Have you started planning how to rock your year-end fundraising?

Say what???

I can hear you now. “Pam, it’s summer and I’m going on vacation next week! Stop already.”

But hey, the stats don’t lie. Almost a third of all annual giving occurs of December. Twelve percent of all giving happens in the very last three days of the year! And it might surprise you to learn that only 7.7% of organizations start as early as September. Listen, I know what it’s like to have two weeks to pull a campaign together because I was hired in November and the organization didn’t plan ahead :).

Smart fundraisers know: the time to start creating your year-end fundraising plan is now. So what should you be thinking about?


As the old truism goes, “Look back to where you have been, for a clue to where you are going” Now is the time to review last year’s results, and where you are now. If your current fundraising plan is forecasting $500k in foundation funding and you’ve already had a few applications get declined, how do you plan to make up the shortfall? What did you raise last year at year’s end? Did you meet your goals? Why or why not? Now is the time to set goals for this campaign. Goals that go beyond mere dollars.

Nail down your story

Now’s the time, too, to find and develop your story. One that carries emotional impact and resonates with your donors. Is it a story that works for print, email, and social media? As you conduct your interviews, look for a turn of the phrase that brings a tear to your eye. Your story will form the crux of your campaign theme.

Warm up your donors

When was the last time you sent an impact update or a thank you…just because? Plan on incorporating a few touches before your campaign gets started. Need inspiration? Download our 12 Touch Portfolio.

Thank profusely

Great fundraising — in other words, building the kind of lasting relationships that take your prospect from the first gift to monthly to major to bequest gifts — begins and ends with gratitude. If you’ve been making gratitude a daily habit, I salute you. But even if you haven’t, now is the time to begin organizing a few thank-a-thons. You can never thank too many times.


Begin now to segment your database. You simply cannot be donor-focused without segmentation. One fundraising appeal does not fit all. Think in terms of the different audiences in your database: LYBUNTS, SYBUNTS, monthly donors, loyal donors, major donors, mid-level donors, prospects, vendors, volunteers, board members, former board members, etc. How deep can you go? Trust me. This can make the difference between a lackluster campaign and one that exceeds goals. Consider too your donors’ reasons for giving.

Direct mail

Here’s where your emotional story comes in. But it goes beyond the letter. Start thinking about your direct mail package. What will your reply device look like? Will you incorporate photographs or lift notes? Now is the time to begin recruiting board members to write notes. Even the smallest shop can produce a great package – if they know the secrets.

Make it integrated

How will you integrate your campaign across all channels — your direct mail, your email, your social media, and website? Think about implementing a homepage takeover. And by all means consider creating a thank you email series like John Haydon shared in our April 24 Motivate Monday session.

Giving Tuesday

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I am not a fan of giving days. I do love how one subscriber turned Giving Tuesday around to put the focus on their donors. And many, like subscriber Karen Watson, have found great success recruiting new donors via Giving Tuesday. Always begin with the end in mind: how will your organization be converting #GT donors into regular donors?

Bring in the board

Here’s where you can have fun and get creative! What about putting together a fundraising menu (hand-write sticky notes, make donor thank you calls, hand-address envelopes) like Andy Robinson demonstrated in a recent Motivate Mondayspecifically for year-end fundraising? Pass it around at your next board meeting. It’s never too early to line up your ambassadors.

And speaking of ambassadors, what role are your volunteers playing?


Here’s where many organizations leave money on the table. Make sure that you’ve got a follow-up plan in place before you begin. Phone calls, emails, reminder postcards, letters — how are you reaching out to non-responders?

What else?

If you’re looking to explode your year-end fundraising in ways you never thought possible, plan on joining me for our live year-end fundraising masterclass. Beginning August 21, through the month of September, you’ll be guided step-by-step through a fail-safe plan to supercharge your year-end fundraising.

I’m gathering together a team of today’s best nonprofit experts. Together, we’ll map out your entire campaign, leaving no stone unturned:

  • From a plan tailor-made for you,
  • To your organization’s direct mail letter,
  • To your email campaign,
  • To your social media campaign,
  • To a foolproof plan for maximizing GivingTuesday.

And I’ll be with you every step of the way.


When is an opportunity NOT an opportunity?

July 12, 2017

It’s crazy, isn’t it? Your days are filled with the insanity of snail mail only grant applications with extensive attachments (the guidelines demand eight copies) for grants averaging $5,000. Your development chair is excitedly emailing everyone on her contact list about the latest voting contest where the organization with the most votes stands to “win” […]

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Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. Albert Einstein Trust. It’s one of the most important components of your relationship with the donors who make your very work possible. Trust isn’t easy to gain. And it can be destroyed in an instant. Yet every time a nonprofit […]

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The ultimate storytelling roadmap to ignite your fundraising in 2017 — and beyond!

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Whether you’re a seasoned storyteller or you’re just beginning to test the waters, Julia Campbell’s newest book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, is a necessary guide, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. She delves into the timeless concept of storytelling, an already-invaluable tool for nonprofits from all walks […]

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Fundraising Friday | July 7, 2017

July 7, 2017

Do your board members say they’ll do anything but fundraise? Relax. Andy Robinson has you covered. From our last Motivate Monday session. What is the future of nonprofit fundraising success? In addition to a heightened understanding of our donors, I believe it lies in storytelling and transparency. Are you starting to think about your year-end […]

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Do your board members say they’ll do anything but fundraise? Relax!

