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Year-end giving checklist: 7 ways to supercharge donations

Gear up for the most popular donation season with end-of-year giving ideas and powerful examples of year-end fundraising campaigns from nonprofits that nailed it.

Kylie Davis
August 21, 2023
October 26, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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Gear up for the most popular time of the year for charitable donations with essential fundraising tips, tools, and techniques to boost your year-end giving strategy. Plus, for some extra end-of-year inspiration, we’ll share real-life campaign examples from nonprofits that knocked it out of the park and break down exactly what made these year-end fundraisers so successful. 

Year-end giving by the numbers

November and December really are the most wonderful time of the year if you’re fundraising for a nonprofit or other worthy cause. Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Giving Tuesday (the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving) continues to break records: In 2021, 35 million people participated, raising $2.7B for good causes in just the U.S.—and that was 9% more than 2020, another record-breaking year. 💛 
  • Nearly a third of annual giving happens in the month of December alone. 📅 
  • The final three days of December account for a full 10% of the donations that nonprofits bring in all year long. 💰

What’s behind this trend? For one, the holiday season is infused with the spirit of generosity and gratitude, whether it’s sharing a Thanksgiving meal, buying a gift for a family member, or donating to a toy drive. 

Furthermore, many individuals and institutions continue to make last-minute donations to reduce their taxable income (and make a difference, of course) before the tax year ends when the ball drops on December 31. That’s why lots of nonprofits kick off their year-end giving campaigns with Giving Tuesday, which shines a huge spotlight on philanthropy and gives organizations a bigger platform to solicit donations. 

🤔 Did you know? In response to the pandemic, the IRS incentivized greater charitable giving in 2020 and 2021, allowing anyone to write off hundreds of dollars of donations through the standard deduction. This policy is no longer in place as of 2022, which means that anyone looking for tax breaks for their giving will need to itemize their deductions. 

7 tips to build a better year-end giving campaign

Tweak your fundraising strategy ahead of the holidays with these year-end best practices and make sure you’re prepared for the biggest fundraising period of the year.

1. Reflect on past campaigns 📈

Evaluate your fundraising campaigns from the last year (or more), so you can understand which methods to keep and which to leave behind. Have your key metrics handy and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was the average gift amount last year, and how could it be improved? (For reference, the average gift size for millennials is $481 across 3.3 organizations, while baby boomers donate an average of $1,212 across 4.5 organizations.) 
  • What was the average cost per donor?
  • Which of your donor segments gave the most?
  • What campaigns raised the most money?
  • Which campaigns had the greatest engagement?
  • What were the most popular campaigns with each donor segment?
  • Which channels were best at converting donors (email, direct mail, social media, etc.)?

These details will help you craft a data-driven annual giving plan and set realistic goals for your end-of-the-year campaign. It will also make it easier to track the right metrics for next year.

2. Let software do the heavy lifting 🤖

It’s the busiest time of the year, and every minute you spend updating contacts, tallying up donation totals, or sending confirmation emails by hand is time you aren’t connecting with donors. 

Givebutter offers a robust suite of fundraising and donor management tools to help you raise money and stay organized—all completely free:

  • Fundraising: Build fundraising pages, create donation forms, embed donate buttons, and host engaging in-person, virtual, and hybrid events and auctions.
  • Email and SMS marketing: Quickly design and automate engaging outbound email and text blasts, text-to-donate short codes, thank-you messages, tax receipts, and more.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): Store supporter activity and improve relationships with your donor base.

3. Optimize your website 🤩

Put your year-end giving campaign front and center on your website. One option is to completely update your homepage with your year-end campaign messaging. For instance, change it to a holiday theme, update your headline, and add your campaign hashtag. 

Or, keep your homepage the same but embed a custom donation form or add a donate button that’s connected to your year-end appeal.

💪 Pro tip: To maximize online giving, double-check that your website is mobile-optimized for people viewing your site using their smartphones—most nonprofit website visits come from mobile phones and tablets.

4. Engage with your donors well before year-end 👋

You should be engaging with your donors regularly, but this is especially important when it comes to the year-end giving season. Don’t wait until the last week of December to reignite these relationships! Plan for multiple touch points before then to ensure supporters feel involved, seen, and heard year-round.

In tip #1, we had you take a look at which donor segments gave the most and campaign success by segment. That’s because donor stewardship isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.

You may find that you need a different outreach strategy for each segment (major donors, recurring donors, new donors, prospective donors, volunteers) or demographic. Consider placing phone calls, launching an email campaign, or using SMS invites to target different segments for your campaign.

