The holiday season is finally here. Woop, woop! People wish to give, and nonprofits need to receive, especially this year. Our government also recognizes this need for gifts to support the people and nonprofits that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. And although we are all thankful for The CARES Act in helping charitable organizations, donors need to be made aware of the fact that as of today, The CARES Act is due to expire at year-end and any tax benefit may not exist next year.
Fred Kaynor, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at Schwab Charitable was also helpful in sharing some pointers with us: “There is an unprecedented need among those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . And there is some uncertainty about how the tax code for charitable giving may potentially change next year under the new administration. [Finally,] long-term appreciation in the equity markets means many donors may have highly appreciated investments held for more than one year, some of which may be the most tax-efficient assets to contribute to charity.”
So nonprofits, please remind your donors that giving from the heart is important, but there are other reasons for them to give, like making their wallet happy too.
Moving along, the absolute best article we found for laying the framework this holiday season was from keela.com, and to give credit where credit is due, please know that we’ve taken the excerpt below from their full article with a link below. But we also wanted to add to their great article.
We at PB and K Family Foundation agree with Keela that empathy is huge. However, we wanted to share what we learned from Krista Kafer, a Denver Post columnist. (Krista is also a teacher, and I recently took her DU enrichment class on persuasion.) If you want to be persuasive to the most people, fair and compassionate is the way to go. Period. So how do you tell that story within that framework to get people to not only feel for you but also want to help? Only your nonprofit knows that storyline.
And although the article by Keela was written for the holidays, the advice doesn’t apply to just the holidays. So keep in mind that if the timing is wrong for December, you can always start some of their suggestions at another time.
And here is the Keela holiday excerpt I promised:
Although this year is unusual, a recent study shows that individual giving in the first half of 2020 increased by almost 7.5% over the first half of 2019, paving the way to excellent prospects for the holidays.
This year also saw new tax incentives for charitable giving. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March, gives donors who plan to take the standard deduction the option to claim an above-the-line deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions to operating charities. The CARES Act also gives donors who will itemize deductions an option to elect a 100% of AGI deduction limit for cash donations, and deduction amounts above this limit may be carried over for up to five years. With both options, the cash donations must be made directly to operating charities and cannot go to donor-advised funds, supporting organizations, or private foundations.
Historically, charitable giving reaches its highest peak during the year-end season, highlighting the importance of a well-planned fundraising campaign. Below are some tips from nonprofit software company Keela on maximizing your year-end appeals, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Dive into your past campaigns
When it comes to planning, a deep dive into your data can save you tons of time and money.
Before diving into your fundraising appeal’s specifics, take a look at your past year-end fundraising campaigns: What accounted for the successes? What were the biggest challenges you faced? This will help you understand what strategies are worth continuing and what should be improved.
When evaluating your past campaigns, consider the following:
- How much did you raise in total?
- Which segments of donors gave you the most?
- What was the average donation amount?
- Which channels were the most successful in converting donors? Look at your social media pages, email campaigns, and donation pages.
- What was your most successful email? What was your most successful social media post?
- What was the average cost per gift? Here’s a handy guide on calculating fundraising costs.
Set your goals
Now that you have a better understanding of your past successes, you can set realistic goals to keep your efforts focused. If you need help choosing and tracking your Key Performance Metrics, check out this guide.
Here are a few standard metrics you can track:
- Fundraising: Campaign ROI, Total Funds Raised, Average Gift Size, Donor Retention Rate, New Donor Acquisition
- Marketing and donor outreach: Email Open Rate, Email Click Through Rate, Donation Page Conversion Rate, Social Media Traffic.
- Events: Total Registrations, Registration to Check In Ratio, Event ROI, Social Media Mention.
Invest in technology
If you’re still using spreadsheets to manage your donors while juggling freemium software to send mass emails, now is a convenient time to consider investing in digital tools.
During the busy holiday season, you shouldn’t spend hours sending tax receipts or pulling an updated list of your recurrent donors.
The following tools will help you stay focus on your appeal and create a successful year-end fundraising campaign:
- A donor management system to store and analyze donor data
- An email marketing platform to reach out to your supporters
- A fundraising platform to set up a donation form and automatically send tax receipts
Check out this blog on choosing the right CRM for your nonprofit.
