By BKV in Non-Profit on September 10th, 2012
In the midst of enjoying the summer heat, BKV’s non-profit team spends these warm months brainstorming and planning effective holiday giving campaigns for our non-profit clients. We sat down with Paul Carpenter, Scot Prudhomme and Madeline Ruffin-Thomas to discuss the planning process for holiday campaigns, effective strategies and the challenges they face during the end of year giving time.
What strategies are you finding most effective for end of year giving?
1. Establish Tangible Goals. [Paul Carpenter] Some of the most effective strategies for EOY fundraising are those in which you can create reachable and tangible goals by a certain date. For example, the goal we chose for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) was to generate 1,280 messages to be shared with children in the hospitals during the campaign. That number was both real – it accounted for the number of CHOA patients during the last two weeks of the year - and obtainable. It was a large number of patients … but not a large number of responses, given the population and reach of the market. Not only did we reach that goal, we blew it out of the water with over 8,200 messages!
Now as far as actually raising money, the methodology is still very similar to the one I explained with the messages. I find that some of the best strategies entail using real dollars needed and showing equivalencies for where the donor’s money will be used. For example, a winning campaign will typically have a message along the lines of, “We need $XXX in order to provide XX (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) Won’t you please consider a small gift of $XX? Your generous donation will go directly to providing XX (goods/services) in Y region.” Within those 2-3 sentences, we’ve established a NEED, we’ve provided a CALL TO ACTION and we’ve shared with the donor HOW their DONATION WILL BE USED. This is typically a recipe for success, especially given the EOY timeframe.
2. Incorporate Matching Gifts. [Paul Carpenter] The use of Matching Gifts is another highly effective strategy. Here, we leverage multiplier language to help turn someone’s EOY donation into 2x or 3x that amount. Matching Gift strategies almost always provide a huge lift for an organization’s revenue stream. In our EOY campaign for Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Program, we leveraged one of their Major Donors who was going to match every dollar raised during the EOY campaign. So we emphasized this in all of our messaging, saying that “Your $20 donation today would turn into $40 worth of gifts for children during the holidays.”
3. Show Urgency. [Madeline Ruffin-Thomas] I think another important aspect of the EOY ask is to show urgency in the need – give the donor a reason why it’s so important to give before the end of the year. Of course a good reason to remind donors of is that it’s their last chance to make a gift that’s tax-deductible for the current year. But this reason is one that benefits the DONOR. A reason that benefits the organization’s MISSION is even more important since the ask needs to break through all the other asks out there during this completive fundraising season. Someone can make a tax-deductible gift to any organization – our job is to communicate why our non-profit clients’ needs are more important than the other organizations’ needs!
4. Strong Creative is Key. [Scot Prudhomme] Strong creative is vital for EOY campaigns. There are a lot of charities asking for donations in Q4; we work with out non-profit clients to help them find a way to stand out, whether it’s by leveraging an offer or incorporating imagery that users remember. St. Jude’s use of celebrity endorsements is a good example of using strong creative to break through the noise.
What does the planning process for end of year giving campaigns entail?
[Paul Carpenter] Planning for an EOY campaign is like planning for any other campaign. You have to be very proactive, often starting to think as early as May/June/July about the seasonality, the holidays and the mindset of donors. It sounds bizarre to get in the holiday mindset while most people are taking summer vacations, but the truth is that EOY is crucial for many non-profit organizations. Bringing a campaign to life and giving it a holistic approach that stands out takes massive coordination and pre-planning.
[Scot Prudhomme] With EOY campaigns, timing is key. It’s important to understand when clients’ supporters are most active during the EOY season in order to maximize the return. Site traffic or user responses can be used to help determine when is best to message the base. Starting early does make a difference, and we have found that teaser campaigns are effective in collecting emails for re-messaging. After you identify timing that will maximize engagement, always remember to test, test, and test as you work to refine your results.
In your experience, what are the biggest challenges that non-profits face in driving end of year donations?
[Paul Carpenter] This is fairly simple. It’s the amount of donations asked for at the EOY. This is the time in which non-profits know people are in the “giving spirit”. Everyone and their mother is out there asking for money and donations, and being top-of-mind, mixing your media, finding those touch points, building up to the final EOY ask, and providing multiple ways for donors to respond is key.
[Madeline Ruffin-Thomas] It’s always good to consider a creative/messaging strategy that will really get noticed – whether that be in consumers’ inboxes or mailboxes. The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta holiday campaign did this well because it captured the essence of the “holiday spirit” – love, sharing, hope – but it was also presented in an unexpected way. Participants were not just meeting a financial need, they were sharing personalized messages of encouragement with actual CHOA patients. This allowed supporters to feel directly connected to the children at the hospital during the holidays and to CHOA’s mission.