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Nonprofit Strategies

How to write a year-end appeal that resonates (free template!)

The last month of the year is crucial when it comes to attracting donations for nonprofits. Learn how to write an impactful year-end appeal letter and get creative year-end appeal ideas for email, text, social media, and more.

Nicola Scoon
December 14, 2023
September 13, 2023
Nerd Mr Butter

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When the holiday season is in full swing, gratitude and generosity take center stage—not only for friends and loved ones but also for nonprofits. In fact, year-end giving statistics show the week between Christmas and New Year’s can bring in a staggering 47% of online year-end revenue.

In this guide, we’ll share our best advice on how to craft an impactful end-of-year appeal letter, including how to approach the process and how to repurpose your content for a greater reach.

How to write the best end-of-year appeal letters to your supporters 

While direct mail and an annual appeal letter can bring in donations at any time of year, it’s the end-of-year appeal that can drive impressive results for nonprofit organizations. This personalized letter seeks to encourage donors to use their generosity for good at this special time of year.

Your year-end giving letter should feel personal and inspiring if you want it to convert. With overall charitable giving declining by 10.5%, making the extra effort to ask your supporters to donate is more important than ever. 

Here’s how to craft a winning end-of-year donation letter that catches your donors’ attention and motivates them to give.

1. Understand what resonates with your donors 💛

To write a letter that works for your audience, you first need to figure out what moves them to contribute. Understanding this means you can create an appeal strategy based on your unique audience, instead of using generic techniques that might not resonate.

Review your donor data and information from past campaigns. Identify what types of messages, themes, and appeals brought you the best results. Dive into which campaign formats worked best, and how your donors prefer to donate. All this can help you plan every aspect of your year-end giving campaign—from your potential subject line to a suggested donation amount.

2. Choose a theme 🎉

While a theme isn’t a must-have, it can help give your campaign direction and make it more memorable to your donors. Online giving trends show that the last three months of the year can drive up to 21% of all online donations, so you want to make your campaign stand out.

Your theme doesn’t have to be complicated or completely unique. If you’re not sure where to start, lean into the giving season theme. Year-end appeal themes can tie into Giving Tuesday, the holiday season, or the spirit of giving. An alternative is to focus your theme on the impact your donors have made this year or on a particular project.

3. Put your donor front and center 🌟

Highlighting your mission and impact should always be part of your fundraising strategy, but your donors should feel like they’re the heroes in the story. Use opportunities to put your donors front and center and prioritize the way they feel as part of your end-of-year giving appeal. 

Address your donors by name, and talk about the impact they’ve had on your cause so far—either indirectly or directly, if you can tie their donation to a specific project. Let your supporters know they play a valuable role in the outcomes you achieve.

4. Lead with a strong story 🌳

Every great fundraising campaign has a story behind it. It doesn’t need to be big or impressive, but it does need to feel genuine and heartfelt. Use a story to captivate your supporters and bring them along on the journey with you.

Speak to your board members and volunteers to identify stories and themes that stand out. Speak to everyone involved, capture footage or images, and use these stories to bring the impact of your fundraising work to life.

🤩 Real-life inspiration: Check out the Changing Lives, Saving Birds year-end campaign from BirdsCarribean. Their “Story” section showcases their impact, articulates the specific needs they have, and provides several ways for donors to contribute. A perfect combination for year-end appeal success!

Changing Lives, Saving Birds donation page on Givebutter

5. Highlight the “why” 💪

There are so many causes out there that your donors are eager to get involved with, but sometimes they need a reminder of exactly why yours is worth supporting. Dedicate some of the space on your year-end appeal letter to sharing your “why” and talking about how valuable it is.

Talk about your successful projects over the past year, who your benefactors are, and what you do on a regular basis. Show the impact that donations make on both a small and large scale, and how your nonprofit is changing lives.

6. Give your appeal context ⏰

Your supporters could donate to you at any point in the year, but you want them to take action now. Give your fundraising appeal context and use a sense of urgency to motivate your supporters to take action soon.

Remind your supporters that you’re close to the end of the year, and that you need their support to hit your fundraising goals. Run a countdown to New Year and challenge your supporters to raise funds by the deadline. Reflect on the holiday season and the sense of giving, and use your words and stories to motivate your donors to give now, not later.

7. Personalize your appeal 💌

Odds are your supporters will be exposed to plenty of fundraising campaigns throughout the year-end giving season. Make your year-end appeal letter stand out by being highly personalized to them as an individual.

Tailor your fundraising letter to your donors as much as you can. Write slightly different letters for your major donors and new donors, reflecting their time with you and the relationship you have. Merge fields can make it easy to populate a donor’s name, donation amount, and other details, so each letter feels like it was written specifically for them. 

8. Have a clear call to action 👈

While you want to offer your donors plenty of ways to give, you want to be clear that there’s one action you’d like them to take—to make a donation. Focus your call to action on making a year-end donation request to drive the most impact.

When it comes to “making the ask,” be straightforward about it. Say that you’d love your supporters to give towards your end-of-year appeal, and direct them on how to do this. Don’t distract them with mentions of social media campaigns, blog posts, or upcoming events—focus only on giving.

9. Make it easy for donors to give 🤩

Every donor will have their preferred way of giving. Encourage as many people as possible to contribute toward your fundraising goals by offering multiple ways to give.

If you’re a Givebutter user, your donors are spoilt for choice when it comes to donation options. Within your donation letter, add a QR code that takes people directly to your online giving form or fundraising page. Include details on how they can set up a monthly giving campaign. You can even include a return envelope so donors can mail a check or cash directly. The goal is to help them give straight away, in a way that works best for them.