Optimize your website
1. Create a pop-up
There are many different options to leverage web design and promote year-end giving. One of the best ways to capitalize on visitors’ festive spirits is by creating popups.
A pop-up is simply a box that “pops up” on top of a web page to deliver a message and encourage visitors to take action. You might find them annoying, but pop-ups can truly boost donations for unique fundraising campaigns.
This is what Keela recommends:
- Set up an “exit” pop-up. This kind of popup is triggered when a visitor is about to leave your website, giving you one last chance to make your ask.
- Include a value proposition in your copy. Make it clear why donors should give to your organization.
- Make it easy for visitors to close the pop-up to avoid annoying them. Also, make sure the pop-up only shows up once per day per visitor.
- Make your donation button stand out. Make sure it’s bold and clear enough so that people understand what you’re asking them to do.
See this example from Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It works because the value proposition is clear enough: donations “will be matched dollar-for-dollar.” What’s more, the pop-up creates a sense of urgency: to get a tax return, visitors must donate before December 31.
2. Create a homepage takeover
If pop-ups are not your jam and you want to go full in with the holiday spirit, you can showcase your year-end fundraising campaign directly on your homepage.
Here’s an example from Charity: Water. We love this example because visitors can select a donation amount directly from the homepage. Simple and engaging!
3. Create a year-end donation page
Your donation page is the centerpiece of your online fundraising strategy.
Try to tweak the copy and tell donors why your organization needs donations at this specific time of the year. It’s important you let donors know what you’re planning to accomplish and how they can help you get there.
You can either update your current donation page or create a specific one for your year-end campaign.
A great way to encourage end-of-year donations is to show your donors how much work you’ve done throughout the year. Using a progress bar like Zero Ceiling, you can communicate what goals you are hoping to hit and how close you are to hitting those goals.
Nail donor communications
Be strategic with the timing of your communications When the holidays are right around the corner, businesses and organizations start filling inboxes with coupons, special promotions, and more.
How do you stand out in a crowded inbox? There’s a simple strategy you can try: sending emails at unusual times.
While most businesses and nonprofits send emails during weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., you might get more attention on weekends or in the evening.
We’re not saying that you’re guaranteed to get better results, but this is worth testing. What’s more, 30% of organizations don’t send any communications after December 25. Yet, 53% of online year-end revenue comes in during these 6 days. So you’re wise to focus your communication efforts during the last week of the year.
Write with empathy
Understanding the thoughts and feelings of your audience is crucial to maximizing giving.
When you write with empathy, you’re putting yourself in the shoes of your audience, making your writing resonate with them.
Here are a few tips for writing powerful email appeals:
Make your writing conversational. Your communications should read like you’re talking to a friend.
Personalize your email subject line: Readers are 26% more likely to open emails with personalized subject lines. It can be as simple as using a smart tag to include donors’ first names.
Send emails from a person, not an organization. This helps humanize and personalize your communications. People are more likely to open an email from “Sarah” than “XYZ foundation.”
Embrace storytelling. People need storytelling to make sense of the world. Tell the “why” of your organization or focus on the story of one person in need.
Use social proof. This will help build trust and perhaps even trigger FOMO (fear of missing out). For instance, once you started your campaign, let donors know how much you’ve raised, or how many people have already stepped forward to help your organization.
Nurture your donors before asking for donations
Implementing an effective donor nurturing strategy can considerably impact your fundraising results and your year-end giving campaigns. Next After recently ran an experiment that found that thanking donors right before an upcoming holiday campaign can increase donations up to 204%.
Check out these thank you letter templates and learn how to nurture relationships with your donors.
Use donor personas to target the right audience
A donor persona is a short document that outlines the traits and preferences of the people you are trying to reach; that is, your ideal donor.
By building audience profiles, you’ll get a better understanding of who your donors are and what is the best medium to reach them.
This is the kind of insight you need to cut through the digital noise. Knowing who’s more likely to support your organization, you can better target your year-end campaigns and maximize your fundraising efforts.
For a complete guide on building donor profiles, check out How to Use Donor Personas to Raise More Money.
Finally, happiest of holiday wishes to you and yours. And let’s hope 2021 sets a joyful record for all of us!
PB and K Family Foundation