It’s crunch time for year-end fundraising. The last three days of the calendar year are the highest volume days for nonprofit fundraising. So, it’s important that your year-end messaging be on point. Your appeals need to be tailored to encourage people to give now, not later. But how do you do that? How do you optimize your emails and social media posts to inspire direct action?
These tips will help you finesse your year-end messaging so that people who click on your emails, and read your social media posts, will click through and make a donation. Not later, but now.
Year-End Messaging Tips
1. Personalize Subject Lines & Emails
Using personalization in your subject line can increase your emails open rate by as much as 50%, according to one study. And it makes sense: People are more likely to respond when you address them by their names!
All email marketing software has the ability to add personalized fields. If you’re not sure how to do it, be sure to check the support library of whatever company you’re using. (To help you out, here’s how you can add personalization for MailChimp and Constant Contact, two of the most popular email marketing companies for small nonprofits.)
This is really an easy way to increase open rates, and get more people looking at the emails you spend so much time putting together.
PROTIP: Use a Fallback
So, if you don’t have someone’s first name on your list and that field is empty for them, a “fallback” tells your email marketing software what to do. (Lest you send out an email with the unfortunate subject line, “Donate today, FIRST NAME!”) For instance, you may want to set your fallback to be something like “friend.” It certainly won’t have the impact of sending them an email addressed to their first name, but it’s better than not setting a fallback at all and taking the risk that someone gets a personalization fail right in the subject line of the email you sent them. (They’re probably not going to open that email.)
A best practice for using personalization is to scan the list you’re using first. Check the field in your list you’ll be using to pull the personalization from (most commonly the recipient’s first name). That way, if there’s anything abnormal in those fields (like if someone first name ended up as “Mrs.” on your email list), you can catch it and adjust. It’s better safe than sorry when using personalization in emails!
2. Segment Your Emails
All “segmentation” means is that instead of sending one email to your whole entire list, you send targeted emails to segments on that list.
Many nonprofits, for instance, will segment users by their annual giving amount. Some nonprofits send targeted emails to volunteers. The emails these groups receive are tailored to the relationship they have with your nonprofit — and often, you can use the same email, and simply edit key parts of it to make it more specific to the audience. For instance, adding some language in an email to volunteers thanking them for all they do for your organization can make it a much more powerful email. And for donors giving at a lower level, suggesting a donation amount than seems approachable (like $10 or $20) can help inspire these donors to actually click through and complete their donation.
PROTIP: Use a Template
Now, as we briefly mentioned above, segmenting your email list doesn’t mean creating whole new emails for each segment. You don’t have to go back to the drawing board for each segment. If you had an appeal planned where you were telling a story, utilizing a video, or sharing another key piece of fundraising content, you can and should still do that. You’ll just be adjusting small pieces of that content for each segment.
So, let’s say you had a big email blast to everyone planned and drafted, but wanted to segment to see better results. You’d first want to identify your segments and split up your lists. Then, take the email you drafted, and make a copy for each segment and label them appropriately. And then you just go into each email and adjust the key parts of the email. For instance, you may want to add a line to your email to volunteers thanking them for their service. Or, adjust the amount you’re asking the recipient to donate, based on their giving level. And if you’re targeting people who are recurring donors or donors who gave within the last six months, you may want to adjust the language and your subject line to acknowledge their previous contributions (example: “Tammy, we know we can count on your support again!”)
These small adjustments can have a huge impact. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for each segment; you just need to adjust a little bit to tailor it to each segment.
3. Use a Clear, Direct Call to Action
Your “call to action,” or CTA, is your request to donate. The CTA should be clear from the subject line and content in the email, and you should have a button in your email that links your supporters to your secure Mightycause page and tells them to donate, in no uncertain terms.
You want to CTA button, in particular, to use simple and urgent language. Save “please support us” for summer. End-of-year is when you get straight to the point: “DONATE NOW.”
Avoid passive language like “please” and “support us.” (Or, put that in the body of your email.) What you want? DONATIONS! When do you want them? NOW! The more direct and urgent your language, the more likely donors are to get the message, click your CTA button, and donate!
On social media, the concept is the same: provide a clear CTA like DONATE NOW and provide a link to where you’d like your supporters to donate.
4. Pull Out the Heavy-Hitting Content
Year-end messaging that works is the kind that stirs up emotions. Your nonprofit does important work — and your year-end messaging needs to make that clear. Now is not the time for a soft ask! You want to leave your supporters with three important thoughts:
- Your work is important
- Your nonprofit changes lives
- You deserve to be supported
So, if you have a story that perfectly demonstrates the kind of work your nonprofit does, now is the time to tell it! Visual components like images, graphics, and video, can make your story feel even more compelling.
Don’t be afraid to even go a little maudlin at the end of the year. ‘Tis the season! If you have a piece of content or a story about your work this year that will tug at the heartstrings, it’s the perfect time for it.
5. Suggest Donation Amounts
People like being told what to do when it comes to charitable donations. When you leave donors to figure out how much to donate on their own, it can be a fraught experience. How much can I afford to give? Will this amount be enough? Should I donate more? So, your nonprofit can make it easier for your donors by suggesting amounts.
What donation amounts are meaningful to your nonprofit? Choose multiple amounts to suggest to donors: an entry-level donation for one-time donors or people who give at lower levels, a few mid-range donations. For major gift donors, it’s best to leave the amount up to them or leave it open when you reach out to them. But, for small and mid-size donors, suggesting an amount can help you seal the deal by making the question of how much to donate easy.
PROTIP: Utilize Your Suggest Donation Amounts on Mightycause
To provide a cohesive experience, we recommend ensuring that the amounts you suggest to donors in your nonprofit’s marketing are mirrored in your donation process on Mightycause. You can customize the amounts with your Donor Experience tool, under the Donations tab on your Mightycause Manager.
6. Focus on the Donor
So, this may seem counterintuitive. Your nonprofit should be talking about your work, right?! But what usually resonates with donors is focusing on them. What they helped make possible, how their donations and support had an impact, and why your nonprofit needs their support. Think “because of you.” You’re still talking about your work, but putting it in “because of you” framework.
PROTIP: Emphasize the Value of Supporting Your Nonprofit
While it’s nice to believe that donors give out of the goodness of their hearts, it’s more accurate to say that donors give because they get value out of it. Now, it’s not the same sort of value they get from supporting a for-profit company, but ultimately finding value in being a donor is what keeps donors coming back to give.
Year-end messaging that emphasizes the value your nonprofit provides to donors works. This includes “because of you” messaging, important milestones you’ve achieved, great stories of how your nonprofit helped your community in 2018, donor tiers, and looking forward to what your nonprofit will achieve (with your donors) in the year ahead.
7. Try a Matching Grant
We spend a lot of time talking about matching grants in relation to #GivingTuesday, but they’re also an effective year-end fundraising tool. The matching grant offers donors additional value (because they’re able to have their donation matched) and adds even more urgency.
PROTIP: Tap Your Board of Directors for a Matching Grant
Across the nonprofit sector, year-end is when a lot of board members make their annual donations. Are you expecting your board or any specific members to make their annual donations in December? Talk to them about using their donation as a matching grant!
Want More Year-End Fundraising Tips?
You can learn more about year-end strategy in our End-of-Year Nonprofit Toolkit. If you’d like more information on email and social media strategy, tips to optimize your Mightycause page, and other resources that will help you beef up your year-end strategy, be sure to download the toolkit!