Top 5 Tips for a Profitable Year-End Campaign

The busy fall fundraising season is upon us, and we want to be sure you nail your year-end campaign.

All of our clients, whether they’re running a capital campaign, or ramping up their major gift program, all ask for – and need – our guidance for their fall fundraising campaign.

There are specific strategies you can employ that can absolutely ratchet up your year-end results, and best of all, your revenue.

Here are our top tips:

1. Open your year-end campaign with a Thank-a-thon.

Before you ever consider asking your wonderful donors for another gift, be sure they are ready to be asked.  We always think you should warm up your donors before you ask.

How can you warm them up? Be sure they are happy and feel connected to you and your mission.  Have they been well thanked? 

Before you roll out any year-end campaign, get on the phone, or zoom and stage a thank-a-thon.

Everyone at your organization can help with a thank-a-thon to say thanks to your supporters. You can even get your board members, staffers, or even some of your clients involved. (They’ll come if you feed them supper!)

Tell your donors how much you appreciate them, and share with them how, through their gifts, they helped change someone’s life. Remind them of their partnership in the cause and how important they are. 

This is such an easy conversation to have. And, it’s a wonderful way to introduce your board members and other stakeholders to the fundraising process – simply by saying thank you.

TIP: The first step in your year-end campaign should be a thankathon.

2. Communicate before the ask.

Before you send your first ask, give your donors notice of what is to come. Let them know that the annual year-end campaign is about to begin.

Send some comms that don’t make it so much about a dollar goal, and talk about the impact this campaign will make in the world.

Send them postcards or emails — or even call them — to let them know your year-end campaign is about to roll out.

Generate some excitement:

  • Tell stories about the people you’re helping.
  • Talk about the theme.
  • Share the goal.
  • And most importantly, what all this work will accomplish. 

This outreach sets the stage for a successful campaign. Remember, it’s all about the work your organization does in the world, instead of that dollar goal. 

Even more, getting in touch with donors again before you ask, gets them looking forward, and hopefully excited about joining forces to help. 

TIP: Use early campaign communications to warm up, announce, update, create excitement – and don’t ask yet.

3. Launch your year-end campaign via repeated appeals and communications.

We all know that multi-channel campaigns work best – campaigns that tie into digital, direct mail, and social media – all centered on one theme.  This becomes a happy series of communications to your donors, that allows you to connect with them over and over.

Here’s what you do:

  • Theme: Create a theme for your year-end campaign with a specific visual look, a heartfelt message and a dollar goal.
  • Design: Use color or an image that gets attention – it needs to be unusual or different in order to stand out.
  • Several pings: Send plenty of cheerful communications echoing the theme over and over for about 6 weeks.
  • Different types of hits: Use different communications vehicles – email, mail, postcards, phone, social media – all repeating the same look, messaging, and goal.

Only then can you actually get your donor’s attention and wake her from her usual sleepy doldrums.

You should study the examples of themes, design, and attention-getting strategies that guru Jen Love used in this famous campaign.

TIP: Echo your same message over and over to get your donor’s attention.

4. Include a specific ask in your year-end campaign.

We see far too many lame asks. Apparently, people are afraid to come right out and ask for a gift.

Please know that you need to ask several times in the same letter. Especially, do not beat around the bush. You are asking for their help – it’s ok! 

When you write to your donors, tell them:

  • What, specifically your organization aims to accomplish this coming year
  • How much money it will take to accomplish it?
  • How will you spend the money from the fall campaign? Donors want to know what their money will accomplish. It’s up to you to tell them.

Asking for specific amounts lets donors know you are organized, you know what you need, and why you need it.  

Don’t forget: a generic unrestricted ask is lazy fundraising. You can do better. Please don’t talk about “general operating” and “critical infrastructure,” it’s simply ineffective with today’s donors.

But. not to worry, there are plenty of creative ways to ask for general support of your organization.

Master communicator Jen Love shared example after example of stunning unrestricted asks in this donor-centered appeal letter workshop. (you can get it here.)

TIP: Use our IMP Fundraising Formula: Specific amount of Money, for a specific Project, for a specific Impact.

5. Organize a timetable with special follow-ups at year-end.

Time in not your friend when it comes to your year-end campaign.

There are only so many days between now and Dec. 31, and the very special fundraising opportunities for the last 3 days of the year.

Figure out now, here in October,  your entire stream of communications.  It’s important to include all your warm-up activities in your calendar. Then lay out: the appeal drop dates and your follow-up letter drop dates.

Go ahead and answer these questions:

  • What role will social media play?
  • How will you amplify your message via email and your website?
  • What role will your board members play?
  • Is your back office ready?

Set your dates and work backward to give everyone — writers, designers, vendors, mailers, etc., — the time they need to do their best work. 

BOTTOM LINE: For a Profitable Year-End Campaign

Lay down smart plans now.

If you do, you’ll have an organized fall season, maximum productivity, happy, connected donors, and best of all  – a steady robust stream of funding coming in thru your website and your mailbox.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.