I’ve worked on a lot of year-end campaigns. Some with organizations who were sending their first-ever emails and hoping to raise $5k. I’ve also worked with organizations that raised over $5 million in November and December. The spectrum and scale of campaigns are vast.
After all the successes (and debriefing of some failures), I’ve learned something really important about year-end campaigns that I want to share with you today.
We must look holistically at our year-end fundraising and communications efforts to see them as a story rolled out over time.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
So many best practices and resources out there on year-end fundraising focus on giving you channel specific advice like “how to write a winning email,” or “writing successful direct mail appeals.”
Don’t get me wrong, that advice is important and useful. But it doesn’t encourage you to see the big picture and think strategically about the whole campaign.
I sometimes like to think about year-end campaigns as being like a symphony. Each channel, communication, appeal, and so on are the individual instruments. On their own, each instrument is nice, but together they have the ability to create beautiful music.
And what does music often do?
It tells a story. (Side note: you might remember that earlier in the summer, we had an entire episode of Summer FUNraising dedicated to telling a story over time)
By just taking a channel specific approach to year-end fundraising, you might be missing your opportunity to think about how those channels work together to create your year-end campaign symphony and tell a strategic story.
Here are a few questions I ask when I want to develop an integrated year-end strategy.
- What is the ask? Since getting donations is the ultimate goal of year-end campaigns, it is important to know what your ask will be. Try to write out your calls to action ahead of time because when you know what they are, you can reverse-engineer everything else.
- What message(s) do we need to put out there to get donors ready for the ask? Once you’ve got your ask in mind, it’s important to think about the message(s) that you need to convey to 1) get donors ready to give and 2) actually make the gift. Success in year-end fundraising is about so much more than the appeals that you send out in December. It’s the result of all the work you do leading up to it.
- What resources do we have at our disposal? There are many types of campaigns you could run during year-end. The complexity will largely depend on the resources and capacity of your organization. Find a time to take inventory and make a list of all the tool, channels, and resources you could use during year-end fundraising. You might not use them all, but it’s good to get an overview of this during in the planning process.
- What’s the timeline? Like I said, year-end fundraising is not just about what you are putting out there in December. It’s all of the communications, cultivation, and stewardship you do from now until you make the ask. What do you need to do to warm donors up?
- What’s the project plan? Once you’ve got your big picture timeline, start thinking about your project plan, or how you plan to execute everything. The saying is “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and I think the say in fundraising should be “Year-end campaigns aren’t built in November.”
Running through these questions can help you plan your big picture before you get into the channel specific weeds.
What approach do you take to year-end campaigns? Leave a comment below and share your experience.