As we head into late summer/early fall, most people’s attention turns to the kiddos heading back to school, the weather finally cooling off, and the leaves changing colors. However, as nonprofit professionals, our attention turns to one thing – the single most important event for all nonprofits – end-of-year (EOY) fundraising!

Most nonprofits will raise the vast majority of their funds during this critical time of year. Depending on which study you read, nonprofits will raise between 40 and 70 percent of their annual contributions during the last five weeks of the year. If that’s not enough to get you to stand up and take notice, I don’t know what will.

Since EOY fundraising is such a critical piece of your annual efforts, you need to spend the time and resources to properly plan and execute your campaign … and you need to start NOW.
With this in mind, we’ve created the “EOY Fundraising Plan,” a concise document packed with actionable ideas and tactics to make sure you’re set up and ready to raise as much money as possible during your EOY campaign(s).

The eBook is broken down into Monthly Checklists of actions you should be performing for each of the next four months (starting in September and running straight through the end of the year).
You can download the EOY Fundraising Plan here: abila.com/eoy.

In today’s post we highlight a few items from the eBook that are critical to getting you headed in the right direction and vastly increasing your chances of executing wildly successful EOY campaigns.

1) Review Last Year’s EOY Campaign
Before we jump into planning for this year, it’s always a good idea to look back at last year’s campaign. You can begin by pulling reports from last year, looking at total dollars raised, number of donations, number of new donors, number of repeat donors, average gift size, etc.

In addition, you’ll want to look back and review your successes AND your failures with last year’s campaign. What worked? What really did not work? Make sure to write these down and be honest with yourself, especially on the failures. You can now decide to do more of what worked and discontinue anything that didn’t.

Now that you’ve collected all of these data points, you see where you were, what you accomplished, and most importantly, where you want to be this year.

As you set your goals, try to make them “stretch goals.” That is, look at last year’s numbers and set goals for this year that make you a little bit nervous or uncomfortable. Stretch goals have shown to be very effective in motivating your team (and yourself), and based on Giving USA numbers, we’re seeing solid increases in overall fundraising growth, so stretch those goals.

2) Conduct a Website Audit
After setting goals for this year’s campaign, conduct a review of the entire online donation process. There are many ways to accomplish this, but my personal favorite is to conduct what I call a “website audit.”
A website audit is a simple way to collect feedback about your current website and donation process, as well as identify areas you can improve.

The process is quite simple. You start by recruiting volunteers (board members, supporters, family, friends, etc.), sit them down at a computer and ask them to conduct various “tasks” on your website. You then simply watch them complete the tasks. The important part here is that you are not allowed to assist them in completing the tasks, you’re merely an observer. If they get stuck or struggle to complete any given task, then you know you need to work on that part of the website or that part of the donation experience.

So for your EOY testing you can ask them to sign up for your email list, make a donation, or describe what you do and the impact you are making in the world. If your volunteers have a difficult time doing any of these tasks you’ll need to fix them immediately … or suffer the consequences of a poor performing campaign.

Run another round of website audits after you have made the changes and set up your EOY campaign. A few small tweaks before launch could have a huge impact on your final results.

3) Begin Collecting Stories
Research has clearly shown that stories are the best way to connect with your supporters, to let them know the impact you’re making in the world, and it’s the exact content your supporters want from you (Learn more in the Donor Engagement Study). So, start collecting as many stories as you can right now, and use them throughout your EOY campaign.

If you really want to improve the impact of your stories, you need to be thinking in terms of “visual storytelling.” Visual storytelling is the use of highly visual materials that highlight your organization’s impact by emotionally engaging your audience and encouraging them to spread the word and take action. Learn more about visual storytelling by watching this recorded webinar.

Once you have your collection of stories you can select the best ones to be the centerpiece of your communications and appeals, and use the rest as great content to share via social media, email updates, and other communications. With a collection of stories at your disposal you’ll never have to ask, “What should I write about today?” Simply tell the next story and ask your supporters to donate to help create more success stories just like the one you shared.

Hopefully, these initial ideas will get your started on the right foot and set you up for the most successful EOY campaign you’ve ever run. If you want to learn more strategies and tactics to improve your campaign simply download the EOY Fundraising Plan today.

What are you doing to prepare for the end of year giving push? Let us know in the comments below!