As nonprofit professionals know, holiday giving is no picnic.

The prevalence of online fundraising, and the growing popularity of Giving Tuesday, have only galvanized nonprofits to maximize holiday giving online.

The value of holiday giving campaigns cannot be overstated: Around 30 percent of annual donations are made in December, and 10 percent of that happens within the last 3 days of the year.

In this Golden Age of online giving, a little planning can go a long way. A successful holiday fundraising appeal will give your organization deep roots from which to grow in the New Year.

When creating your year-end fundraising marketing plan, make sure you nail your holiday fundraising appeal, so your organization can make the most of the holiday season.

Customize your holiday fundraising appeal email and donation pages

The Internet is a beautiful thing; it really is. In fact, beauty has never been more accessible. Web applications allow you to brand and customize your website, donation pages, and social media profiles in ways that had previously been unimaginable to someone with no technical or design skills.

In fact, the ability to easily build a brand identity has made your life as a fundraiser or marketer better. How? Over the years, it’s shown that custom-branded donation landing pages raise more than generic pages and now, you can implement cross-channel marketing with a consistent, recognizable brand.

During the holidays you can really maximize the power of consistent messaging and branding by creating a donation page tailored for your year-end campaign. Here’s how:

  • Carry over your email aesthetics and language to the unique donation page.
  • Highlight donors’ impact by stating:
    • Your campaign goal
    • The impact of a donation (e.g., $20 provides 10 meals)
    • Any matching partnerships you might have going on

Optimize your appeals for mobile giving

To maximize holiday giving online, you’ll need to employ email marketing for donation appeals, so make sure you’re ready to take on the itty-bitty inbox by:

Personalize your holiday fundraising appeal with segmentation

Remember, your donors shouldn’t just be lumped into one big group. They’re individuals with different preferences and attributes. Some give monthly, some yearly, some volunteer with you, and others donate only to specific programs.

It’s more important than ever to segment your contacts into lists that will each receive special treatment.

By personalizing your end-of-year appeals, you’ll be able to maximize holiday giving because you’ll be able to speak to your donor’s individual relationship with your organization. Be sure to:

  • Demonstrate the impact a donor’s level of engagement has created. A message to a long-time monthly donor should differ from someone who donated $10 eight months ago.
  • Send online holiday giving appeals to all donors. For example, don’t be afraid to contact your recurring donors for an extra contribution during the holidays. You’ll be surprised at people’s generosity, especially when you speak to them personally and genuinely.

Serialize with more than one email or social media post

Most of us probably know this scenario too well: you open an email but can’t respond right away and, even if unintentionally, you completely forget about it. To maximize the success of your holiday giving campaign, don’t send just one email; send an email series. Here’s how:

  • Split your series into three parts:
    • A campaign announcement
    • A campaign progress message
    • A final push appeal
  • Each email should include:
    • A visual component – this might be your campaign-branded banner, an explainer video, or a photo of your work in the field
    • Short but compelling copy about your holiday campaign and why the reader should take action
    • Bold-colored, very clickable call to action buttons and links

Visualize for dynamic, engaging content

A surefire, straightforward way to maximize online holiday giving is to appeal to the senses. Visual content, like photos and video, is easily digestible, emotionally accessible, and extremely compelling in a holiday fundraising appeal.

Reading blocks upon blocks of text might be fine if we’re relaxing on the couch on a rainy day, but for the most part, people are on the move and won’t have the time and patience to read your organization’s manifesto before deciding to donate to your holiday fundraising campaign. So tap into the power of imagery by:

  • Including a video on your campaign page.
  • Creating social media and donation page banners that are branded specifically for your online holiday-giving campaign.
  • Including compelling imagery and GIFs in your email appeals.

Re-energize your holiday fundraising appeal at the very end of the year

As I mentioned, 10 percent of all annual donations are made in the last three days of the year. To maximize holiday giving online, you have to maintain your campaign’s momentum through those three critical days.  Here’s how:

  • Utilize that final push email we talked about in #4 to make a last-minute appeal to supporters.
  • Highlight how close you are to your campaign goal and emphasize that every dollar counts.
  • Demonstrate the impact a donation will have on your organization’s mission.
  • Ask your most dedicated supporters (power fundraisers, board members, volunteers and large donors) to share your cause and get the word out.

Socialize on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Social media plays a big part in encouraging people to share causes and participate in philanthropy.

