Start now for year-end fundraising success

Now is the time to kick-start your end-of-year fundraising efforts.

You read that right.

March might seem way too early, but with nonprofits generating up to 30% of their annual revenue in December alone, planning ahead is not just wise — it’s essential.

In this episode, Lee Wochner shares invaluable insights and practical steps to ensure your campaign moves potential donors and thrives in a mobile-first world. From leveraging digital advertising and heartwarming video content to rigorous testing and optimization, this episode is packed with actionable advice to maximize your year-end fundraising.

Tune in to discover how an early start can lead to a prosperous December. Don’t wait for the holiday decorations to go up; the time to act is now.

Jaclyn Uloth:
Welcome to the podcast that will leave you satisfied and smiling… That’s What C! Said, the Counterintuity podcast, featuring interviews with leaders and doers who have helped to make our world a better place through their actions — and especially through marketing, communications, and embracing change. Here’s host Lee Wochner.

Welcome to the podcast that lightens the tension when things sort of get hard…

Lee Wochner:
Welcome. And today we’re gonna talk about starting your end of year fundraising campaign now. Wait a minute, what? End of year in March? Yes, we are well aware that we’re recording this podcast episode in March. And here we are talking about an end of year campaign, something for November and especially December. But here’s why. The end of year is incredibly important for revenue.

As you know, whether you’re a nonprofit or a commercial enterprise, you pull in a lot of revenue starting after Thanksgiving. We all know about Christmas shopping and how for many retailers, Christmas represents 50 % of their annual revenue. Similar numbers apply to nonprofits.

Nonprofits raised between 20 % and 30 % of their online revenue in December alone. And about 50 % of all US households give annually, and over 80 % of affluent households give. Why in December? Do this? Because by that point, you know what your annual bonus is, and so you make donations. If you’re getting an annual bonus, and you’re looking for some tax savings and because here you go, you’re responding to the annual appeal you’ve received from a nonprofit whose work you believe in. But if you wait until October to start planning out that end of year campaign, you risk missing out. So let’s pull up our telescope and look ahead to a plentiful end of year campaign result in December and look at how to plot your course now so you can get there.

Here are some steps to help you achieve a robust December with online giving. Number one, think mobile first. We live in a mobile first world. Smartphones come first. People access the internet through mobile first. When you’re waiting in line somewhere, you don’t pull out a desktop computer, right? No, you hop onto your smartphone.

Lee Wochner:
The same applies with ordering your food pickup from your car when you’ve left the gym, and the same applies with evaluating fundraising appeals and making donations. It’s from your smartphone. Most of the traffic to the web and certainly to apps is via your iPhone or Android. So step one is making sure your campaign is operable from a smartphone. If you’re sending emails, make sure they’re legible from a smartphone. If you’re linking to your website in some way, and I’m sure you are,

make sure your website is mobile first. Having a non -mobile responsive website in 2024 is like having a broadcast antenna on your TV in the streaming age. So invest 10 minutes in prowling around your own presence, your website, your giving platform, your content, from your own smartphone and ask yourself how that experience is. If it’s not up to par,

Get it fixed. That’ll be one of the best investments you can make. Seriously. In the retail world, Adobe reported recently that 51 .1 % of online sales across the holiday season last year were made via smartphones. That gives us an indication of just how important it is to be mobile first. And part of that experience, by the way, is making sure that things look good, that people can see where to click, where to donate, learn more about you.

Just work on that UI UX, user interface, user experience, through your smartphone. Number two, you’re gonna have to advertise, starting now. You know, I’ve worked with budgets for, well, my entire life, and I understand budgets and how it feels to spend money. I vividly remember, now I’m really dating myself, I vividly remember the day when I was seven years old and the cost of a comic book went from 12 cents to 15 cents. I had $1, so this meant instead of eight comic books, I could only get six. It ranks as one of the worst days of my young life as I mournfully put two of them back onto the racks and tried to hide them so some other kid wouldn’t come pick them up. I’ve also managed nonprofit organizations, several of them, so I know what that looks like. And I know what…

Lee Wochner
it feels like to spend money and to carefully apportion it. Given five decades of working with money in an informed way, what I have to say is this. To get the best results on your year of end campaign, you’re going to have to keep digital advertising going. And if you’re not already doing it, you’re going to have to start. Please don’t look at it as a cost. Look at it as an investment. If you pay consistent attention to your campaign now, from April through November, you’ll have built your potential donor audience in time for December when you’re gonna get a bunch of donations. If you wait until say October, you’ll have lost six months of time to build that audience. Moreover, you’ll run the risk of issuing content that very few people are seeing because you’re not building audience. So your content strategy will go largely unseen. And as we know, the algorithms on social media, respond to advertising. So if on the other hand, you make a consistent steady investment in Google Ads and Facebook, for example, you’re building traffic, you’re building audience, and you’re making the algorithms your friend. Also bear in mind, you’re competing for donors. I know we don’t like to think of it that way because we’re all in this together, right? And every nonprofit is worthy in some way. But the reality is that people donate to a handful of nonprofits. And if you’re not going to invest, in gaining donors, you’re letting other nonprofits lay out the red carpet instead.

