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Start Early: Six Steps for Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign

Kristin Hammett

Kristin Hammett

August 4, 2023

Did you take advantage of any “Christmas in July” sales this year? I have friends who used the summer deals to start their Christmas shopping. Yes, you read that right, Christmas shopping.

It seems a little crazy, right? Maybe “Christmas in July” isn’t your style, but year-end fundraising planning in August should be. I know it seems early, perhaps even a little crazy, but I’d counter it is wise and strategic.

Getting an early start on year-end campaigns may be more important than ever.

For just the fourth time since Giving USA has tracked charitable giving, 2022 saw a decline. Individual giving declined by 6.4%, 13.4%when adjusted for inflation. For context, 2020 and 2021 were record giving years—despite unstable circumstances surrounding the pandemic and recovery—but the 2022 numbers did feel concerning for many.

There is also some indication Americans anticipate giving less this year than they did last year. According to a study from Dunham+Company, 24% of donors say they plan to give less in 2023.

For over 5 decades giving has grown an average of 6 percent per year. Compared to other sectors like real estate or energy, growth in giving seems resilient over time. As noted in a previous blog, we do not need to assume the sky is falling.

Yet, with 26% of all charitable giving happening in December, nonprofit leaders are wise to look up and make a plan today.

Six Steps for Year End Success

1. Message matters.

Determine the campaign theme or messaging. Decide and stick with it; don’t vary. While you may get bored, donors won’t. Communicate consistently and utilize powerful storytelling.

Donors may have said they plan to give less, but that means they still plan to give! Keep them connected to the work and the impact. Help them see themselves as a hero in the story.

2. Fundraise first.

Get ahead of the game. With a shrinking donor pool, it is important that you connect with donors early and often. Movement Fundraising advises communicating with high-capacity donors two to four times per month via email, once per month through the mail, and twice a year with a call. Additionally, meet with these donors once per year. Does that feel like too much, or not enough? Know your donors—find a balance that works for you and them.

3. Be compelling.

Communicate your nonprofit’s value. People are making money decisions–giving and spending. Help them understand what different amounts mean for the work you do. Be certain they know the impact their gift has on the people you serve.

4. Be strategic.

Have a plan for all of the fourth quarter. Share the work through progress reports, social media posts, videos (professional or quick, organic ones from your phone), email, direct mail, phone calls, and personal meetings. Schedule these different channels – don’t shoot from the hip. Make a plan and stick to it.

5. Engage everyday donors.

Major donors have kept showing up over the last few years. We consistently see fewer donors giving, but donors giving more. That changed in 2022. While I advocate for good donor stewardship over acquisition, effective fundraising plans must include a general donor component. Everyday donors can have a significant impact in supporting the work and in social giving programs.

Here are some ideas to engage everyday donors in your fundraising:

  • Start (or restart) a monthly donor program. Give it a name and perhaps add a gift or exclusive access.
  • Leverage a matching gift. Utilize a major gift as a match to incentivize new, lapsed, or undecided donors to double their impact.
  • Make crowdfunding easy. This isn’t limited to Giving Tuesday, but you should include it. Reduce friction for donors and give them an easy 1, 2, 3.
  • Share company match opportunities. Remind donors they may have employer matching program that can match donations made to organizations employees care about.

6. Say thank you.

Then, say it again. I sit on a board with another donor who often says, “Tell me thank you more than once.” Remember, donors want to feel appreciated and connected to the work. Take the extra step to send a personal text, email, phone call, or handwritten note, in addition to the form letter donors receive.

Yes, giving is down. And, your fundraising work matters. So start early, make a plan, and be consistent. Keep donors connected to the people they are trying to help with their investment in your nonprofit work.

Further reading:


Where do donor advised funds fit in your year-end plans?

Donors who use donor advised funds can be loyal, consistent partners in your work. Make your fundraising donor advised fund-friendly. Help your donors understand how these funds work, the flexible contribution options available, and how they can support your work.

DAF-Friendly Fundraising

About Kristin Hammett

Kristin Hammett

As the Director of Nonprofit Success at The Signatry, Kristin Hammett works to train, consult, and equip nonprofits with fundraising solutions to connect God’s resources with His work

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