Fundraising

Creating a Year-End Appeal That Stands Out From The Crowd

Year-End appeals leverage the spirit of giving that is heightened during the holiday season, but you'll need to stand out from the crowd - here's how.


Around a third of annual giving happens during December, with 28% of nonprofits raising as much as half of their revenue during that time. This is one reason why Year-End appeals are such an important focus for nonprofits. Year-End appeals are donation requests made by direct mail, email, video, or any other direct-to-donor communications that are sent out during the End-of-Year giving season—typically late November through December.

Year-end appeals leverage the spirit of giving that is heightened during the holiday season. End-of-Year giving is also attractive to supporters who are looking to benefit from tax deductions for charitable donations before the next tax year begins. However, your nonprofit can’t make the most of this timing if you don’t remind your supporters about your work and directly ask for their support.

Many nonprofits are looking to secure End-of-Year donations, so you’ll need to ensure that your Year-End appeal stands out from the crowd. Below, we’ll cover six tips to get you started.

1. Personalize by Donor Segment

To the extent possible, you want to make your Year-End appeals personal. Supporters don’t want to feel like an afterthought lumped into a generic fundraising ask. Instead, they want to know that you appreciate them and see them as individuals who choose to include your organization as a part of their community and identity.

By using donor segments for your outreach efforts, you can lower your administrative burden by automating some of this personalization while ensuring that your appeals come with a personal touch. For example, you can segment donors by past gift sizes to adjust your donation ask accordingly, with larger amounts for your mid-level donors compared to your small-gift donors. You can also segment by donation history to use language that acknowledges past gifts. For example, for donors who gave a Year-End gift last year, you can include language in your letter like, “Last year, your generous Year-End gift helped start our year off strong.” You’ll also want to personalize your language for monthly recurring donors when asking them to make an additional one-time Year-End gift.

Finally, note that Year-End appeals starting with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Donor” aren’t going to cut it. Start each letter with your donor’s name.

2. Incorporate a Video Message

Short videos have the highest conversion rates when compared to other content types. By using video as the format for your Year-End appeal, you can encourage greater engagement with your message. 

You can embed a video in an email message, which allows you to keep your text short for easy skimming and drive attention toward your donate button. You can also include a video via a QR code in a direct mail appeal or as a shortened link in a text message.

Using video for a Year-End appeal can also feel more personal. The video doesn’t need to be professionally produced. It can simply be your executive director or another member of your nonprofit team speaking directly to the camera about what your donors’ gifts mean to your work and asking for their continued support. You may want to make even more personalized videos for your mid-level donors, addressing them by name in the beginning of your video message.

Additionally, make sure to include captioning for your video appeals for greater accessibility.

3. Use Handwritten Styling for a Personal Touch

Handwritten notes have a more personal feeling to them. Whether you send your Year-End appeal by mail or via a digital form, you can evoke that personal touch through handwritten styling.

In emailed appeals, embed a graphic at the end that has real signatures from your team. You can also have your staff include their own handwritten notes of thanks in the image. Consider using fonts that are a more casual, handwritten style for the salutation and other text that you really want to stand out. 

If sending direct mail, handwrite short notes on your main typed appeal letter. You can also have your executive director (or whomever the letter is coming from) cross out formal language in your Year-End appeal and rewrite it in their own pen to emphasize your personal connection with that donor. For example, you might cross out “Dear Ms. Smith” and handwrite “Susan” above it if you have an established relationship with that donor. This shows that you’re not just mass-mailing fundraising asks, but rather taking the time to connect with your key supporters.

4. Highlight a Matching Gift

Since 84% of donors are more likely to give if they know their donation will be matched, consider securing one to bolster your Year-End appeals.You can let donors know that if they donate before the end of the year, their donation will have twice the impact.

A match builds momentum toward your Year-End fundraising goals while providing a sense of urgency to your donors. If donors have been putting off making their gift, they’ll be encouraged to move forward with it knowing that you need their help to obtain the full amount of your match this year.

5. Build a Bridge Into the New Year

Your Year-End appeal is a final push to close out your year strong, yes, but it’s also a push to start the new year even stronger. Make your Year-End appeal stand out by having it build a bridge for donors from your current year into the next one. Let them know that you want them along for the journey ahead.

Mention in your Year-End appeal that anyone who donates to your End-of-Year campaign will get a special invitation to your first event in the new year. You can also highlight some of the projects you plan to take on in the new year and how you’ll immediately put these Year-End donations to work to make those a reality.

6. Tell a Good Story

At the end of the day, a successful Year-End appeal is one that tells a good story. You need to show your supporters how their donations make a difference. Incorporate the voices of your staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries to personalize your story and detail its ground-level impact. You can also choose one beneficiary’s story to use as a through-line in your Year-End appeal to provide a real face to the value of your work.

In addition to writing a good story, use visuals to tell it. Photography that captures the emotion of your mission can evoke a strong response from donors. Weave powerful imagery throughout your Year-End appeal so that even if supporters skim your written material, your photos will still carry them through your message.

Grab the Attention of Your Supporters With a Powerful Year-End Appeal

End-of-Year giving is a powerful opportunity for nonprofits as they prepare their budgets for the coming year. To be able to benefit from the momentum of the holiday season’s spirit of giving, you have to make a memorable ask of your supporters. By following the above tips, you can develop a Year-End appeal that stands out from the crowd and encourages action.

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