By Sarah B Lange under Fundraising, Individual Donors, Year-end giving on October 22, 2020

Happy Thursday! Can you believe another week has flown by? Geez – before you know it, Halloween will be here. Then Thanksgiving… Then… before you know it, we’ll be ringing in 2021! (Who else is ready to bury 2020 deep in the ground?)

Mixed in with the holidays is the year-end giving season. Which is a BIG DEAL.

Last year, $449.64 BILLION was given to US nonprofits. Approximately 80% of that came from individuals – that’s a LOT of money! This year, giving is again projected to increase – yes, despite the pandemic, forecasters expect individual donations to rise!

More than 30% of all annual contributions are made in December – and 12% of those are made in the final 72 hours of the year!

Are you prepared to maximize year-end giving?

One of the key ways to maximize giving is to know your donors – specifically, your donor data!

Yes – DATA. That four-letter word that makes many of us cringe. However, donor data can tell you A LOT about who your donors are, about their behavior, and how well you’re doing with your individual donor program.

DATA is your friend, and one of the best tools you can use to increase giving!

If you’ve never done a donor data dump, now is the time.

For your annual appeal, you’ll need to sort (or segment) your donors two ways:

  • By giving category ($1-25, $26-50, $51-75, $76-99, $100-250, etc. – you don’t have to use those categories, they’re just an example. You could just as easily place all donors who gave under $100 into one category. The point is, when you sort your data by last gift, you’ll quickly see where the natural breaking points occur. This will give you the information you need to set giving categories on your reply form.

TIP: Use the trick of the Second One In to raise more money – decide what your ideal gift is ($50? $75?) and make this the 2nd option on your giving form. People don’t want to be seen as stingy, so most select the 2nd one in. Imagine what changing the 2nd option from $25 to $50 would do in terms of returns! Most people don’t remember what they gave, so if the option is in keeping with the general range of donations made to your organization, many people will check the 2nd box without a thought. Cha-ching!

However, sorting by last gift alone doesn’t tell you the whole story! For example, if I were making monthly contributions of $10, my total annual gift would be $120. If you sorted only by last gift, you’d assume I’d only given $10. Approaching me like a $10 donor would be a mistake, since I’ve demonstrated my loyalty to the organization – albeit at a modest level.

To avoid this mistake, you’ll want to look a donor’s giving over the entire year. This gives you a better picture of someone’s activity and allows you to truly place them in the correct category.

TIP: You should create slightly different appeal letters for each group of givers, but in each one, you should encourage them to move up to the next giving level. “You gift of $100 will provide food for our hungry pups for a week.”

  • But you’re not done! You’ll also want to cull your database to identify what I call Sleeping Giants. These are people who have quietly been supporting your organization for YEARS. It could be at a modest level, but their support is steadfast. This is a very special group of donors; your most loyal. Do not overlook them based on their annual gifts! Their longevity tells you everything you need to know, which is that this (oft overlooked) group are your best donors, and need to be treated as such.

I could tell you a dozen stories about organizations that were quite surprised when a “small donor” left them a whopping huge bequest. Why were they surprised? Because they weren’t paying attention.

The way you identify Sleeping Giants is to run a report to see who’s been giving to you – consistently – for at least 3 years. Once someone’s given to you for 3 or more years, they’ve quietly raised their hand and said, “I’m IN.” Even if you didn’t hear them.

TIP: These people need to receive a letter that acknowledges their length of giving and the important role they’re playing in the fulfillment of your mission. Years ago, I got a letter from WBUR, acknowledging that I’d been a donor for 6 years. It made me feel SO good – after all, we all need to be SEEN. By acknowledging my years of support, they were letting me know that they were paying attention. To me. And to donors, that’s really important (because the #1 reason donors stop giving is because they feel their gift no longer matters)!

TIP: If you don’t already have a monthly giving program, these are the donors who would readily sign up for one.

At some point, you’re also going to want to do an analysis of the past 5 years of giving – who’s increased their donation? Who’s lowered it? Are there more people in your donor pool who are increasing or decreasing their donation – and what’s driving this pattern? Did someone give a big gift and then drop way down the next year? You need to find out why. If someone gave for a long time, then disappeared, you’ll want to investigate that, as well. Look for patterns and anomalies, then investigate.

Another important thing to do is to survey your donors – but that’s the subject of another blog! Let me know if that’s something you’d like me to write about!

Meanwhile, here are 3 ways I’m going to help you leverage the year-end giving season:

  1. Posting a weekly blog (or vlog!) with fun facts and helpful tips on crafting your fall appeal.
  2. Hosting a special webinar on October 28th with ADRIAN SARGEANT, one of the industry’s top experts in donor loyalty, retention and psychology.
  3. Running a short but powerful program called Appeals that Work: a Mini Course to Help you Craft an Emotionally-compelling Appeal that Brings in the Bucks!

I’ve helped more than 200 nonprofits reach their goals and have raised over $80M. Let me put my expertise to work for you so you can maximize your year-end donations by taking advantage of all three!

If you’ve got specific questions you need answered, feel free to set up a free, 15-minute Pick My Brain session here:

I’ll be back in touch next week!


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