Tune Up Your Year End Appeal

When is the right time to start a year-end-giving appeal?  How soon is too soon and how often should you ask? With most donors researching their year-end giving in October and November, if you wait too long you run the risk of your donors deciding to “go another route” this year.  So what is the key to creating an engaging appeal that is timely and inspires donors to respond?

The key is to clearly define your ask around your specific needs, then communicate those needs in a way that provides your donors with ownership of the resulting impact. When you shape your appeal around this formula you create a story that deeply connects with your donors as they know they are directly connected to your success.

Below is an outline to help you “tune up” your end of year appeal and “identify your story elements.  These elements will be the key to shaping an impactful year-end giving appeal; an appeal that asks your donors for their increased financial support and affirms their current commitment to your organization’s mission.


The elements below are key to creating an effective appeal.  Take a moment to review and next we’ll break them down in more detail:

    It is important to list your needs, even if it is simply, “Increase Giving.” However the more specific you are the more chances your donors will be emotionally engaged with your ask.
    What types of donors do you have? Identifying how your donors give will allow you to group similar donors together.  This will be important so you can tailor your appeals to how you want each Donor Group to stretch their giving.
    With your Donor Groups defined, what does it look like for each of these groups to make a deeper financial commitment to your organization? What does each group care about?  How can you connect their level of giving to your missions concern?
    Sit down with your calendar and plan when emails and updates to Facebook and Twitter will happen. Be mindful of schedules during this busy season.  Sending your appeal the week of Thanksgiving means it will get overlooked in the hurry.  Time your posts and tweets to peak engagement time frames.
    Pull together the elements above and connect them with your mission to craft a compelling story that engages donors for their continued and increased support.


Identify which of your needs are most urgent and will benefit the most from this appeal.  For example:

  • We need to increase giving to our General Fund
  • We need to promote these underfunded programs
  • We need funds to keep our building campaign on track

Whatever your needs, make sure they are clearly defined.



Review your donations over the last 12 months and group your donors by their giving patterns.  For example:

  • Donors who give less than 3 times per year
  • Donors with a recurring donation
  • Donors who give one-time gifts throughout the year but are not yet a monthly contributors
  • Donors who make large year-end donations

Some donors may fall into more than one group (i.e., regular monthly supporters who also makes a larger donation at the end of the year) so be sure to only send one appeal to these donors.


Next, what would it look like for each of these Donor Groups to step up their financial commitment?  With your ask you will want to invite your donors to a deeper level of financial support.  Here are some examples of how you could invite your Donor Groups to a deeper commitment:



Sit down with your calendar and decide how many communications (i.e., emails, Facebook posts, tweets, etc.) you want to send out for your appeal.  As you are probably already aware, the bulk of nonprofits’ giving comes between the months of October and December.

An initial correspondence in October is the perfect time to kick-off your year-end-giving appeal; the next correspondence, as an example, could be the week after Thanksgiving, then again the week before and after Christmas.  The last two days of the year are really important as many large donations will come in at the 11th hour and your email could be just the nudge they need to click-to-give.


#1: Appeal kick-off in October
#2: Week after Thanksgiving
#3: Week before Christmas
#4: Week after Christmas
#5: December 30th
#6: December 31st



You are now ready to shape your message and craft your appeal.

The value of crafting your appeal around your Donor Groups is you can now be very specific with your ask.  It allows you to value each Donor Group for how they contribute to your success and acknowledge how they have specifically helped you fulfill your mission. This reveals and affirms how your donors fit within your organization’s story.

For an example, let’s say Kelly falls into the Donor Group of, “Giving 3 or more times/year – not a recurring giver” highlighted below.  Looking at our table we see we want to ask this Donor Group to consider becoming a regular supporter.

When you combine all these elements together, an appeal to this Donor Group – which includes Kelly – could look something like this:


Thank you.  Your 3 (custom field # of gifts) donations throughout this year have been essential to the lives of the severely impoverished homeless people we serve!  Your heartfelt sacrifice meant we were able to provide warm meals, safe places to sleep and medical resources to poor and homeless. We couldn’t exist without you!

Kelly, here is what your $100 (custom field of YTG) of support really helped us do:

  • Dignity: you provided personal hygiene products
  • Satisfaction: you provided food to the hungry
  • Healing: your provided medical and dental care to those in need
  • Safety: you provided shelter from the elements and a safe place to rest their head
  • Restoration: you provided programs and tools to help those locked in addiction or blocked in life to receive the help they need and find healing for a path forward
  • Mentoring/Aftercare: you provided ongoing support and empowerment for those transitioning back into society

Your support made it possible for us to care this community.  Thank you for partnering with us, thank you for connecting with our story and deciding to become a part of it.

As we move into a new year with new challenges, we would like to partner with you to impact more futures.  If you are able, we’d like to invite you to join our monthly donors by setting up a recurring donation.  Recurring donations are powerful because they allow us to forecast and plan for our future needs.  Please visit our online giving page by clicking here and partnering with us and our other monthly donors to help further our mission.  If you need help establishing a recurring gift, or have questions, please contact our development office at 515.555.1234

Kelly, thank you for considering this deeper commitment to serve those in need within in our community.  Your support and participation in our story cannot be overstated.  You are valued and appreciated.

With Deep Gratitude,

Jacob Evans
Executive Director, The Mission



Through the combination of all your elements you have crafted a clear appeal which affirms your donors current contribution and invites them to a deeper commitment.


  • Keep it personal
  • Remember if donors fall into two Donor Groups – only send 1 appeal
  • If possible, scan the physical signature of the sender and insert that image into your emails
  • Make sure the links to your giving page is a direct link – this needs to be a one-click process
  • Remember: your casting your story and showing your donor their critical role

We hope this outline will prove helpful to you and your organization as you plan your year-end giving appeal.  We wish you great success and a very Happy New Year.


Take this opportunity to review your Online Giving Pages and make sure they are current and looking top notch!