News and analysis
November 11, 2012

Creating Winning Year-End Appeals: Tips From Experts

Appeal to emotions.

When Youth Villages sent its annual year-end appeal, fundraisers highlighted stories of children who have benefited from the charity’s services. “We made the emotional case first, then backed it up with research, data and evidence,” says Richard Shaw, chief development officer for the social-service group.

Follow up.

Make sure that after donors receive a holiday appeal, they also get a second letter or e-mail. “That second letter can double your response rate,” says Gail Perry, a fundraising consultant.

Make a last-minute solicitation.

Donations spike during the final two days of the year, especially online, because donors are trying to get last-minute tax deductions. That’s why charities should make a point of reaching out to donors during those last days, says Ms. Perry. “That’s the time to make sure all of your donors have a strong, snappy e-mail in their in-boxes.”

Enable Web search engines to find giving options.

Robbin Gehrke, creative director at Russ Reid, a fundraising and marketing consultancy, advises her nonprofit clients to optimize their Web sites so they can more easily be found by search engines during the last week of the year. “Donors are going online to search for charities to give to,” says Ms. Gehrke. For the best results, charities should use key words and tags that include “year-end donation,” she says.

Keep going past December 31.

Don’t take your online appeal or catalog down just because 2013 has arrived. “Gifts will keep on coming into January,” says Ms. Gehrke.

Encourage donors to buddy up.

Charities routinely try to spread the word about their causes using social media, but tools like Facebook and Twitter also offer a way for networks of friends and family members to give together. “The idea is that everybody gives a piece of a larger gift and encourage their friends to do the same,” says Craig Sorensen, chief concept officer at the Children’s Miracle Network.