It’s enough to make any development manager crawl right back into bed.

I want you to run an end-of-year campaign,” my colleague James’ boss had just told him. “We also need to do something on Giving Tuesday.”

You know… Giving Tuesday? The big nonprofit fundraising day happening in just eleven days? Yeah, that Giving Tuesday.

James, the development manager at a small social justice nonprofit, was going to need to pull something out of thin air.

We commiserated for a few minutes about spending our careers dealing with the age-old curse of many nonprofit organizations – no time, no money, and no plan.

But James needed some fast help, so we sprung into brainstorm mode. Surely there had to be some kind of digital campaign he could put together that wouldn’t take heroic measures to execute.

Are you in the same boat? Maybe you’re a procrastinator and you “work best under pressure”. LOL. Or maybe you received the same 11th hour directive that James did.

Whether you’re struggling with Giving Tuesday or an End-of-Year campaign, there’s no time left for dilly-dallying. It’s time for action! If you’re short on time and low on inspiration, here are three tips that will help you get a campaign pulled together and launched fast.


Reactive Planning 101

Before I lay these tips on you, there’s one important thing to remember: you still need to make a ‘back of the napkin’ plan to get everything ready. Block an hour on your calendar this week and hop to it. Your quick-and-dirty plan should include:

  • Campaign Image – This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or custom designed. Check out iStock or grab a free image at Unsplash or Pexels. Find an inspirational or adorable image that you can use in email messages, on your donation form, in your thank you emails, on social media, and on your website. Want to kick it up a notch? Think about your impact or successes over the past year. Jot down your campaign story in 3 sentences. Focus on the message you want to share over the course of your campaign.
  • Email Appeal Schedule – Start at the end and work your way back to the first day of your campaign. Typically, the end date is either 1/1 or 12/31. Send one email appeal every seven business days and send two on New Year’s Eve. If you kick off on Giving Tuesday, that’s a total of seven appeals. Feel like that’s more than you can do? Start in mid-December or skip a week.
  • Social Media Promotion – You can go one of two ways here: go big on your best-performing channel or sprinkle your campaign message around on multiple social media sites. The goal of social media posting for your campaign is to build awareness among followers who won’t be getting email appeals. Social media is also a great place to say thank you to your donors!

Grab my free Quickie End-Of-Year Campaign Plan here!

Okay, now that you’ve spent 60 minutes making a plan, let’s get to those tips.


Tip #1: Use What You Have

You’ve probably done some fundraising campaigns over the past year or two – take a look back and find the best-performing components:

  • Email Appeal – Was there a particular story that resonated? A subject line that saw good open rates? Find the things that worked and use them again (with your campaign image).
  • Donation Form – Same thing goes for your donation form – was there one version that seemed to convert well? Or maybe you’ve only got one donation form to your name. Make a copy of that bad boy and add your campaign image. Remember to update the confirmation page and ‘thank you’ auto-responder so they’re branded too.
  • Social Media Influencers – Spend 20 minutes checking out your followers. Are there one or two with large numbers of friends or followers? Send them a PM and ask if they’d be willing to spread the word about your campaign on Giving Tuesday or over the next few weeks. Give them a blurb to post with the link to your donation form. Feeling like you’ve got time to spare? Include a version of your campaign image and a hashtag.


Tip #2:  Make it Responsive

I know – you’re sick of people like me telling you that your email messages and donation forms need to be easy to use on a small screen. But darn it, the data speaks for itself.

From this year’s awesome M+R Benchmark Report: The proportion of transactions from mobile users increased by 50% between 2016 and 2017! That’s a huge increase in just one year, and all signs point to continued growth, so it’s time to get your fundraising act together for smaller screens.

A few key things to pay attention to when it comes to mobile:

  • Short, skimmable email messages are the way to go. 200 words is a great length to shoot for. If you tend to be wordy, break your content up over two or three emails. Bonus – shorter messages can be easier to write!
  • Big buttons on the donation form make it easier to use. This includes buttons for each donation level and the donate button that initiates the transaction.
  • Testing isn’t optional. Email clients, browsers, operating systems, and devices can all make your digital items look terrible. Keep your email templates and forms simple, and be sure to look at everything on a phone and tablet before you launch.


Tip #3: Add a Lightbox to Your Website

Get your campaign message in front of people who aren’t in your house file with a lightbox. Fundraisers and web developers alike have a lot of ambivalence about pop-up windows, also known as modals or lightboxes. On the one hand – they can be annoying, and last year Google began penalizing sites with intrusive pop-ups. But on the other hand, they can increase conversion rates like crazy!

A lightbox can be a great tactic to use if your organization has a large number of web visitors every month. Use your campaign image, add a call to action and include a big donate button that links to your campaign donation form.

Even if you’re an accidental techie, lightboxes can be pretty easy to set up. If you use WordPress, here’s a list of plug ins that you can use. Drupal fans can look here. Squarespace also supports lightboxes – here’s a how-to guide

Grab my free Quickie End-Of-Year Campaign Plan here!

It’s Not Too Late – But Don’t Wait much Longer!

James and I finished brainstorming and he was feeling a LOT more confident. He had a handle on the basic building blocks and had drafted a plan that didn’t require him to work every night and weekend between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Yay! His boss will get a “fast and decent” fundraising campaign underway, and James knows exactly where he should focus his limited time.


Need More Last-Minute Ideas?

Freaking out helps no one.  Spend that time making a plan instead!

Grab my free Quickie End-Of-Year Campaign Plan here!

Classy’s Super Quick Guide to End-Of-Year Campaigns

Mighty Cause’s End-Of-Year Fundraising Tips

Gail Perry’s Email Subject Line Guidance

John Haydon’s Giving Tuesday Checklist


Your Turn!

There are loads of innovative ways to engage supporters at this time of year.  What’s worked for you? Share a Giving Tuesday or End-of-Year tip with our community!