5 Steps to Target Donors for Year-End Fundraising Success

Like most nonprofits, you’re going to spend a lot of time, attention, and money on fundraising to reap the rewards of a giving season that’s expected to see more than $30 billion in donations. And, like most organizations, I’m guessing you don’t have a lot of extra time or money.

Not a problem.

With a little planning and careful consideration, you’ll be well positioned to see a better return on investment from your fundraising efforts.

A more successful year-end campaign will hinge on your ability to target your donors with tailored outreach. While it’s obviously easier to send one message to your entire list and be done with it, let’s all make a pact not to do that this year. Your campaign will be more effective—and stand out from other appeals—if you employ a divide and conquer and more personalized approach. Start your plan now to target specific groups of donors so you can deliver something that’s more relevant and meaningful to each part of your audience this December.

So, how do you make it happen? Here are five simple steps for deploying fundraising messages that are more likely to be seen, read, and acted upon.

Aggregate Your Fundraising Data

First things first, before you can target your donors and speak to them in a way that resonates, you need to know something about them. You’ll find most everything you need to know for more effective fundraising in your donor data and results from past campaigns.

Details about campaign performance, donor history, gift amounts, last gift date, and preferred channel will allow you to understand who to ask for what amount and deploy messages that are more relevant. When your data is organized, accessible, and actionable in a donor management system, you will spend less time hunting down the information you need, relying on out-of-date records, and missing opportunities. Can you do this with spreadsheets? Sure, it’s possible, but it requires a lot of manual work and typically introduces more problems than it solves. Make it easy on yourself (and everyone else) this year and work smarter, instead of harder.


Segment Your Donors

Now that you have everything compiled and up to date, decide how you will segment your donors. Donor segmentation is simply the practice of grouping donors by a shared attribute in order to send each group them a targeted message or campaign.

Grouping donors by giving level, last gift date, relationship with your organization, or demographic information gives you the power to communicate with each segment more appropriately and effectively. Define each segment with your organization’s criteria, the target ask, and number of contacts that fall into each group. (If you’re just getting started with segmenting your donors, try this Donor Segmentation Cheat Sheet.)

Your Gift Level-Recency Segmentation overview might look something like this example:


First gift, flat amount of $25-$40 for a special programLast gift amount, special program appealLast gift amount + 50% more; or recurring/monthly giving program enrollmentFirst gift, flat amount of $25-$40 for a special programSecond gift, upgrade/special program appealProspects for whom you have a mailing or email address, but have not ever yet made a giftMade a gift two years ago, or prior, but not since or in the current fiscal yearMade a gift in the last fiscal year, but not yet in the current yearAttended an event in the current fiscal year, but has not made an annual giftMade a gift in the current fiscal yearTarget Ask AmountAttributesSegmentNon-DonorsLapsed DonorsCurrent DonorsEvent DonorsRenewed Donors

Create a Plan

Once you’ve identified your priority segments, you move forward with creating your plan for reaching out to them. For each group, outline your fundraising targets, a communication timeline, and key messages. Lay out how you’ll reach each segment with the right channels—direct mail, email, social, and phone solicitation should be applied according to what’s working for your organization. Keep in mind that your plan is not just a nice-to-have: it will help keep you organized and on track—and will help you clearly align your resources to what you need to accomplish before the end of the year.


Send Tailored Communications

Wouldn’t it be great if you could sit down and hand-write each and every donor a heartfelt, personal letter in December? Great, sure, but not realistic. However, creating a donor-centric, tailored communication for each segment will get you very close to the same effect. Think about each group of donors and their relationship with your organization…and how you’d like to see their giving go to the next level. To create the most effective appeals be sure to include:

  • References to how the donor is connected to your organization
  • Personal details that create a sense of community and relevance (
  • The suggested relevant giving behavior you’d like to see (“Your $100 gift will….” “Become a monthly sustainer to…”
  • A clear vision of the impact that a donor’s gift will have
  • A sense of urgency that answers the question, “Why should I give now?”


Optimize the Giving Experience

Your fundraising appeal doesn’t end with an ask delivered through a snailer or email—your giving experience is a crucial part of the equation. Your response device or online donation page should reflect the language, giving options, and segmentation details of the rest of your campaign. Carry the inspiration and story you’ve created for your donor all the way through the donation process and into your acknowledgment. Creating a consistent and seamless experience makes it more likely your donor will complete their gift and help you bring in larger average gift amounts. Bonus: an online campaign makes it easy to customize, test, and adapt your donation page as you get real-time data and understand how you are tracking to your goals.

Remember: year-end fundraising season is a busy time for not just fundraisers, but supporters as well. By targeting your donors and tailoring your communications, you’ll be investing in an insurance policy that will pay off in dramatically better donation numbers come December 31. Learn more in our free webinar on August 24.



Caryn Stein is Network for Good’s Vice President of Communications and Content. As the organization’s fundraising and marketing expert, Caryn’s dedicated to helping nonprofits combine the best practices of technology with compelling fundraising stories to create more effective marketing for their missions. She is a nationally-recognized speaker, having helped hundreds of organizations improve their fundraising campaigns and write more effective donor communications.

target donors

Caryn Stein

August 17, 2016

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