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Christmas in July: 5 Tips to End the Year with a Bang

The original article appeared in the July 2017 issue of DMAW’s Advents. 

Summer is here, and it’s the perfect time of year for beach visits, fireworks, barbeques, and…stocking stuffers?! Yes, if you’re a direct response marketing professional, sugar plums should be dancing in your head during these long summer days as you perfect and plan your year-end digital fundraising strategies. Here are five tips to get you into the holiday spirit, even while the AC is blasting:

1.Put the testing elves to work

The third quarter is a great opportunity to test into top-performing creative so you know you have your best foot forward by giving season. Whether it’s an email template, a landing page, a banner ad, or all three! It’s important to figure out what drives donors’ response now in order to have the most impact at year-end. Be sure to allow sufficient time in your testing plan to reach statistical significance in results. While summer is a valuable time to test, you may see less volume or traffic during this slower fundraising season. Also, push yourself to design tests that will really move the needle and have impact; this isn’t the time for an incremental test. Think big, so you’re ready to wow donors come holiday season.

2.Make sure you have enough donors on the nice list

If you’ve been considering an acquisition or pledge campaign, October or November is the time to execute it. The effort of acquiring new donors will be well worth it when you have an engaged and larger file to send your Giving Tuesday, holiday and year-end messaging to. If it’s feasible, reserve a portion of your budget for the pre-holiday season to run an acquisition campaign with a vendor partner that’s a good fit with your organization. This could be an eAppend, a petition site like Care2, or a lead generation campaign with an advertiser, for example. If the purse strings are tight, you can “acquire” engaged prospects from your own file. Consider running an engagement campaign within your audience to wake up non-responders in time for a holiday gift. A cultivation-style message, like a quiz or pledge, also goes a long way in fostering relationships with donors, especially in October or November, to show your audiences that you’re not always only asking for a gift.

3.Is Frosty willing to match that gift?

Matching gift campaigns rule the day when it comes to year-end. Whether it’s a Giving Tuesday flash match, an extended holiday season match, or an urgent year-end match, it’s time to put your major gift officers to work to secure those matches. But it’s up to you to give your colleagues the tools they need to work with major donors to secure matching gift funds. A creative brief or mock-up of your campaign idea can bring to life the impact a matching gift donor will have and help seal the deal. Make sure to determine any special considerations now, such as whether the donor wants to be anonymous or the style of the match, so the copy can be written accordingly.

4.Address the holiday cards correctly

When it comes to holiday cards, you write a different message to your mail carrier than to your best friend, don’t you? (Unless your mail carrier is your best friend, which would not be surprising in this industry—but that’s a different article.) Take the same approach with donors and prospects! If you don’t have the capacity to send highly segmented messaging during other times of year, do what it takes to make it happen for the holidays. Send targeted messages to monthly donors, tribute donors, low-dollar donors, high-dollar donors, donors who only give to holiday campaigns, donors who have never given to holiday campaigns — the sky’s the limit! Slice and dice available data to have a real impact with highly targeted messaging for Giving Tuesday, holiday, and year-end. It’s crucial to stand out among other offers during giving season, and this is one effective way to do so.

5.Don’t forget to thank Aunt Clara for the Christmas sweater

As a child, I got a pack of thank-you cards in my stocking every year—now that’s planning ahead! Do the same this summer. Take the opportunity now to craft some meaningful thank-you messages—they could include a photo series or video of those served by your mission, or even of your staff. Don’t let donor acknowledgment fall off your to-do list when planning your year-end campaign; make it a priority! A simple thank you—especially one received as many donors make a donor’s largest gift of the year during holiday season—could be the difference between retaining a supporter or losing them.

So, while that poolside chair might be calling your name this summer, take some extra time to carefully plan your digital campaigns and goals for the holidays. The giving season is such an exciting time to work in fundraising, and your effort can have a truly positive effect on the nonprofits you serve. Testing, acquiring donors, securing matches, segmenting messaging, and sending a meaningful thank-you are sure to help you end the year in a BIG way. Good luck and happy holidays!

Bailey Bernius

Senior Account Executive, Digital