5 Secrets to Successful Year End Fundraising

Posted Monday October 12, 2015 by Rachel Ramjattan

5 Secrets to Successful Year End Fundraising


Are you feeling overwhelmed by the year end fundraising planning process? There’s hope!

Early in my fundraising career I read everything, and I mean everything… so I could plan a wildly successful year end campaign. As the one in a one person development shop I didn’t want to disappoint the people who were counting on me to raise money.

With no donor database and only spreadsheet lists of contacts I planned for everything:

  • Direct Mail
  • Year-end appeal
  • Thanksgiving
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Christmas
  • Giving Days

You guessed it… I wound up confused, unfocused, and frustrated. Quite frankly, I wasted a lot of time chasing rabbits instead of raising money.


Here are 5 secrets to successful year end fundraising.

  1. Be a selective listener
  2. Dive into your data, BAE
  3. Focus
  4. Think like a donor
  5. Execute


1. Be a Selective Listener

Many experts offer good fundraising advice but in your quest to learn, it is easy to lose focus and feel confused. While experts may be knowledgeable their advice may not work well in your situation.

  • TIP: Select no more than a handful of experts that have worked in similar environments.

My go-to expert in small shop fundraising is Pamela Grow.  I highly recommend her Basics & More courses, Simple Development Systems program, and her weekly Grow Report. They’re chock full of practical advice you can implement right away.


2. Dive into your Data, BAE – Before Anything Else

Even if you’ve only got spreadsheet records, look to see where your past donations have come from. Which campaigns worked best? How much did you raise from each? How many hours did you spend on each campaign? Which donors contributed? How and how much did they give?

  • TIP: Invest in a DonorPath subscription.

DonorPath gives visual insight into your fundraising data

Donor Path is a fantastic data visualization tool that helps you segment your data with the click of a button, and your subscription includes two monthly coaching sessions with the fundraising expert of your choice and access to their resource library which is chock full of templates you can use immediately.

Don’t take my word for it,you can enroll in their FREE 30 day trial!

Of course, if you’ve got time, you can try a do-it-yourself approach by creating a spreadsheet with a list of campaigns, donors to each campaign, amount raised, and number of gifts for the past 1-3 years.


3. Focus

You’ve got limited time and resources to rock your year-end annual appeal. Don’t chase rabbits!

  • TIP: Figure out which campaigns work best and focus on those.

It’s better to do a few things well than to try to do everything and miss the mark.  If Giving Tuesday doesn’t yield much in donations, it’s alright to skip it and focus on your year end campaign.


4. Think Like a Donor

Like all of us, donors are also overwhelmed during the holidays. Make your appeals stand out.

TIP: In the words of Tom Ahern, loverize your donors!

  • Avoid the #10 standard size envelope so your appeal doesn’t look like junk mail.
  • Hand address as many envelopes as you can to make your mail stand out.
  • Personalize your appeal letter and answer the “What’s in it for me?” question every donor asks.
  • Vary ask amounts based on giving history rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Conduct a donor thank-a-thon the month before you solicit donors to explain the impact past gifts have made before you ask again.

5. Execute

Don’t worry about achieving perfection. Just get it done!

  • TIP: Break your fundraising plan down into small daily goals and stay on track.

Jot down successes and failures so you can revisit them later.  Keep your eyes on the prize – the DONOR!  Love what you do because joy is contagious.


Need inspiration to get going?

5 Blogs to Inspire and Kick Start your End-of-Year Fundraising Plans



Rachel Ramjattan, CFRE is a veteran fundraiser with more than 20 years fundraising experience. A former computer engineer she specializes in donor communications, nonprofit technology, social media, and grant writing.Rachel has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years after beginning her career as a computer engineer.

She is the president and principal of Nonprofit Plus, LLC, a fundraising consulting firm dedicated to helping you get better at doing good.

You can tweet @RachelNPP, connect on Pinterest, contact her through email at rachel@nonprofitplusteam.com or visit her website.

Comments are closed.