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Top 10 Ways to Boost Online Giving at Year-End

Resource Center - Foundation

By Gail Perry, CFRE

Author and fundraising consultant Gail Perry offers advice to fundraisers on how to ramp up online giving in the final months of the year.

(Dec. 1, 2009) The most important--and most critical--giving season is upon us. And for many nonprofits, one out of every two gifts comes in the last three months of the year.

Online giving is even more important at year-end. About 40 percent of online gifts are made in December. And 40-60 percent of those gifts are made the last two days of the year.

Online giving brings in wealthier, higher-dollar and younger donors.  AND the average online gift ($84) is much higher at year-end than earlier in the year ($67).

Clearly, smart fundraisers want to be all over their online fundraising strategies. Use these tactics to zoom past your year-end goals:

1.  Use multiple asks this month and multiple formats.

Repeating your appeal is always more powerful and successful than a single ask that goes out as a stand-alone effort. People are busy during the holiday season and they will need plenty of reminders.

And all donors have a different vision of how they want to help you and how they want to give. So be sure to offer them a variety of ways to support you and different giving opportunities.

2.  Start this week with a post-Thanksgiving feel-good note that expresses your thanks to your donors

Remember the first step to any fundraising campaign is thanking your donors for their partnership and friendship.

3.  Vary your messaging during December with these themes for appeals:  

  • Share a compelling, emotional story about a special success.
  • Recap your outcomes and accomplishments for the year. Help your donors celebrate your successes.
  • Ask donors who have already given for an additional year-end gift, as you talk about the challenges of the coming year.
  • Create a deadline-driven challenge or matching gift opportunity that can build momentum and visibility.

4.  Promote gift-giving by your online donors and offer easy shopping for nontraditional gifts.

  • "Last minute holiday gifts" -- promote gift memberships that your donors can give to others. The World Wildlife Fund sends a "Last Minute Ways to Say Happy Holidays" email that suggests adopting an animal on someone's behalf online.
  • "Avoid the crowds and shop at home" -- buy from our shop online and ship to those on your gift lists.
  • "Holiday e-cards for your family and friends" -- a green alternative that can promote your nonprofit AND carry a donation to your cause.

5.  Focus on tax deductibility on Dec. 30 and 31.

Remind your donors that they can make a secure last-minute donation just in time for the tax deadline. But only send this after Dec. 26.

Check out this sample year-end email campaign that had three messages going out the last week of the year:

  • Dec. 23: a "holiday support" email
  • Dec. 29: an email emphasizing tax deductible giving opportunities
  • Dec. 31: a final "last chance to donate" email

6.  Be sure your website is up to date and snappy

Remember that over 65 percent of ALL DONORS will probably check out your website before they write a check or make a gift, according to Kivi Leroux Miller of Here's a list of the Top 10 things donors want from your website. And be absolutely sure that your call to action is clear, concise and directive!

7.  Understand your online donors and their quirks.

Make it easy for impatient online donors who are in a hurry.  If you make it difficult for them, they'll be gone--probably to another nonprofit's site.  

Remember that a majority of would-be donors never make it through the process to complete their gifts. Some stats show that 98 percent of visitors to an organization's donate page do not complete their gift.

8.  Create an extra large "donate now" button.

Yes, size does matter. And try adding a photo on the inside of the button so that it has a human face. (Dogs and children are wonderful.)

Check out Network for Good's three tips for the best donate button: make it big; put it above the fold, and create a simple, easy-to-use contribution form.

9. Make your donate page seamless and easy to whiz through.  Check out this list of the 11 Deadly Sins of Donate Page Design from  Be sure you avoid these common mistakes in nonprofit donate pages:

  • Cluttered pages
  • Unintuitive layouts
  • Unclear directions
  • Too long, complex forms
  • Unnecessary fields
  • No address or phone number
  • Error messages are confusing

10. Finally. And probably the most important: test your own online donation process.

Ask a friend to make a donation and watch them as they go through the process. Ask them for feedback as they are making the gift. Ask them to find the site, and find the donate page - and see how easy - or difficult it is. You'll learn a lot!

These strategies will help you zoom past your fundraising goals for year-end. Happy prospecting and may generous donors flood in to your site and your cause!

Gail Perry, founder and principal of Gail Perry Associates, is a veteran fundraiser, trainer, author and consultant and. Her book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, is available in the AFP Bookstore. You can find more of her year-end fundraising strategies here.

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