In this year's holiday fundraising appeal, use visual resources like this Giving Tuesday logo

Last year, online giving during Giving Tuesday — the national giving day that follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday — increased to a total of more than $2.7 billion in donations.

Make sure you’re using your social media channels to their fullest this year by:

  • Creating a special hashtag for your holiday campaign.
  • Do some solid planning and kick off your holiday campaign with #GivingTuesday.
  • Engage donors through social channels by thanking them for their support, calling out stellar fundraisers, or announcing donation matching programs.
  • Include your campaign hashtag and your social share buttons with each email appeal you send during your campaign.

To help your holiday and end-of-year fundraising go more smoothly, throughout the year, try experimenting with your social ads and email subject lines and messaging, as well as post and send times, doing this will not only help you improve your marketing throughout the year but it will help you set yourself up for your most successful year-end-fundraising yet.

Recognize your donors

It goes without saying that organizations should always thank and recognize donors for their support. Likely, you send an automated thank you email immediately after a donation is made, but don’t forget about that donor just yet. You’ll want to send another, more personal thank you message after your holiday campaign comes to a close.

Demonstrating gratitude to supporters isn’t just polite; when you write a meaningful thank-you email to donors, it can strengthen connections to your organization, reduce donor attrition and contribute to a person’s future generosity. Start by:

  • Segmenting your online holiday campaign donors so you can send personalized thank you messages that outline the impact of their individual donation.
  • When utilizing peer-to-peer fundraising, call out your top fundraisers and send them a personal message that highlights how important their hard work was to your campaign’s success.

Utilize your supporters

Year-end fundraising campaigns are a critical time to raise more money and reach new audiences, both of which can seriously contribute to an organization’s year-over-year growth. To make sure you don’t lose donors or volunteers at the end of the year:

  • Stay in touch. If you followed our advice for growing your nonprofit email list, all of your donors have opted in to receive email campaigns from your organization. So, don’t just let it sit there and get dusty until your next year-end fundraiser; remain connected with your holiday supporters in the New Year by sending out a thank you series as well as sending regular newsletters and updates.
  • Ask for feedback. Survey your supporters about their experience giving to your organization online so that you can maximize online giving for all future campaigns.
  • Keep your organization’s blog and social media channels up-to-date, so donors and volunteers don’t feel like you’ve run off with their money and aren’t living up to your campaign’s promises.

Include your volunteers

Your volunteers are your biggest supporters. The time they donate is often worth much more than any financial donation they could personally afford to make. That’s why you treat them with the same respect and gratitude that you do your financial supporters.

  • Enable them to do more. Appeal to their desire to do more for your cause and ask them if they know of individuals, businesses, or other organizations that might make good partners for matching and in-kind donations or even re-occurring sponsorships and planned gifts. You never know who or what your volunteers know unless you ask them.
  • Say thank you. Make sure your volunteers get personalized, heart-felt thank-you messages so they know how much you value them.
  • Ask. While some volunteers would rather give their time than money, many volunteers willingly give both to a cause or nonprofit they believe in, so don’t be shy about asking them for monetary donations.

Analyze your results

Take every campaign as an opportunity to learn and improve. Gathering, tracking, and analyzing data from your online giving campaign — both during and afterward — will give you the insight you need to improve your campaign and garner more donations this year, and next year. Things to watch are:

  • Your campaign click-through rates vs. actual donations made on your donation page. If you have a lot of people going to the page but not very many actually making a donation, you might want to take a good look at your donation page and see how you can improve it.
  • Social media click-through rates vs. views. If people are seeing your fundraiser Facebook ads, but no one is clicking through to your donation landing page, conduct some A/B testing to see if you can make some slight alterations to get better results.
  • Take a look at last year’s holiday season numbers to see how your campaign is performing comparatively. If this year isn’t doing as least as well as last year’s campaign, take a look at the different components to see what is doing well and what isn’t. Then, conduct some A/B testing to see if you can fix that.

Start planning your holiday fundrasing appeal now

Maximizing holiday giving online isn’t just about the now; it’s about the future.

Everyone you reach with your holiday fundraising appeal campaign has the opportunity to become a brand amabassador for your nonprofit as you move forward. Utilizing these tips to their fullest will help you make the most out of your holiday fundraising, as well as help you to move forward into the new year.

If you’re ready to plan beyond the holidays, take a look at these year-end fundraising ideas for ideas and tips on fundraising all the way into next year.