Appeals / Annual Funds

The Last Four Days Are The Most Important

October 26, 2017 | Laurence A. Pagnoni

Approximately one out of every three dollars in annual giving is donated during the month of December. For online giving, the figure is even higher. This powerful concentration of giving amplifies even further as New Year’s approaches. The last four days of the year are the biggest, with giving literally quintupling over the course of the last two. We even know that the peak period on December 31 is between 11 AM and 7 PM in whatever time zone the donor happens to be in.

What fuels this surge of beneficence is the ubiquitous reinforcement of the holiday giving spirit, coupled with the pressing need for donors to lock in a tax deduction for the fiscal year. So how best to make use of these remarkably specific statistics?

To begin with, you’ll want to send an email to your donors on December 28 letting them know to expect an email from you every day for the next four days (in which you’ll be telling stories which highlight your organization’s successes over the past year). Each of your emails can share an aspect of your program’s impact that may be little-known or frequently overlooked, or perhaps a description of what makes your service unique. Another option is to tell four client stories, one per day, in great detail, about how your services made a positive impact. One social service provider for youth whom I worked with told the story of their partnership with a local community college. College students would volunteer at the nonprofit, helping the client youth with homework and recreational activities, culminating in two weekend camping trips. Their year-end drive emails contained photos from the trips, as well as portraits of younger and older kids together in a heart-warming mentorship setting. A graphic designer to help create your appeal, and vibrant clear photographs to illustrate it can help immeasurably. Your own storytelling options will, of course, vary, but your donors will be glad for this concentrated period of cultivation and outreach. One last bit of advice: when it’s time to send your final email of the year, I suggest not sending out appeals on the thirty-first until about 11:00 or 11:30 AM. Since email programs such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp allow you to see when your recipients have actually read your emails, you can send a second email around 3 PM to those who haven’t yet opened their morning email.

Be sure you mention your December 31 fundraising deadline, and remind your donors that if their donation envelope is postmarked by that date, their gift qualifies as a tax-deductible contribution for that year, even if it is received after New Years. For appeals sent by direct mail, write “Time Sensitive” on the outer envelope.

What strategies do you currently use to advance giving the last four days of the year?  Please leave your comments at the blog.


Laurence A. Pagnoni

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