“Year-end campaign? But it’s only August!”

If ^ describes your thoughts when reading the title of this post, you’re not alone. (Though kudos for still clicking through to read!)

It’s hard to think about year-end fundraising when you’re still frying eggs on the sidewalk, but hear us out: Trade just a few hours of poolside fun for year-end early planning, and your organization will benefit many times over.

Start your year-end fundraising prep in August with a few simple steps.

1. Clean up your data.

Tired of high email bounce rates? Lists plagued by duplicate or outdated entries? The most successful fundraising campaigns start with robust, clean and accurate data, and a history of donor stewardship.

Now’s the time to start taking a good look at your constituent data to ensure contact information is up-to-date. Remove any duplicate entries and people who have unsubscribed from communications (if your database system doesn’t do it automatically). Updating contact info gives you an opportunity to touch base with past donors prior to your year-end campaign. If you’re short on time or resources, your print/mail house likely offers mailing list cleanup services for a nominal fee and can match your data against national registries for the most accurate results.

Next, segment your list by donor type: current donors (people who have given already this year), LYBUNTs (people who gave last year but who haven’t yet this year), SYBUNTs (people who gave “some” year but not last year or yet this year), non-donors (like volunteers or event attendees) and more. Consider separating out specific donors (like major donors or corporate contacts) who you think would benefit from individual methods of contact like a phone call or in-person meeting – and get those meetings on the calendar.

2. Get tech in place.

Top-performing campaigns incorporate numerous direct response approaches and are supplemented digitally to drive awareness (via social media, email and website). Many technology tools take time to gather data, however, so as soon as you decide the tools you need, get them installed.

If you haven’t already, get the Facebook pixel installed in your organization’s website so it can start tracking donor data and conversions – which will help build your constituent lists. On the website side, make sure you have a program like Google Analytics in place and built out to track goals, conversions, donations and more. And check out other tools available to your cause: Google Grants, for example, gives eligible 501(c)3 organizations $10,000 a month to run online advertising campaigns – which could make all the difference for your organization’s fundraising.

3. Analyze past efforts.

What messaging and creative have produced the best results with your constituents? What ones haven’t really worked in the past? What audiences use which channels to stay connected with your work? How many people donate through your website versus other channels, and how did they get there?

Before starting a new campaign, it’s always a good idea to take an in-depth look at past fundraising and marketing results to know what to do (and what not to do) in future efforts. Evaluate the performance and conversions of your website, social channels, email marketing and more, then use the analysis when determining the direction of your year-end campaign and campaign goals.

4. Start (or, ideally, continue) conversations with constituents.

If you only talk to constituents when you need donations, your relationships will become one-sided very quickly. After every fundraising campaign, take care to thank donors for their support – but don’t stop there. Ongoing stewardship campaigns keep constituents up to date on your organization and how their dollars make a difference in the lives of the beneficiaries you serve. For non-donors, use off-fundraising times to educate and involve them in your work as a way of nurturing them in preparation for the next fundraising campaign.

If you don’t have one already, establish a year-round cadence of stewardship, communication and donor cultivation through a variety of tactics and channels (e.g., events, emails, phone calls, social media updates, etc.) to continuously deepen relationships with people in each audience/donor segment.

5. Gather beneficiary stories.

Strong campaigns utilize needs-based storytelling, which starts with the beneficiaries your organization serves. People respond better to appeals that focus on a single individual (or a small number) as opposed to talking about a general population (ex. Help a single mother like Jane vs. 1,400 single mothers need your help).

This month, start identifying and lining up conversations with some of your organization’s beneficiaries to gather their individual stories – what their lives were like before they became connected to your cause, how they worked with your organization specifically, what their lives are like now, what they’ve been able to do as a result of assistance, etc. Gathering multiple stories allows you to narrow down to the strongest story (or stories) to use in your direct mail, and it also gives you additional content to test concepts digitally or disseminate through other channels like a blog or e-newsletter.

Year-end fundraising may seem light-years away, but November will be here before you know it. Start the year’s biggest giving season off right by getting prepared now.

Want more tips to boost your fundraising efforts? Download our year-end planning guide now. 

Year End Planning Guide

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.