

Do you have any supporters of your organization who would be willing to match other donations you receive? Ask them to help your year-end-giving campaign by matching donations for a specific time period. Then announce your matching-gift sprint to your supporters on all of your channels, and clearly state that every donation they give will go further during this time because it will be matched by another generous donor.

Apply for Grants

While the timing of the grant may not directly line up with the end of the year, grants can be lucrative for nonprofits and their overall fundraising strategy, and it can’t hurt to apply for as many as your organization qualifies for. Again, you’ll want to make sure to track your grants differently than other funds, particularly because you may be required to provide reporting of how and when those funds are spent.

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7. Maximize Your Outreach Efforts

Set up a Year-End Email Campaign

Write a series of emails for end-of-year appeals. Make sure your donation forms are simple and in working order, and have a clear call to action in your emails that links to your giving page or form. Use these emails to show what your organization has done over the past year and what you plan to do with the donations you receive. Include some testimonials about how others have been affected by your organization’s mission or how it has been beneficial for your community.

Send Direct Mail

In a digitally focused world, mailing a card, newsletter, or pamphlet may not be top of mind for your year-end giving efforts, but people do appreciate something that can be held – especially if it is personalized in some way or if it is beautifully designed. Use the power of photos to help tell a story about how your organization has helped someone and explain how an end-of-year donation would help others in the coming year. Be sure to include ways people can give, including your website’s donation page, a return envelope for checks, or your Text to Give number if you have one.

Direct Mail End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign

Utilize Social Media

Write engaging social media posts that include testimonials, stories, and photos. Include videos too, but be careful using the entire video for an appeal or you might lose people before they get to the end. Be sure to include ways people can give, such as a link to your donation page or your Text to Give number.

Make Phone Calls

Ask your board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls to your supporters for end-of-year donations. Make sure the calls or voicemails are friendly and personal, and make the ask clearly but succinctly. Also be sure to include the ways people can give to your organization.

Hold a Text to Give Campaign

Blast your Text to Give number on all your channels, including emails, social media accounts, and newsletters. Make the call for year-end donations clear and show supporters how simple it is for them to give to your organization directly from their phones.

Tip: Regardless of what you choose to do for your year-end fundraising campaign, don’t forget to thank everyone who participates. That includes thanking any donors for giving, businesses that donate items, supporters for attending your event, volunteers for making phone calls, and anyone else who is involved.

Free Webinar: Maximize Your Year-End Giving

The holiday season tends to inspire people’s generosity, so they increase their giving to causes and organizations they care about. People want to give, so start by making it easy for them. We’ll go over some specific focus areas for year-end giving efforts. During this webinar, you will learn how to:

  • Ensure that your giving options are user-friendly
  • Implement improvements to your giving page to make giving simple
  • Improve your social media presence for better awareness
  • Use effective tools and tips to implement and manage year-end giving

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