As summer fades into fall, end-of-year fundraising season is top-of-mind for nonprofits. With so much to keep track of, it can be hard to know where to start aligning your communications so your fundraising initiatives are successful and support your brand. Here’s how to start.

1) Audit Last Year’s Communications

Begin by looking backwards. What are the strategies and tactics that best helped you achieve your goals last year? What are those that might have missed the mark—and why? This analysis can help guide you towards what best engages your target audiences. If you are incorporating new ideas into this year’s fundraising efforts, use this data to make some predictions about how you can best motivate your audiences into action.

2) Review Your Goals

Review your end-of-year fundraising goals, but think deeper. How do these align with your overall brand strategy? (Hint: they should!) Fundraising messages created outside your brand identity can risk falling flat. Why?

Your brand strategy and key messages should form the foundation for all of your donor communications, new and old. You might think they’re redundant—but your audience won’t. Repetition is key to building a strong brand. Rather than creating something completely different, use your brand values, personality, and key messages as a guide first, allowing donors to better understand and recognize you amid the crowded end-of-year fundraising space.

3) Revisit Your Target Audiences and Their Motivations

We often assume that our audiences don’t change over time, but that’s not always the case, and nuances within each audience type can appear depending on the focus of your organization’s work. Review your target audiences, not just focusing on their habits, but what motivates them to engage with your organization in the first place. Have these changed over the past year? Are there any key, timely motivations that you can hone in on to engage these groups? Prioritize audience analysis both when thinking about fundraising tactics and also in fundraising language as well.

4) Focus on the Benefit

Program features and statistics are important, but they shouldn’t be the center of your communications. Focus instead on the benefit that your work brings to the societal problem you’re trying to solve. What does donor funding make possible for your community? Approaching communications this way doesn’t just connect the donor to this individual fundraising initiative, but to the larger focus of your mission. Take this example:

Don’t: With your support, we can reach our goal of increasing food and clothing donations by 25% in our community.

Do: Everyone in our community deserves to have a full, thriving life. Your support ensures that our neighbors  have the basic supplies needed to get there.

Donors shouldn’t be motivated to give because of a number that fits into your programmatic goals. They should be motivated by how that donation supports your overall mission (in this example, it’s creating thriving communities).

5) Center Equity and Inclusion

It’s important to step back and ask yourself: Are the stories we’re including in our fundraising appeals helping or harming the communities we’re striving to support?

Framing stories around the deficits of a given community further promotes the negative stereotyping that racist systems have already imposed on them for years. And framing your organization or donors as the sole source of reversing this societal problem leads to saviorism

Filter all communications through the lens of equity and inclusion, prioritizing asset-based framing, positioning those your organization works with from a place of strength. And remember that these stories aren’t yours to tell; each subject of every story owns that story. Always ask for permission before including someone’s personal story, and how they would like to be included in sharing it.

6) Don’t Forget A/B Testing

We frequently talk about A/B testing as a digital tactic—and it is! But it can also be applied to the words you’re using, too. Just because a campaign is already live doesn’t mean you can’t iterate and adjust language along the way. Whether it’s via email appeals, direct mail appeals, or ads on social media, you are likely planning for multiple touchpoints with your target audiences throughout the end-of-year giving season. Don’t miss the opportunity to test different iterations of copy on these channels, seeing if results differ between them. If a clear tactic emerges that wins, iterate and implement that throughout the duration of your campaign.

Online giving is here to stay, particularly in the virtual world we continue to live in due to the pandemic. Don’t be afraid to use your end-of-year fundraising initiatives as a way to test ideas for the year ahead with an eye toward the future, too.

About the Author

Rosie Powers is a Strategist at Mission Minded – a branding firm that works exclusively with nonprofits, foundations, and independent schools. Every day Mission Minded guides organizations to uncover the big, bold idea that will attract more people to their work. Because in today’s world, a worthy mission is not enough. You’ve got to communicate what makes you unique at every opportunity.