We all know how important December is for the nonprofit sector. Nearly a third of all donations come in the final month of the year.

January, however, is typically a slower time for development professionals, a time to review and plan for the future. For many nonprofits, the New Year is kind of the off-season.

But any serious athlete will tell you that the off-season can be an invaluable chance to improve. Now is the time to brush up on your skills and perfect your best moves.

Fundraising appeals, from emails to website call to actions, always have room to improve.

We’ve compiled five ways to hone your fundraising appeals to set your organization up for its best year yet.

Let’s dive in!

1. Mobilize your appeals

The importance of mobile cannot be overstated. 66 percent of emails are now opened on a mobile device and as many as 80 percent of people will simply delete an email that isn’t optimized for mobile viewing.

Whether it’s your homepage, donation page, or an email appeal, the public now expects to be able to view anything on their phone. Don’t give potential donors a reason to ignore you.

Fortunately, email services like Constant Contact offer email templates that you can use to easily design emails that look great on mobile.

Subject lines are also an important consideration in terms of mobile-friendly emails. Many email apps show as few as 35 characters in subject lines, so keep it short and sweet.

Mobile Inbox

2. Segment your audience

Your donors may share an interest in your cause, but that doesn’t mean they’re one homogenous group. Big donors, small donors, first-time donors, and monthly donors have different interests, preferences, and budgets.

Crafting appeals that speak to these conditions will appear more informed and personal.

Even if you start on a broader level, say, by only segmenting donors who have given more than $500 from the rest, it can make a difference. Many people will give one of your suggested giving levels, so if the highest is $250, you may be leaving money on the table with bigger donors.

From there, you can get more sophisticated to give donors a better experience and raise more funds.

3. Emphasize recurring giving

The New Year is a great time to emphasize recurring giving. People are planning for the future and thinking about their resolutions.

Take a look at your appeals and make sure donors are given the option for a monthly commitment. Besides making it easy for donors to turn a one-time donation into a monthly gift, you should also write an appeal specifically explaining the need for recurring support.

Even a small monthly donation quickly adds up. For example, someone who gave $25 last year might be willing to give $10 a month this year. By the time 2016 rolls around, they’ll have given almost 5 times what they did the year before.

4. Make your call to actions pop

Many times, the gateway to donation is a call to action (CTA) button, so it makes sense to spend some time optimizing it. The most basic principle of CTAs is that the viewer shouldn’t have to guess where you want them to click.

Some of the elements that can help a CTA be successful are the size, color, and placement. A CTA should be big enough that it is noticeable, but not overwhelming to the page. While there is no one perfect CTA color, it should stand out from its background. Most nonprofits place the “donate” button in the upper right-hand corner of their website, but there are other options.

In email appeals especially, consider making your CTA the centerpiece, as in this ask from Liberty in North Korea.

Donation Appeal

5. Make it visually appealing

A final element of your appeal that you should consider revamping is its imagery and overall appearance. You now have more options than ever to dress up an ask and make it look good. Even email templates allow for a lot of creativity.

We already know that Facebook posts with images garner 39 percent more engagement and adding a photo to your tweet gives a 35 percent boost in retweets. Findings like these suggest that adding striking photos to your appeals could increase engagement with them.

This appeal for monthly donors from Possible Health explicitly shows how a recurring gift will help (and the brightly colored CTA is front and center!).


Another great option is to create icons that help readers visualize the problem you are tackling (or, on the flip side, the impact you are making). This example is from Pencils of Promise’s holiday campaign website. Also notice that their CTA, “I want to change this,” speaks directly to the question “Why build schools?”


Whether it’s a photo, infographic, or video, a visual element can help potential donors feel a connection to your work. By balancing compelling visual imagery with strong copy, you can create an appeal that engages and speaks to the audience at many levels.

Start strong in the new year

You don’t have to tackle everything at once, but it’s helpful to create a list that prioritizes the areas in which you might need the most improvement.

The New Year is a great time to assess the performance of your emails and website and create a to-do list for the rest of the year. By the time spring fundraising comes around, your appeals will be stronger than ever!