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Updated: May 24, 2023

Students are back in school, fall is fast approaching, and Christmas is four months away. If you’re in the nonprofit world, that means it's time to start thinking about your year-end campaign. While it may seem early, planning ahead is never a bad thing, and “jumpstarting” year-end now can give your bottom line a significant boost in December. Specifically, here are my top 3 tips of things you can do now that can lead to goal-busting results!

Secure a match gift.

Matching gift challenges – for example, where a donor agrees to match (or double) all donations in full up to a certain amount of money – are historically a winning bet. Statistics from Philanthropy Works show a matching gift increases total dollar contributions by 18% and increases the likelihood that an individual will give by 22%. That’s a pretty significant boost.

Match gifts can be secured in multiple ways. A single donor or business can make a large gift to be used

as a challenge or gifts from multiple donors can be combined into one match challenge (for example, 4

donors give $5,000 each for a total $20,000 match). Your match ask amount depends on your overall goal, but usually is around 25-50% of the total. For example, a $100,000 year-end goal can start with a $25,000-$50,000 match challenge, or a $20,000 year-end goal can have a $5,000-$10,000 match challenge.

Major donors typically like matching gifts because their charitable contribution’s impact can go twice as far, and businesses often appreciate the positive exposure a public campaign can provide. Remember, your donor doesn’t have to give the money now – they can pledge now and pay later as long as you receive the money before December 31.

Reach out to donors.

September and October are a great time to show your donors some love and appreciation as a warm-up for year-end asks. If you haven’t sent a newsletter or an update email in a while, now’s the time. Be sure to tell your donors all the great things that have happened because of their gifts and thank them for the difference they are making. Tell a few specific stories (see below!) of how their gifts have impacted those you serve this year.

Now also is a great time to reach out to major and mid-major donors with a thank you phone call.

Recruit your board members and development or leadership team to help and provide them with a script of what to say. More than likely, callers will go to voice mail, and can simply leave a nice message such as “Hi Ms. Jones, this is Sally, a board/team member with XYZ Organization. I just wanted to call and thank you for your generous support this year and tell you what a difference it has made for (insert story here).”

What you don’t want to do is head into year-end when your donors haven’t heard from you since last year or say the past six months. Donors who know how their gifts are being used, and the difference it is making, are much more likely to give again – and often give more. So investing some time over the next few months to reach out, report back, and thank can pay off in many ways.

Gather your stories.

Don’t make the mistake of scrambling last minute for impact stories in December. Take the time now to gather meaningful, emotion-evoking stories – and photos! – from your team of how donations have impacted your mission and those you serve. The general theme for stories should be “without you this happened/could happen, but because of you, this happened.”

You should be able to tell the general story in one sentence that can be expanded upon with additional details depending on how it is used (i.e. shorter format for social media, longer format for a newsletter or email). For example, if you were an animal welfare organization, your sentence could look like this:

“Buddy came to us emaciated and in immense pain with two badly broken back legs,

but because of your generosity, we were able to provide the healing nutrition he needed,

and the surgeries to repair his legs, and now he loves daily walks with his new family.”

Photos also are incredibly important to the storytelling process because they tell the story without having to say a word. Imagine a “before” photo of Buddy, skin and bones, looking sadly into the camera, and an “after” photo of Buddy smiling on a walk. Pretty much says it all, right?

Again, don’t wait around until November to reach out to donors or start pulling together the details you’ll need to launch your year-end campaign. Instead, use the time now to thoughtfully thank your donors, line up that match, and build your story bank so December will be smooth sailing!

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