A significant amount of donors wait until year-end to give to non-profits, and it can be difficult to get their attention and stand out with everyone else asking for their gifts. End of year is also the season to convert prospects in the holiday spirit into new donors.
But the end of the year is also a great time to thank people that gave to your annual fund in the Fall and also to cultivate your Board members to give an end of year present as an additional boost.
People generally have more time off from work, are in an event-attending spirit, and are more likely to go to a cocktail party or an innovative get-together. How do you get them to come to your party over someone else’s? And what do you do at that party, and how do you follow-up to raise dollars afterward? It may even be a good opportunity for a silent auction. It’s the time of year when everyone is shopping for presents!
Use the Venue as Program Marketing for Your End of Year Event
Pick a venue that exemplifies something you are doing well, that you want to show off (an art exhibit or new community center for example). It could be a program or site for which you need funding. You can also use a site of a partner to showcase how connected you have become within the community.
1. If your cause involves art and you have loaned pieces to a corporate office/donor and they have a fantastic reception hall you might have a cocktail reception there.
2. If your non-profit has a children’s program, the kids could make snowflakes or reindeer to decorate a room in your community center or office building.
3. A Board member’s or top donor´s house can be great as well if you can elegantly and creatively tie in the location with your cause and community.
Also read: Nonprofit T-Shirt Design Tips!
Invitation for a Year-End Party
4. Make your invitation a holiday card, preferably with a picture of your venue or a program element for which you are proud.
5. Send it to arrive in houses right before or after Thanksgiving. People tend not to think about the holidays until Thanksgiving, but if you wait too long, they will be inundated with invites.
6. It should sound fun (i.e. Yule and Yum! Come Share Your Holiday Cheer with Us). Decorate it festively and state explicitly that you are not asking for money, you just want to share good food as a thank you to them for all of their past support.
7. Call to follow-up the week before the party.
A Special Thank You
One of the party’s goals is to thank donors or new donor prospects.
8. Your donors might expect at least wine and beer to be served in order to feel like it’s a special event. If you can, serve alcohol and good food, but nothing too expensive which might make it look like you’re wasting donations.
9. Make it a mingling party, with only one 5 minute or less toast by the Executive Director, Board Chair, or host, thanking everyone for being supportive and for coming to the party.
Also read: Sample Thank You For Donation Letter
Keep your Year-End Holiday Party Fun and Short
Make sure that people are having fun!
10. If you need to have two different parties, one for younger donors and one for older, do it if you can.
11. Design the guest list to be a group of people that create good energy together. If you only have a budget for one party, and your group is diverse, break up the event into two separate places at your venue.
12. Hire a band if you can, or pump up the holiday music.
13. Showcase a program element that is fun – i.e. ask a school with which you work to provide a school choir or jazz quartet or use local foods from your community garden for catering.
14. Keep it short! You just want to say thank you and offer a good impression. An hour and a half to two hours is plenty.
Follow up Immediately
Segment the group after the party into end of year asks, beginning of year asks, and everyone else. Ideally, you already had your list put together before the event. Then follow-up.
15. End of year major gift asks get a meeting in the days following the party to see if they will write a check to you or plan a gift. If they do not want to meet, they get a crafted letter in the mail (already written beforehand) within a week of the party thanking them profusely and requesting their end of year support.
16. To those that like to give in the 2nd quarter, from January to March, send a personal card within a week thanking them for coming, from the Executive Director or their favorite staff person.
17. Everyone else gets a letter thanking them and subtly asking them for an end of year present – as an additional gift if they already gave or as a new gift if they have never given.
18. Don’t just send letters! Call everyone 2 or 3 days after you know they got the letters.
19. Letters can be emails for your paper saver donors, but only if you know they read them! With emails, send at least 3. Letters are better though unless the donor specifically has a problem with paper or travels often.
With these tips in mind, you can thank your donors, boost your end of year giving, start your cultivation for the New Year, and have a great time!