BONUS: 10. Make your donation request letter stand out 🔥

We’ve focused on how to write a year-end appeal letter that engages your supporters, but the way you format and mail your letter can make an impact too. With 43% of nonprofits failing to send direct mail during the year-end period, you have a strong chance of driving results—but with other savvy nonprofits zeroing in on year-end, you still need a way to stand out.

Consider how you can stand out from the crowd with a larger or brightly colored envelope or an engaging statement on the front. Use color, font, and styling choices to complement your theme and message, and encourage your supporter to open the envelope and see what’s inside. 

Get started with this year-end appeal letter sample and template

You know what to include in your appeal letter, but what do these strategies look like when you put them all together? Wouldn’t it be great if you had an end-of-year donation letter example to work from? 

Use this year-end giving letter template to give you a strong foundation for your own fundraising appeal campaign.

How to repurpose your end-of-year fundraising letter into other formats

Your year-end appeal letter does a lot of the heavy lifting for your year-end fundraising appeal, and it’s also a great way to stand out—with only 18% of organizations sending direct mail. While you’re focusing your efforts on your appeal letter, it can also help you create content for your other channels.

Here’s how to repurpose your letter theme, story, and content to create engaging appeals across various engagement channels.

1. Email marketing 📨

Letters and emails aren’t too different in style or length, which means you can easily take content from your year-end appeal letter and transform it into engaging email copy for your mailing list.

Pull key phrases and stats from your letter, then rewrite them slightly so your audience doesn’t get the same message twice. With email, you have the added bonus of being able to include direct links—so sending supporters to your donation forms just got even easier. 

💪 Pro tip: Include follow-up emails as part of your email campaign, too. For these, adjust your message but keep your theme and goal the same—you want to remind donors of your impact and encourage them to give towards your end-of-year appeal.

2. Social media and digital marketing 📱

Once you’ve adapted your letter copy for emails, it’s easy to make your words work for social media and digital advertising channels too. Social media is a great place to find potential donors who haven’t heard of your cause and even generate up to 25% of donations—more than double other media types.

With social media fundraising, you want your messages to be impactful, short, and snappy—especially if you’re creating video content for short-form content channels like TikTok or YouTube Shorts. Hone into your key message and develop a series of content pieces that work well together but also stand alone.

💪 Pro tip: In addition to scan-to-give, you can use Givebutter’s free text-to-donate feature to add an easy shortcode to your graphics to make it even easier for supporters to share and give on the go. 

3. Text messages 💬

With the right marketing and engagement tools, you can send personalized texts to your supporters to prompt existing donors to give to your year-end campaign. Your SMS outreach efforts should be engaging, brief, and direct—so tailor your appeal campaign copy to match.

5. Website content 🕸️

Your website is a valuable part of your digital real estate because you have complete control over it. Take advantage of this and come up with creative ways to feature your end-of-year appeal across your digital home.

You can repurpose your appeal letter content into copy for a donation landing page or your online fundraising page. You can even shorten the copy for a promo banner on your website or add more to your story in a detailed blog post.

How to run your year-end appeal: an easy-to-follow sample timeline

A strong year-end appeal features more than your end-of-year appeal letter, but what’s the best way to organize everything? Discover the best time to send your end-of-year appeal letters and emails, and when to start thinking about all the steps that happen before you hit send.

6-8 months out: Evaluate past campaigns 📊

Review what worked and what didn’t last year, so you can make improvements.

4-6 months out: Start planning your campaign 💡

Segment your donor list, talk to direct mail partners, and define your key message.

2-3 months out: Finalize your campaign ✏️

Make any final adjustments to your theme and message, and prepare materials so you’re ready to go.

One month out: Check in with your team ✔️

Speak to your internal team and external partners to make sure everything is ready.

Nov. 6: Send your first email ✉️

Schedule your first email to hit your supporters’ inboxes.

Nov. 13: Mail your year-end appeal letters 📫

Aim to have your direct mail campaign land with your supporters in early-mid December.

Nov. 20: Send a second email 📧

Follow up on your first email and direct mail campaign with another angle or reason to give.

Dec. 4: Run your phone and SMS campaign 📱

Get on the phone and speak to supporters or send your scheduled SMS campaign.

Dec. 28 — Send a reminder email 📩

Remind your supporters why now is the time to give, and promote your online giving options.

After New Year’s Day: Send thank you letters 🤗

Reach out to your donors with a thank you letter for donating, and include their name and gift amount to make it feel personal.

Jan. 8: Celebrate your successful campaign 👏

Get together with your team to celebrate your achievements—whether that’s hitting your fundraising goal or re-engaging donors.

Make this your best year-end appeal yet

Donors are more motivated to give throughout the holiday season, so use this as an opportunity to craft an engaging end-of-year appeal. Use the strategies and tips above to refine your approach, and save time with our sample year-end appeal letter as the foundation for your own appeal.

When you sign up for a free Givebutter account, you get access to our full suite of fundraising, donor management, and nonprofit marketing tools. So you can create compelling fundraising campaigns, accept a wide variety of donation methods, and send out personalized letter appeals, email blasts, and text messages directly to donors—all in one place, all completely free.

Draft your dream year-end appeal on Givebutter

With the right templates, advice, and tools, running your best year-end appeal campaign is within reach. Sign up for Givebutter for free today to unlock access to best-in-class fundraising features that make the giving process a more engaging experience for both you and your supporters.

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