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Six Ways to Start Your Year-End Fundraising Now

, Monday, February 28th, 2011

No, I’m not talking about organizations that have a fiscal year end in July.  I’m talking about the fundraising campaign that ends at midnight on December 31, 2011 – a little more than 300 days from now.

Reports show that on average, close to 50% of a nonprofit’s online fundraising occurs in December. This is serious business.  For an organization that averages $1 million in online fundraising a year, one day in December with a broken donation form or mass emails going to spam could mean missing out on $10,000 to $50,000.

Here are 6 things you can do now to get started on your year-end fundraising.

1. Analyze Last Year’s Results

Too many organizations wait until fall to take a look at how the last year-end campaign performed.  By that time, none of the information is fresh — staff has changed and emails explaining test groups have been lost. If you’ve been putting it off, don’t. Get going on it today.

2. Grow Your List

Do a list swap.  Send out some action alerts.  Take advantage of what’s timely.  With spring and summer months being slower on the fundraising side, now is the time to grow your list so that it is maximized for year end, when you must focus first and foremost on fundraising.

3. Collect Information

Take an organization like the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).  Some members of their email list support WCS because they enjoy WCS’s network of zoos.  Others support WCS because of its worldwide conservation work.

If your organization works on Issue A & Issue B, which don’t necessarily overlap, and your year-end campaign is entirely focused on Issue B, you are losing out on all those Issue A people who are interested in the other great work that you’re doing.

Even if your organization only works on one issue, you may have a year-end campaign that incorporates local information based on supporter state or zip code – information you may not have on everyone.

Take the time now to figure out what information will be useful to run a successful year-end campaign, and spend the next few months extracting it in different ways: Do a supporter survey that collects demographic and interest information, run action alerts on multiple issues and see who responds to what, and incorporate a variety of donation asks.

Not everyone opens every email.  Starting now will help ensure that you have information from as many of your users as possible.

4. Do Major Testing

Some new/exciting email, website overlay and online advertising tests work great.  Figuring out a new approach that increases fundraising 10% or 20% is one of the most exciting parts of working online. But for every new approach that works, there’s a flop.  That’s why you need to get them out of the way now.

Think of it this way.  Our hypothetical organization that raises $1 million a year raises $500,000 every December, but only $25,000 every July.  A month long test that flops, performing 20% worse than last year, will only cost you $5,000 in July.  If that same test was run in December, you’re losing $100,000.

Now is the time to lay out the major pieces of your year-end campaign and figure out what pieces you’ll need to test between now and October.  Then, in the year end, you can focus on more nuanced optimization tests to maximize every last dollar.

5. Complete Any Landing Page Changes

It’s the same story as testing.  Don’t risk a new landing page or tell-a-friend page that could have unforeseen breaks or security issues.  Update templates and complete any technology changeovers now so you aren’t spending the holidays fixing code while donors fret over whether or not their donation was successful.

6. Say Thank You

Don’t forget to say thank you in some way, at least twice, between now and November.  A quick, personal looking email with no “ask” is always a great way to go.  Or, try sending a YouTube video showing supporters what they’ve made possible. Make sure they know they’re appreciated.

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