Top 10 Year-End Fundraising Strategies for 2014

What kind of appeal and message will make your 2014 donors respond with generosity? charity water boy

Here are the top current fundraising strategies that will help you raise the most in your fall annual fund campaign.

These are tested and research proven fundraising strategies – compiled just for you!

If you want specific coaching and examples to help shape your own year-end campaign, from the smartest gurus around, you can join my 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign master classes that start next week. 

1. Use a single image to tell your story and make the ask.

Can an amazing photo do all the work for you? It’s working for many organizations.

Place a high quality, closeup picture of someone being helped by your organization – at the very top of your appeal.

Look at this image from Charity: Water. It says just about all there is to say about this organization’s fine work.

Here’s how to correctly use an image in your fundraising appeal this fall:

  1. Close up of a single person.
  2. Extremely high quality – colors, layout etc. (National Geographic quality!)
  3. The person is looking directly at the camera – and directly at YOU the reader.

The master guru John Lepp will join our 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign series to show you exactly how to use images to open your donors’ hearts.

2. Frame your ask with a specific dollar goal, specific project or purpose and specific hoped-for impact.

I’ve been talking a lot this year about my MPI Fundraising Formula. There are three parts to the MPI formula – M=Money; P= Project; I=Impact. This is the way to make your 2014 annual fund ask.

Telling donors exactly how you spent their money will build TRUST.

Telling donors exactly how you spent their money will build TRUST.

All the research shows that donors will give more if they can designate their gift.

So shape your fall fundraising appeals around the exciting stuff that you do.  It’s far more compelling and interesting to your donors.

Having a specific overall goal with a purpose for the money also helps make your ask much more real in your donors’ eyes. They’ll respond more generously!

The master guru Mazarine Treyz will join our 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign master classes to show you exactly how to frame the perfect ask for your 2014 donors.

 3. Space out a sequence of appeals over time, and delivered thru many different communications channels.

For example –

  1. Start with a phone thankathon to warm up your donors.
  2. Send a warm-up postcard to your donors announcing your fall campaign. (Our goal is $$ and we want to accomplish yyyy so we’ll have zzzz impact!)
  3. Send email warm-up messages.
  4. Deploy social media full of cheerful warm-up messages.
  5. Then send your first appeal letter/package.
  6. Followup the paper appeal with social media and email messaging around the ask.
  7. Send a reminder paper appeal letter.
  8. Send a later paper appeal in mid December.
  9. Send email reminders the last week and last day of the year.

Master guru Tammy Zonker – an acclaimed presenter – will show you an amazing multi-sequence campaign you can copy in our 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign series. 

 4. Surprise and delight to capture your donors’ attention.

We are seeing extraordinary fundraising success from a slightly off-beat approach.

I’ve written about the famous Toronto Food Truck campaign where the appeal was written by the truck itself – and brought in an extraordinary return. Or the letter written by the hummingbird.

This food truck captured many donors' hearts and opened their wallets.

This food truck captured many donors’ hearts and opened their wallets.

Be willing to experiment with color, design, and a catchy theme.

That’s how to break thru the media overload in your donor’s head. And don’t use a standard white #10 envelope – try different shapes and colors.

The master guru John Lepp – the author of the Food Truck campaign himself will join our 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign master classes to show you exactly surprise and delight can raise tons of money.  DON’T MISS! 

 5. Use a catchy social media campaign to gain attention and funds.

It is absolutely possible to design something fun via social media that can capture the attention of your community.

We may not be able to achieve anything like the Ice Bucket Challenge.

But you certainly CAN pull it off on a smaller scale locally. It really helps to have a specific goal, purpose and impact if you want to mobilize your community to step up to fund something important.

Master social media guru Clare McDowell will join our 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign master classes to show you exactly how to use social media to gain awareness and more donors for your annual campaign. She’ll have some terrific examples you can copy. 

 6. Donor-centered.

We know all about donor-centered fundraising, right? WRONG! kid-calling-you-out-soccer-200x300

It’s very very difficult to get it right. I promise you.

Here’s how to be donor centered in your letter:

  • Start with the word “you.”
  • Use the word “you” at least 12-15 times in your letter.
  • Use the word “you” twice as much as you use the word “we.”
  • Give the donor credit for the impact your organization makes.
  • The letter is not about you or your organization.
  • The letter is about what the donor believes and wants to accomplish.

All the classes in our 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign series  will show you how to make the DONOR the center of your letter. It’s not easy! 

 7. Fire-in-the-belly messaging to create urgency.

Ok, it’s time to cut the nonprofit jargon and stale, lofty phrases.

You can’t raise money with words like “underserved,” “program,” or “services.”

And even important words like community and diversity – when overused – become meaningless to your donors.

Use real words. Powerful verbs. Short sentences. Stark descriptions of the need.

If you water down your message, you’ll water down your donors’ response. Please don’t play it safe! 

And please, don’t let Brand take precedence over the work of the appeal letter. I’m seeing a scary trend of Brand being more important than Fundraising. Yikes!

Women make most of the charitable gifts and they are more generous than men.

Women make most of the charitable gifts and they are more generous than men.

8. Reactivate lapsed donors.

We all know where the easy money is in fundraising today.

It’s in getting every single donor who gave to you LAST year to renew their gift this year.

You need to launch an all-out effort to “love on” your current and lapsed donors so they will give again.

“Donor Love” is now a new trend in fundraising today.

How about sending an appeal with this theme: “We love you we miss you we want you back.”

Master guru John Lepp will show us exactly how to “loverize” our donors and make them feel loved, wanted and deeply part of the cause. 

9. Write an appeal letter your grandmother will like.

All the research shows that women are more likely to give and will give more.

Older and boomer women are your #1 giving demographic.

Too many appeals are written by 20 and 30 somethings in the wrong tone. Instead, imagine an older woman reading your appeal.

SO what size font should you use? PLEASE use 14 point AND BLACK type. (I can’t stand that dang grey type that designers all love, because it’s so very hard for this boomer to read.)

10. Personalized appeals to your top 1%.

Gotta love those top 1% folks. They are getting richer. So all the more reason to focus, focus on them.

This appeal from Oxfam helps generate credibility and impact.

This appeal from Oxfam helps generate credibility and impact.

Go see them if you possibly can, not so much to ask but instead to engage them in conversation.

Remember big shots don’t want to hear you do the talking – they expect to do the talking!

After you engage them, then you can ask for the gift.

Master guru and major gift author Amy Eisenstein will show you how to make one-on-one visits to major donors and dramatically ramp up your year-end totals. 


Add clear information on your effectiveness and impact.

Make it simple with a chart or infographic. Be extremely clear about how many people you help and what the difference is that you make.

This is not a time for elegant phrasing or your brand or mission statement. If you are not specific, it doesn’t work.

OK there you have it!

I know you can do a fabulous job on your year-end campaign this year!

Be creative. Take some risks. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Make specific asks.

And if you want specific coaching, do join us for my 2014 Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign master classes starting next week.