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The ultimate guide to prepare for the year-end giving season

September 02, 2021
Three nonprofit staff members sit at a table to begin planning for year-end giving season.

During the holiday season, nonprofit organizations devote even more effort than usual to engaging donors. November and December are when donors tend to be the most generous, so even the smallest nonprofits can bring in significant revenue that they need to fund their purpose in the coming year. 

To maximize your fundraising potential in the year-end giving season, your nonprofit has to prepare well ahead of time. The earlier you start, the more time you have to refine your messaging and prime your supporters to participate when the giving season begins. From planning your appeals to developing campaign branding, this guide will explore how you can make the most of the year-end giving season. 

Why is year-end giving so important?

The year-end giving season is an important time for nonprofits as it allows you to maximize the spirit of generosity that comes with the holidays. According to Nonprofits Source:

  • 30% of annual giving occurs in December.
  • 10% of annual giving occurs in the last three days of the year.

With so much funding on the line, it’s critical to strategically plan your year-end giving season appeals before November so you can engage donors who are eager to give during the holiday season.

What is GivingTuesday?

GivingTuesday is an annual celebration during which nonprofit supporters around the world come together to contribute to the causes that matter to them. Held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving each year, this event kicks off the year-end giving season that lasts through the end of December.

Since it began in 2012, GivingTuesday has grown into a global movement of donating, volunteering, and spreading awareness of nonprofits’ purposes. This event provides your nonprofit with a major opportunity to acquire new supporters and raise significant revenue. Participating in this giving day is essential to give your organization the best possible start to the year-end giving season.

How can nonprofits engage supporters during the year-end giving season?

Your year-end giving season engagement strategies should stand out from other nonprofits’ to inspire donor participation. Some effective ideas include:

  • Offering multiple ways to get involved: While many organizations focus primarily on collecting monetary donations during the year-end giving season, some supporters might prefer to be generous with their time or other resources instead. Consider offering alternative ways to participate, such as volunteer opportunities or in-kind donation drives, to meet supporters where they are.
  • Using festive branding: Your nonprofit’s branding sets the tone for your communications, so infuse some holiday spirit into your visual designs to get your donors excited for the year-end giving season. For instance, you could add themed graphic elements such as snowflakes or holiday lights to your email templates and flyers. Make sure to add the GivingTuesday logo to your promotional materials for that particular campaign as well.
  • Running giving campaigns in multiple places: Allow supporters to give conveniently through their favorite digital platforms. For instance, social media enables easy sharing of crowdfunding initiatives and peer-to-peer fundraisers, or you could take advantage of mobile giving’s popularity by launching a text-to-give campaign.
  • Segmenting your donors: Supporters will appreciate personalized messages that make them feel valued by your organization. Segmenting donors based on shared characteristics helps you tailor your messages to each group. Group donors by their demographics, giving history, preferred communication method, and other past involvement with your organization to maximize their interest in your cause.

Choose the strategies that will work best for your organization by evaluating which past initiatives your donors responded well to. Also, always remember to highlight the charitable spirit associated with the holidays to get your supporters more interested in engaging.  

Example year-end giving season preparation timeline

Deciding which programs to implement is only one aspect of planning for year-end fundraising. You’ll also need to set goals leading up to the giving season to stay on track with your preparations. Here is a sample timeline to guide you through what to prepare and when to start:


Start the planning process in September by setting goals for giving season initiatives and deciding which programs to launch. Assess what has worked in the past and where you could improve by reviewing your organization’s past year-end giving data. This is also the time to determine whether you have the right tools to support your campaign, including a strong social media presence, a user-friendly website, and necessary fundraising software.


Once you’ve set your goals, you can begin writing appeals and creating other year-end giving season content. Develop your supporter segmentation strategy and plan when you’ll send communications to each group. Also, work on your festive branding and acquire any other materials you might need for your campaign.


During November, get donors excited for GivingTuesday. Use GivingTuesday branding in your donor outreach to express the importance of participating and finalize any donation incentives you plan to offer that day, such as setting up a one-time matching fund or gifting free branded merchandise to donors. On GivingTuesday, post updates to your social media accounts with the hashtag #GivingTuesday when you reach certain milestones.


Keep the year-end giving season momentum going by sharing updates with your donors throughout December. This is also a great time to thank the donors who have already contributed during the giving season and encourage past donors to give again. Remember that the last three days of the year are critical for fundraising, so push hard until December 31.


Though the year-end giving season technically ends in January, your organization still has a little more work to do. Make sure you’ve thanked each of your donors for their end-of-year contributions and develop a retention plan to keep supporters engaged throughout the new year. Then, review your year-end giving campaign’s key performance indicators (KPIs), such as average gift size and number of donors retained from the previous year, and gather feedback from your donors so you can prepare for an even more productive giving season next year.

The goal of year-end giving season

As you manage the various moving parts of your year-end giving campaign, remember that most donors are eager to contribute to a worthy cause. No matter which strategies you try, remind your supporters that a gift to your organization benefits real people, which is what the year-end giving season is all about.

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