5. Create a sense of urgency 🚨

Even the strongest year-end giving campaigns have to battle against apathy—the human tendency is to say, “I’ll give later.” To make sure donors give before the year’s over, you’ll have to inspire them with these kinds of techniques:

  • Use strong language: Use words like hurry, now, today, tonight, fast, deadline, and immediate and phrases like “Don’t miss out!” in your year-end appeal. These are especially useful for your email subject lines.
  • Give a reason: “Why now?” donors will ask. “Because we want you to” isn’t a good answer. Think about what truly motivates your donors to give and be as specific as possible about the impact their contribution will make.
  • Try a matching gift: Set a deadline for donors to get their funds doubled or tripled.
  • Offer different giving levels: Create different giving tiers so supporters can give the donation amount they're most comfortable with.
  • Make it relevant: Contextualize your year-end appeal by sharing what your nonprofit has accomplished (and struggled with) over the past year, and clearly state how these year-end funds will set your organization up for success in the new year. If your cause was recently in a major news story (global or local), use that as a jumping off point in your messaging.

Don’t forget to follow up. If your supporters rushed to donate or sign up, be just as quick to say “thank you.”

6. Seek out collaborations 🔥

A thoughtful collaboration—whether it’s a corporate sponsorship, matching gift program, or a new partner program—can maximize your fundraising efforts. It’s a great way to increase your brand exposure, gain a new audience, and get some fresh ideas at the year’s end.

Harnessing the power of collaborations for your nonprofit isn’t as hard as you might think! As long as your goals and core values align, you can reach out to anyone from major retail brands and employers to your local bookstore.

7. Emphasize recurring giving options 🔁

Did you know that the retention rate for monthly givers is 90%? It’s even more impressive when you know that the retention rate for the average donor is just 43%. That means half of your one-time donors might not be there next year!

If you need weekly, monthly, or quarterly gifts, be direct about it. Explain how it’s different from a one-time gift and why it’s so important. (One of our campaign examples below does this really well.) Be sure to emphasize the benefits of recurring giving for donors, not just your organization. For instance, donors can “set and forget” their contributions, do smaller, regular donations instead of one major gift, and save on processing fees with payment methods like recurring ACH donations.

To start accepting recurring gifts, all you need to do is add a “Make it a recurring gift” option to your donation pages.

3 year-end fundraising campaign examples you can learn from

Feminist Frequency 💻

Feminist Frequency is a nonprofit educational organization that analyzes the modern media’s relationship to societal issues such as gender, race, and sexuality. 

Feminist Frequency campaign's landing page on Givebutter

What we love about their end-of-year campaign:

  • Short and sweet: Feminist Frequency provided a quick recap of the year’s biggest achievement and re-emphasized their mission and values.
  • Clear goals: Within their story section, they broke down exactly where donations go—from expanding hours for their Harassment Hotline to launching a leadership program.
  • Great use of peer fundraising: The organization’s founders and partners took advantage of peer-to-peer fundraising, a powerful tool that leverages the family, friends, and social network of each individual that participates.

STARability Foundation 📚

The STARability Foundation transforms the lives of individuals with disabilities through social, vocational, and educational connections to the community while strengthening awareness and respect for individual abilities.

STARability campaign's landing page on Givebutter

What we love about STARability’s year-end campaign:

  • Powerful impact story: The organization put a face to their cause by sharing the story of Matt, a STARability beneficiary, and showed how donors’ contributions kept him connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Encourages recurring giving: The campaign encouraged donors to become monthly supporters and emphasized impact of monthly gifts throughout their campaign page.
  • Transparent donation levels: By explaining exactly what each gift size will accomplish, they gave donors more insight into how their contribution will enact change

Lifetime Wells International🚰

Lifetime Wells International improves the quality of life for communities in Ghana and Tanzania by providing access to safe drinking water. 

LWI campaign's landing page on Givebutter

What we love about their end-of-year fundraising campaign:

  • Images and videos: Lifetime Wells weaved lots of powerful images and videos into their fundraising page, one of the most effective Giving Tuesday strategies.
  • Matching gifts: They secured a matching gift donor, which empowered them to more than double their fundraising goal and fund 13 wells instead of the six they originally planned.
  • Non-financial ways to help: They recognized that not everyone can donate and provided alternative ways of contributing, like sharing their page on social media.

Access free, easy, and fun year-end fundraising with Givebutter

It’s never too early to start planning your year-end giving strategy to make sure you’re hitting your fundraising goals and gaining new followers. Give yourself plenty of time to analyze your metrics, refresh your website, develop an urgent appeal, and engage, engage, engage with your supporters.

At Givebutter, we love helping individuals and teams fundraise better—that’s why all of our top-rated fundraising features are completely free to use. Plus, we’ve compiled everything you need to run a successful Giving Tuesday campaign including a free downloadable playbook, interactive webinars and workshops, and a chance to receive part of the $50,000 that we’re donating to nonprofits on Giving Tuesday!

Sign up for a free Givebutter account today and get access to an all-in-one fundraising experience. With Givebutter, you can make interactive fundraising pages, send beautiful emails, accept every payment method, track donor engagement, and create exciting fundraising events (including auctions!) for your year-end giving campaign.

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