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Year-End Planner

Five tips to keep your team motivated during year-end

The year-end appeal season is right around the corner. Hopefully, your fundraising and marketing teams have already started brainstorming themes, tone and schedules. If not—go do that right now! We all know how important end-of-year fundraising is to an organization. Between traditional mail, email, social media, paid digital advertising, follow-up calls, individual solicitations, group solicitors and last-minute pushes on Dec. 30 (Dec. 31 is a Saturday this year), you have a lot to coordinate to hit those goals. In addition to all of those moving pieces, your staff is gearing up for their own holiday activities, probably taking time off and are generally feeling the burn out from a long, tough year.

How do you hit your goals, have a successful year-end giving season and keep your team engaged? Here are five tips to help you stay on track and encourage your team.

1. Make an appeal plan

Yes, I know that every blog I write comes back to a plan. I know I’m a little more detailed than most people, but a plan really does help with stress levels, creativity, timelines and a general sense of calm. If everyone knows their responsibilities and it’s clear who is doing what and when, your staff can take a breath. In the last few months, you are communicating with your donors by mail, email, social media, in-person meetings, Zoom calls, personal notes, etc. It can be overwhelming, confusing and stressful. Take that away from your staff by setting up a plan to follow. For tips on creating a plan for your fundraising appeals check out this blog or use our Year-End Countdown calendar. 


Make sure the plan includes all of the pieces: traditional mail, social media, paid digital, email, personal calls, all of it. Remember: your year-end appeal is more than a letter.


2. Make a year-long plan

I’m going to back up a second. This part might not fit with this blog, exactly, but I can’t go on without talking about long-term planning. Yes, it is important and helpful to create an appeal plan for your year-end appeal. However, the success of your year-end appeal is based on the strength of your full year strategy. This year-end appeal plan should be a small part of your overall annual giving strategy. What have you been doing since January to communicate to your donors about your successes? Have you invited them to participate in volunteer activities or come to an event? When was the last time you solicited them for a gift? If your answer is now, this is when you communicate with them and solicit them, no wonder you are stressed. The annual fund should include a year-long strategy for raising general operating or programmatic dollars for your organization. I’ll repeat – year-long. Than annual part refers to the donors, not the frequency of your asks.


 3. Try new things

I know this can be a very scary thing for nonprofits – or anyone, really – but especially when making a big change can affect your bottom line. But what about making a small change? If someone on your team had an idea that might be easy to implement or something they are really excited about trying, go for it! If you feel like you’ve been sending the same letter with the same remit for the last few years, try a greeting card or a photo collage. Doing the same thing every year can be boring for your staff and your donors, so mix it up a little bit and see what happens.


If you are really concerned about switching up your appeal because it has been working, at least try an A/B test. Take a small percentage of your donors and try something new with them and see how they react. Make it a cross-section of all donors, not taking gen-x out of the traditional mailing list and using email or taking boomers out of your email list. Make it a true A/B test and see what happens. If they are long-time donors, this gives you a chance to pick up the phone and ask them their opinion. Find out if they received the solicitation and what they thought of it. You get feedback and you make a connection with a donor. Win-win.


The plan is moving, your staff is working hard and comparing gift reports and historical giving data. How do you keep their energy high through a draining time? You can try these seven ways from Lightspeed or try a few of these:


4. Be encouraging

The year-end giving season can be monotonous, stressful and pretty darn tiring. Your staff has been working tirelessly the whole year and they are on the final stretch. Use this time to remind them of some great things that happened throughout the year. Maybe you had a big donation from January or a positive return on a mailing from March. It’s tough to remember the good stuff from the first or second quarter, so they’ll be even more flattered that you remembered. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness to highlight their work from the whole year and it might just give them enough spark to cross the finish line on a high note.


This blog from gives some great insight on how to connect to your team. Or check out a recent blog I wrote about creating healthy coworker relationships.


5. Lighten up

This one might seem a little flippant, but truly - lighten up. Take a second to really think about the hard work your staff is putting in and how to show your appreciation. Buy lunch or cookies or snacks. Let everyone go home an hour early or at noon on a Friday. Host an informal showing of a holiday movie (not at lunchtime). The key here is to really encourage your staff to take a break. You are always going to have the “I’m too busy to eat lunch” people, but your job is to firmly encourage them to take a break and have a moment of levity with their coworkers. Everyone could use a pep talk every once in a while! 

The last three months of the year are the most important time for a nonprofit’s bottom line. With nearly one-third of your donations coming in during that time, everyone on your development team is busy. My best advice is to be prepared, stay positive, think outside the box and hang on! Good luck with your year-end appeal and if you want some help, contact me today.


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