July 5, 2017

Do you have board members who say they’ll do anything but fundraise? Do you still have board members who don’t contribute financially? Do your board members (or some of them) think fundraising is “Ledo’s Pizza Night” rather than major donors? Relax. As Motivate Monday guest Andy Robinson reminds us, “No one is born knowing how […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 30, 2017

June 30, 2017

Are you proposing on the first date? Tips for taking your donor from the first-time gift to lifetime… If you missed last week’s Motivate Monday featuring the marvelous Ken Burnett, you’ll want to watch the episode in its entirety now. Are you so “over” the gala (I know I am!)? Try A Better Gala—Here’s How […]

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Are you proposing on the first date? Tips for taking your donor from first-time gift to lifetime…

June 26, 2017

It was love at first sight. And it started at my very first job out of school. As I was being introduced to my new colleagues in the room, there was this man, Robert, who couldn’t take his eyes off me. He quickly appointed himself my unofficial tour guide. And he invited me to dinner […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 23, 2017

June 23, 2017

How are you bringing your donors into your mission? This week’s Power of Nonprofit Storytelling features a brilliant example from Oxfam. Are you remembering to include a dose of fun in your email communications, especially over the summer months? I loved this quiz from Best Friends. I got Pouncy — what cat did you get? […]

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Has nonprofit life got you burnt to a crisp? Here’s how to save your sanity!

June 21, 2017

Burnout. If you’ve been in the field of nonprofit work for any length of time, you no doubt know the feeling of being burnt to a crisp…with nothing left to give. Should you quit? Can you recover? Are there steps that you can take to not only relieve your burnout but lead your entire team […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Best Friends Animal Society remembers to include fun!

June 20, 2017

Here in the fundraising world, we treat often treat our donor communications with the utmost seriousness and respect. Don’t veer too far off into that territory, though, or you’ll be in danger of becoming stuffy and as dry as parched grass. Welcome humor, creativity, uniqueness, and all that good stuff into the messages you send to your […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Oxfam’s Hunger Banquet experience

June 19, 2017

Oxfam America is a global movement that has been actively engaged in the fight against poverty for over 70 years. By targeting the key issues of inequality, discrimination, and unequal access to resources (food, water, and land), Oxfam seeks to rectify the injustice of poverty and realize their vision of an equal, just world. To […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

How many donors are lurking in your donor base – donors you don’t believe have the means to leave a bequest, donors who are quietly giving $50 a year (and receiving little love in return)? In Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | Never underestimate the power of a schoolteacher, you’ll discover the inspiring story of Elizabeth […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 9, 2017

June 9, 2017

How does a small shop rock their integrated campaign? Learn how with this case study from Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. For an enewsletter that’s simple, focused, and free of clutter, check out this week’s What’s In My Inbox. But make print your first priority. What do you think about board member term limits? I […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | A Basics & More alum rocks their small shop integrated campaign

June 7, 2017

Small shops can rock direct mail fundraising! Case in point, meet Kathleen Kennedy, Associate Director of Tucson-based Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. Kathleen is a Basics & More alum who is going above and beyond. Soon after her recent direct mail campaign hit my mailbox, I reached out to Kathleen and asked if I could […]

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What’s In My Inbox | A Basics & More alum rocks their enewsletter

June 6, 2017

Our Savior’s Community Services is a South Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization doing very important work through two vital programs. First, they provide housing to homeless single adults through the Our Savior’s Housing initiative, which brings shelter to over 600 people annually. Second, through their English Learning Center, OSCS provides English language classes to immigrants and refugees. […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 2, 2017

June 2, 2017

For an example of urgency in an email appeal, check out this week’s What’s in my Inbox where I share another prime example from Preemptive Love. Great fundraising is focused on the long-term— taking that donor from first-time gift… to lifetime. And it’s built around the science of human behavior and what actually works. We […]

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What’s In My Inbox | How to focus on the very real need to fight hunger *right now*

May 30, 2017

I’ve supported Preemptive Love Coalition for awhile now. This organization is a global effort and movement that engages “the world’s most polarizing conflicts by confronting fear with acts of love.” Preemptive Love’s activity is donor and supporter-driven, and when their email communications convey this, they do so directly. Like the most recent Preemptive Love email to […]

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Fundraising Friday | May 26, 2017

May 26, 2017

With every new gift that arrives in your office, you have an opportunity. For connection. For communication. Will you view it as an opportunity — or as an obligation… a “have to?” Unraveling Donor-Centricity: Love is the Answer. My response to last week’s post, How donor-centrism perpetuates inequity, and why we must move toward community-centric […]

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Unraveling Donor-Centricity: Love is the Answer

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If we’re so smart, how have we lost our way? I recently saw this comment on my friend, Mark Rovner’s Facebook wall: And the question is: do we really want to create a better world, a more just and equitable world, one that celebrates and acknowledges diversity, or do we want to be right? Mark’s […]

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