Holiday Tips & Tricks for Nonprofits
Holiday Tips & Tricks for Nonprofits

Holiday Tips & Tricks for Nonprofits

12/27/2012 by Staci Rice
Last minute tips and tricks for maximizing gift giving during the end of year and holiday season.

The holiday season is the largest giving month of the year, with some studies showing giving increases as much as 50% during the month of December. This means there exists an opportunity that most nonprofits can’t afford to miss.  If you are a nonprofit that has a diversified funding mix - meaning you’ve created a sustainable mix of incomes sources -  congratulations,  because most nonprofits struggle with ways to diversify their funding mix, especially with how to build or increase the gifts received from individuals. The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity for you to ask for donations from all of the individuals who have expressed interested or have been engaged in your organization throughout the year. Below are some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years when it comes to executing a holiday appeal.

Start Early

This doesn’t mean you should start writing and designing your holiday card in July - although if you’re that on top of things, bravo. Starting early means communicating with your constituents throughout the year. Your holiday appeal should NOT be the first outreach of the year, and your first outreach of the year should, in good taste, not be an ask.  I realize this bit of advice is coming a little late in the game considering this is the end of December. But, the new year is just around the corner, so start planning for next year by sending out an early January message to all of your constituents who you are thankful for.  Starting early also means capturing email addresses, direct mail addresses,  phone numbers, Twitter handles, and whatever else you need to reach your target audience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with nonprofits who pull a list of their 10,000+ constituents to send out an email appeal to find that only 10% of them had valid email addresses. Keep your database current, populated, and relevant.

Segment Your Lists and Simplify Your Message

Your message and medium should be tailored to your audiences. As a nonprofit, I am going to assume that you interact with different individuals for different purposes. You may have volunteers, board members, friends of board members...this list goes on.  Each of these groups may have different giving capacities and different motivations. For example, people have donated before are different than people who have never donated, but are engaged in different ways.  People who have already donated have already bought into the mission of your organization. Send a message to current donors asking them to increase their support. Individuals who give regular, recurring, small donations can frequently be cultivated into larger or major gifts. The bottom line: craft a message that will resonate with your various segments.

Keep your message, and your image, simple and impactful - the holiday season is busy and people aren’t going to read statistics and analyze bar charts on the impact your organization has had this year. Save that for newsletters and annual reports.

Use Data and Statistics to Drive Your Strategy

If you were wondering when I would mention, well, here it is. can be more than a place to store the contact information for your donors. It is so much more than a Rolodex.  It should be used to capture key profile information and statistics that will provide insight into who donates and the most effective way to solicit them. I mentioned segmenting your lists and modifying your content; using data you’ve been collecting throughout the year is what allows you to easily create these segments. Salesforce helps you get meaningful data - data that should be driving your holiday strategy. If you’ve used Salesforce properly in previous holiday seasons, you should be reviewing your campaign statistics to determine which method, messaging, and groups of constituents yielded the biggest results.  Direct Mail vs. Email? Personal message from the board or the general message with a festive holiday image?  Which subject lines worked the best? (Don’t use “hey”, only Barack Obama can get away with that). Use the previous year's campaigns to inform this year's.

However, if this year is your first holiday appeal using Salesforce you won’t have any statistics to draw from. In this case, I recommend gathering statistics and modifying your messaging throughout the Holiday Campaign Appeal.  Your campaign should consist of more than one ask and the ask (or message) should change as people respond to your appeal. This means don’t just send an email appeal on Dec. 24th asking for a donation and leave it at that. Send multiple asks (without people pushy) and change the ask as the person takes action (“action” meaning donated, clicked, bounced, etc). These statistics provide important information about what is working and what isn’t.  Look at who is opening, who has clicked, and who has donated. Then, modify your message throughout your campaign. Don’t forget the Dec. 31st last ditch effort -you’d be surprised how many people will be motivated to donate on the very last day they can reap the benefits of donations on their taxes. People are more likely to give in that window - the last week of the year.

Other Tools

Other than using Salesforce to set up your campaign hierarchy and to capture your results, you’ll likely need a few other tools. At a bare minimum, you will need a 3rd party email tool to send your beautifully designed HTML emails and to capture statistics on who opened, what links are popular, etc.  There are hundreds of email marketing tools out there - I’ll save that analysis for a different post - but whichever you choose, it should integrate with Salesforce or generating your segmented lists becomes quite challenging.

You’ll also want a way for your constituents to donate online. Ideally, this would integrate with Salesforce as well. If not, you should plan on exporting the data from your online payment processing platform and importing it into Salesforce after the campaign has ended. All data, at the end of your campaign, should live in Salesforce, or whatever CRM you are using.

Happy Holidays

I would love to hear how your holiday appeal tips and tricks. Or, how successful your holiday campaign was this year. Feel free to share them in the comments below in Discuss, on our Facebook page, or tweet them to me @StaciRiceNYC.