The 5 Emails You Must Send Before December 31

Consider this your end-of-year online fundraising boot camp. Supplement your standard direct mail campaign with these five easy, effective emails and you’ll see great results in online giving this December.

Tip #1: Send a Thanks-for-Giving Stewardship Message

In November, most of us reflect with gratitude on the gifts of the past year. Don’t spare your supporters from your moment of reflection: some of the most important emails you’ll send as an organization are those thanking your donors and volunteers sincerely for their support. Between November 20 and 22, send a “Thanks for Giving” email to all your supporters thanking them for standing with you this past year, and telling a short story about an animal or family that they — through their generosity to your organization — have rescued and rehabilitated. Many of the organizations I work with see email open rates of 40 to 60 percent on their stewardship messages, and when your supporters know they are valued, they’re more likely to continue giving.

Tip #2: Do a #GivingTuesday Promotion

This global day of giving is a bona fide holiday at this point. Five years running, with more than 10,000 organizations participating, raising more than $177 million, and seeing a 20 percent increase in online giving from 2015 to 2016 — you’ve got to get in on this. Just show up on Giving Tuesday (November 28 this year) and follow these tips to participate:

  • Send an email preparing your constituents for the holiday a week ahead of the event, then send another 1-2 emails on Giving Tuesday itself.
  • Be present on your social media channels: on Facebook, promote the giving day with graphics, use the #GivingTuesday hashtag, and share short stories of the animals and families you serve.
  • Ask your supporters to share pre-written posts. If someone tags you or shows support on social media, reply to thank them, like and share their post.
  • Promote Giving Tuesday on your website with a banner or a lightbox pop-up.
  • Show supporters what even a small donation can do to help animals — give them tangible examples of what gifts of different amounts can provide.
  • The consistent call to action across all channels is to donate — it is a day of giving after all!

Don’t worry about Giving Tuesday donations sabotaging your end-of-year fundraising campaign. Recent giving indicates a propensity to give again soon, and Giving Tuesday donors are like event donors — they’ll be inspired by your mission and give again when asked in December.

Tip #3: An Inspiring Story

You’ve got them, so make sure you tell them: those powerful stories of the animals you’ve saved this year, the families who adopted their pet soulmates or the clinics where those without means got top-quality veterinary care for their beloved companions.

Focus on these principles to tell a great story:

  • Focus on one subject (one animal or family) to illustrate the problem your organization is trying to solve.
  • Use compelling imagery — a photo of a single animal, before and after images, or even a short, authentic video of an adoption or reunion.
  • Provide tangible steps for the reader to help using language like “Make a donation to fund our lifesaving work today” or “Will you please give a gift of $50 to make successes like this possible?”
  • Use donor-focused language, casting the donor as the hero in the success story; for example: “We can’t do this without you” or “I thought you would be able to help.”
  • Tell the ending of the story, but make clear the continued need for support.

Check out the recent stories coming from Houston SPCA and Austin Humane Society for great examples of individual stories about animals and the impact of volunteers and donors. Check out the Humane Society of the United States for good use of social media storytelling.

Tip #4: Alternative Holiday Giving Options

Raise your hand if you’re tired of getting mugs or neckties from well-meaning gift givers. Your supporters are too! Give them the option to send a holiday gift that helps animals by making a tribute donation to your organization in honor or in memory of a special person or pet. You’ll have a separate online donation form set up to capture these gifts that should allow the donor to choose how their gift is acknowledged — offering either a printed greeting card or an eCard, or both. Keep fulfillment in mind — if you’re printing donor messages in cards, be sure you have a good printer or handwriting, professional stationery, and enough hands to write and seal envelopes in time for the holidays. You can also put together an Amazon Wish List to allow people to purchase items for your shelter. Promote these alternative gifts through email during the first and second weeks of December.

Tip #5: The Last Chance to Give in 2017

Some organizations see up to 40 percent of their total funds raised online for the year in their year-end appeals. On December 29, 30 and 31, send at least two email messages reminding donors to give before midnight on December 31. Trust me, you’ll see donations come in no matter what day New Year’s Eve falls on. In the content, tell a short story, reassure the donor of the animals and programs their gift supports and reinforce the urgent midnight deadline.

I hope you enjoyed these helpful year-end tips! For more inspiring ideas geared specifically towards our furry community, check out my webinar, “Fundraise Smarter, Not Harder: Strategy and Tactics for Animal Welfare Pros”.


Kelley is a Senior Fundraising Consultant working with nonprofits to raise more funds by applying marketing and fundraising best practices and strategy. She got her start in fundraising as Development Manager at the Washington Animal Rescue League. She has also managed special marketing projects and provided strategic direction for online fundraising at The Humane Society of the United States. Her passion is helping nonprofits raise the most funds with the resources and technology at their disposal. Kelley has spoken at events like Bridge Conference, NonProfit Pro P2P Forum, the National Catholic Development Conference, and the Colorado Animal Welfare Conference. Outside of fundraising and technology, Kelley’s greatest loves are her family, her dogs, all dogs, all animals, running, crafting, and coffee.

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