Study: Sending more emails during final week of December helps increase gifts?

Chas Offutt and Bryan Snyder from Blackbaud, Nonprofit Tech blog, 11/26/12

We know a nonprofit's fundraising success is closely tied to their year-end campaign. To better prepare organizations, we've produced tips, guides, and even recipes. These timely resources have hopefully helped your organization craft a masterful, multi-channel plan to raise more money in 2012 (must read: Q&A with the Ocean Conservancy). But if we take a step back and look at the historic year-end data, we often see the last week of the year as the biggest fundraising days of the season. Shocked? I didn't think so. Procrastination is in our DNA, and our donors will continue putting off today what they can do tomorrow. Our interactive analytics team wanted to know just how much procrastination has impacted overall email performance. The findings might just surprise you. The goal was to observe email performance trends for organizations sending fundraising messages at the end of the calendar year. We examined email [sent] between December 26 and 31. The overall findings reveal that, despite an increase in the volume of emails delivered year-over-year, subsequent donation performance has not been sacrificed. In fact, just the opposite as the additional emails have helped increase the total number of transactions without compromising open rates. We've learned that additional emails have helped increase the total number of transactions without compromising open rates so naturally one immediate take-away may be: send more emails. However, is it as simple as sending more emails during the last week of the year?

[Read their post "It's not too late to make your year end communication plan impactful" and stay tuned for next week's post, "Increase your email revenue by 20% on December 31st (It's really this easy)".]


Commentary: 5 bad habits to kick with end-of-year fundraising appeals

Curtis Chang, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 11/19/12

If you are an executive director or part of your nonprofit organization's fundraising staff, you and your peers are getting ready to send out the end-of-the-year fundraising appeal. As with anything we do repeatedly, it is easy to slip into bad habits. And without even knowing it, some practices can erode your bottom line. To help you do a quick self-evaluation, I've described below five common bad habits that can make your appeals less effective -- and donors less likely to give.

1. Sending everyone the same message. With database technology at hand, every organization should be customizing their appeals. Here are some tips on segmenting your database (and discovering the joys of terms like "LYBUNT" and "SYBUNT").

2. Over-reliance on emotional stories. I am a big believer in the power of stories to appeal to prospective donors. But end of the year letters that contain only stories and little data demonstrating overall impact make me suspicious. This major study on donor attitudes shows that I'm not alone. Here are some examples of nonprofits that borrowed corporate formats to convey their impact.

3. Killing with words, words, words. In our communication era, people have a decreasing capacity to consume long stretches of text. During the holiday season, that capacity plummets even further. Nonprofits would be well advised to look for other media to embed in their annual appeals. Here are some tips on using videos to boost year-end donations. This is an excellent article from Social Brite that illustrates ways to use photos to tell your story.

4. Neglecting the little things. Almost a quarter of all email opens occur within the first hour of being sent. This means that a little thing like when you've scheduled delivery of your electronic appeal can make a real difference (read more on the issue of timing). Your placement -- and testing -- of your hyperlinks to a giving opportunity can also have outsized impact. For physical mailings, the biggest little thing you can do is to include a handwritten message: Some studies show that this increases the chances of a donation by 300%.

5. Botching the thank you. One very obvious bad habit is to forget to send a timely thank you to donors. According to Ahern Communications, one large agency tested the importance of thank you cards by sending them to one set of 25,000 donors and not sending them to another set of 25,000 donors. The result a year later? The two sets gave similar numbers of gifts but the amount of donations from the group that received thank you cards totaled $450,000 more. Thank you cards matter -- but beware: According to other studies, thankyou gifts can backfire by ruining the donor's sense of altruism.


Commentary: Matching gifts: make an end-of-year push to double donations

Double The Donation blog, 11/6/12

Did you know that most companies with employee matching gift programs will match donations made many months earlier? They have twelve months from the date of the donation to request a matching gift. We aren't suggesting your organization wait until the end of the year to promote matching gifts, but don't miss out on an extra opportunity to promote matching gifts. An end of the year email highlighting matching gifts & typical deadline dates is an effective way to raise additional money from individuals who have already donated to your organization. This serves as a great last minute reminder to donors who may have put off submitting a matching gift request for whatever reason. You've already done the hard work of getting your donors to open up their wallets. Sending out a final appeal is a fairly low effort way to encourage matching gift participation and tap into corporate giving dollars which are about to go unclaimed.


Commentary: Fundraising opportunities/pitfalls as tax code is about to change

The Planned Giving Blog, 11/16/12

Year end holiday shopping is already happening - what about year end tax planning?  And, what are the opportunities (and pitfalls) for fundraisers? Click here for a link to a recent Forbes piece.  In short, they are recommending selling capital gains property while the 15% bracket still exists.  Not a great message for charitable giving which usually says "avoid capital gains by giving your appreciated property."  So, we might see advisors not steering clients toward charitable gifts to avoid capital gains but rather cashing in on gains at current low tax rates. The bonus will be in 2013 when capital gains will almost certainly jump back to 20% (and 23.8% for higher earners from the Obamacare tax on investment income).  Capital gains avoidance will hopefully be more relevant for major gifts and planned giving in 2013 and beyond. I love this one from The Washington Post:  EARN MORE, PAY MORE (click here to see it) -- just reminding investors who have been enjoying paying only 15% on dividends -- they may see their taxes on those same dividends almost triple!  Max rate on that same dividend will be 43.4%!   Actually, the article mentions that companies may speed up dividends to be distributed before year end (and let their shareholders get one last taste of 15% taxes). Maybe your donors will have some windfalls to play with (i.e. give to your charity)? Lastly, a client just asked where we are standing on the IRA rollover (included in the tax extenders).  Click here on the latest on this issue.  In short, no tax extender until fiscal cliff talks are finished.  Who thinks the fiscal cliff is getting resolved before the end of the year?   This means that fundraisers have to wait a few more weeks before giving up hope (or not) on year-end IRA gifts.

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