10 Ways to Screw Up Your Year End Campaign


There’s nothing more important this fall than your year-end fundraising effort!

Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your Year End Campaign

Everybody’s ramping up to reach their annual fund targets.

October thru December is the time when many nonprofits will ask for and receive most of their contributions. How about you and your nonprofit?

This year, more than ever, you’ve got to:

  • Engage the donors who might read your appeals
  • Offer them a solid “opportunity” that will create an impact
  • Ask in an effective and compelling way for their gift.

This is not so easy for many nonprofit!

It’s so funny – I created this list way back in 2010, and each year I update it with the latest data and/or trends.

But many of the basics I’m mentioning here remain the same, year after year!

Here’s my  top 10 list of ways to screw-up your year-end fundraising campaign.

1.  Send a letter that’s hard to read.

. . . with ponderous sentences, long paragraphs and no white space.

This fails the “easy to read” test.

Your your reader will be skimming your letter and will get the highlights only.

TIP: Pleeeze use 14 point font or even larger! You don’t want your donor to have to reach for his or her reading glasses! 

2.  Send a letter that’s all about you – not all about the donor.

Check out here to see what a donor-centered letter really looks like.

You can’t go on and on about your wonderful organization – that’s about YOU.

You can go on and on about how wonderful the donor is and how thoughtful, special, and generous he/she is to be a supporter.

TIP: Use the word “you” more than you use the word “we.” 

3.  Bury the ask deep inside a paragraph.

. . . or at the end of a sentence.

Your reader must be able to find out how much you are asking for easily and for what purpose.

Put your question in a standalone sentence so it stands out.

TIP: Make it plainly clear what you are asking for. Don’t be afraid to ask!

4.  Don’t use an interesting envelope.

What will make your donor actually open your envelope?

Many experts suggest trying out different shapes and colors of envelopes.

The regular old plain No.10 white envelope should be last on your list.

TIP: Your postage stamp, address label, return address and writing on the envelope will impact whether it is opened or not.

5.  Don’t update your website.

If donors want to give online, make it easy for them.

On the home page, does your donor have to hunt for the donation link?

To encourage year-end giving, you need an easy-to-fill-out donation form!

Tip: Have your web designer “design” an attractive, easy to use donation form. 

6. Only send out one appeal letter.

Many experts say that sending only one letter will typically get a 15% response – NOT enough to make your year-end goal.

Your follow-up letter – after the first appeal – can increase your return by up to 15-25%, says Mal Warwick, the direct mail guru.

Other studies show that you can increase the ROI of your campaign by 20% by adding an additional appeal in a different media channel.

TIP: Your donors are busy and need repeated reminders.

7.  Don’t weave email, social media and direct mail together.

Make sure these channels all echo each other.

Use the same language, same theme, same goal and same imagery.

It will build up recognition on your donors’ radar screens.

TIP: Make the ask the same across all channels! 

8.  Don’t do an email push to non-donors the last two days of December.

Many nonprofits see an avalanche of gifts in the last two days of December.

Many of these gifts are online.

NOW is the time to get your online donation process working smoothly.

TIP: Be SURE you are in your donors’ in-boxes on December 31st!

9.  Don’t send a PROMPT, warm, personal thank you immediately to your donors.

And “warm, personal” does not mean “on behalf of the board of directors we thank you for blah blah.”

This impersonal bunk doesn’t warm your donor’s heart.

A warm thank you uses the words “we” and “you” and is conversational in tone – not institutional.

TIP: Thank you notes that appear handwritten will increase your donor loyalty and donor retention. 

10. Don’t create a special welcome program for brand new donors.

On average, only 1 out of 5 new donors to you will renew their gift.

Try a special welcome package for them – a big yellow envelope with some happy info in it for example.

TIP: Go out of your way for new donors and they will reward you by giving again! 

Bottom Line:

Avoid at all costs, these ways to screw up your year end campaign.

Create a dynamite year-end campaign that brings in the urgently needed resources you need!

And if you’d like my help to create a year-end appeal letter that will bring in generous gifts, I can help you. Find out more here.

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!