Year End Fundraising - Why All Main Street Organizations Should Ask for Year End Gifts - 1 of 3

The holidays are close and virtually all Main Street organizations have set their promotional calendar for their district into action by now.  But have you spent an equal amount of time gearing up for end of year fundraising? Every Main Street organization should be reaching out for year-end gifts.  Look to current donors and people already on your mailing list and email lists for support.  Make your Facebook Fans and Twitter followers know about your plans for the coming year that you will be able to accomplish with their financial support. In three blog posts over this week, we will supply a road map for downtown organizations to expand (or create) an end of year fundraising strategy.  We will offer suggestions for a complete and also a mini campaign, so that you can pick elements of this strategy depending on your time and volunteer resources over the next six weeks. So, why bother asking for gifts before December 31? According to some of the leading nonprofit fundraising authorities, your organization could be raising up to 40% of its donations during the last six weeks of the year, if you use several fundraising channels to connect to your donors, according to a 2011 report by Charity Navigator.[1]  Their report asked for giving trends from 110 charities and 550 donors, and they asked, “what percentage of annual contributions from individuals does your charity receive at year-end (roughly speaking Thanksgiving to New Years)?"  The answers literally ranged from 0% to 100%.  But on average, these charities receive 41% of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year!”[2] We reviewed the extensive literature on year-end giving in the last several weeks, and compiled some compelling statistics. Ten Fundraising Facts for Year End Fundraising.

  1. In 2011, an estimated ­­­­­$298.4 billion was raised from Americans giving to charity. – Giving USA[3]
  1. Giving increased just 0.9 percent after inflation in 2011 from 2010 when giving was $291 billion. – Giving USA[4]
  2. Seventy three percent (73%) of all gifts came from individuals, same as in 2010. -- Giving USA[5]
  3. The average person makes 24% of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Years.  -- Center on Philanthropy[6]
  4. While a large majority of donations are still made by check (79 percent), online fundraising is the fastest growing donation channel. – Association of Fundraising Professionals[7]
  5. Online fundraising grew 15% from previous year. -- The 2011 Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index™ Study[8]
  6. Online giving continues to grow fastest for smaller organizations. Organizations with 10,000 or fewer email addresses grew by 26.7% in median revenue, similar to 2010’s growth.-- 2011 Convio Study
  7. Recurring giving (monthly or quarterly pledges) is a major driver of giving over time and should be strongly encouraged in the giving experience.— Network for Good[9]
  8. A third (33%) of December's donations happen on the 31st of the month—Network for Good [10]
  9. The peak giving time on December 31 is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in each time zone—Network for Good[11]

End of year fundraising is clearly worth your time, and it does not have to stress you out. The purpose of these blog posts is to get you to do something in the next two months so that you can harvest at least a portion of these gifts for your own downtown organization. In the next installment of this blog series to be published on Wednesday, we will discuss the following Top Ten Tips for year-end giving for downtown organizations. We will give advice about technical and implementation issues on these topics.

  1. Set a goal, create a campaign theme, think multi-channel giving.
  2. Clean up your mailing lists.
  3. Take online gifts. Where is your website’s Donate Now button?
  4. Test your donation page now.
  5. Revise your giving levels, ask for recurring gifts, create simple forms.
  6. Create compelling stories, photos and letters and the weekly countdown.
  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  8. Automate thanks and tweet about gifts.
  9. Reinforce your campaign with traditional PR, matching gifts and publish a donor list
  10. Don’t take Christmas week off!

Our final blog post in this series, to be published next Wednesday, will share a sample fundraising calendar and a plan to use during November and December with some suggested dates for sending direct mail letters, email communications, e-newsletters to your current contributors and others.  We posted the entire series for you on our web site today if you want to get an early jump on the entire series. What other tips can you think of to raise more money at the end of the year?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and share this series with other people in your networks. Please let us know how we can help.

[1] This list is adapted and updated from
[2] Ibid.
[3], The executive summary is free, but the whole report is $49.95.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[7]  This is data from 2009, most recent available.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.