Does your budget have to be massive? No. The size depends upon your goals and your targeting and a number of other factors. But it has to be something. And it has to include subsets of the campaign designed to drive engagement and to increase audience. What we used to call a likes campaign. If you want someone to like you, you should make the investment. Think of it as your utility bill, as the cost of doing business, as part of your marketing, certainly as you spread the word of what you do and why your cause is worthy. Don’t leave the lights off. Let people see you online.

Lee Wochner:
Number three, use video. Why do I keep donating to nonprofits that help dogs? Because I love dogs and because the videos are heartbreaking. If I could, I would adopt every dog I see in those dog videos. The nonprofit, Please Help Us Shelter More Dogs videos. I can’t do that, but I can send $25 or $50. What video could you make? Are you helping people who really need help?

People who live on the street or who have been in abusive relationships and need shelter? In a time of division and too much despair, are you making art that helps to reconnect people with each other and to elevate them? Are you planting trees and helping to save the environment? Whatever it is that your organization does, you should tell that story in a video, a video that’s about 30 seconds long, not six and a half minutes.

Per one that was shared with me the other day a six and a half minute long video Fundraising video is the equivalent of a thousand page Russian novel Aspirational for sure most people aren’t going to read it. So tell your story in 30 seconds, maybe 45 seconds not six and a half minutes and in those 30 seconds break our hearts and then lift us up show us the dog who got rescued?

the trees that clean the air in the park where the kids play, the person who got some help and a job and got his pride back. Make us feel it and we’ll make that donation. Number four, test, test, test. And the context of this is we all make mistakes, right? So make sure things are working right. Two weeks ago in researching a notable nonprofit I was going to be meeting with, I came across their Google ad and clicked on it.

Guess what came up? A 404 error. The ad was linked to a dead page on their website. No doubt it’s getting clicks, but it sure isn’t getting any donations because the page is a 404, it doesn’t exist. So I kept checking that for two weeks to see how long it’d be before they noticed it and fixed it.

Lee Wochner:
And the answer is they didn’t. After two weeks, I let them know, hey guys, here’s what I found. You’re running ads and I guess you’re paying for them and they’re going to a dead spot. So they didn’t get any, they didn’t fix it and how many donations or purchases have they lost to that broken link? The message here is test every element of your campaign and keep testing it at least weekly. Check all the links, click them all.

And read the reporting. See what’s working and what isn’t. Make adjustments every couple of days if you’ve got the bandwidth, but certainly every week. Act on your reporting. Do some A -B testing on your emails. Send email A to 50 people and email B to 50 people. And then whichever one performs better, send that winning email to the entirety of your remaining list.

Are you getting clicks but not conversions? With clicks but no conversions, your appeal messaging and design are clearly working because people are clicking. But the landing page isn’t working. Make some improvements there. No clicks at all? Then it’s the appeal itself. Tinker with it. Try again. Test it. Check the reporting. The beauty of the internet is you can do this.

Lee Wochner:
Try it again, test it again, tinker with it, do it again, check the reporting. The beauty of the internet is that you can horse around like this and make improvements at no cost. It’s not like the old days when you had to buy a $60,000 paid ad in a newspaper or a magazine. Take advantage of the tools, see how it’s doing and make the improvements. Think of yourself as a scientist in the lab working your way to the eureka moment when all the donations start to pour in. By all means, keep adjusting the formula throughout, making it better day by day. So there’s lots more you can do in your campaign, of course, and of course, you know almost all of them after all you’re already running a nonprofit.

So the key point here is to start now. Start now building out a campaign in March or April to launch in April that carries you through December. I know we all think the stores are crazy loading in the holiday decorations right around Halloween these days, but I think they know what they’re doing. It’s in your best interest to start now so that you’re building a campaign and growing a campaign for the next six, seven, eight months that carries you all the way through to December so that you and your nonprofit have an awesome holiday season. So it’s in your best interest to get started now.

Lee Wochner:
Thanks for listening, really appreciate it. And if you have a comment or a question, please reach out. We’re always delighted to hear from our listeners. After all, we’re here to help. Thanks again.

Jaclyn Uloth:
Thanks for listening! We’re glad you came. That’s What C! Said is produced by Lisa Pham and engineered by Joe Curet. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. Please like and follow the show. Visit to sign up and learn more.

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