Ah, December. ‘Tis the season for unearthing those ugly Christmas sweaters, embracing overeating and subjecting your ears to Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” over… and over… and over again. But, ’tis also the season for giving — and by giving, we’re talking about more than the black sport socks and bubble bath you panic-bought on Christmas Eve.

As it turns out, us Canadians are a pretty generous bunch — particularly at this time of year. In fact, this holiday season alone, over 60% of all Canadians are expected to donate a whopping $5 billion to charitable causes. When you take into consideration the fact that Canadians donate just under $13 billion annually, this means nearly 40% of all charitable giving takes place in the last six weeks of the year.

This must be good news for charities, right? Well, yes and no. There are over 170,000 charitable and non-profit organizations vying for a piece of the pie, so charities are having to spend more time and effort than ever before creating year-end appeals that not only tug at donor’s heartstrings but also stand out above the rest.

At g[squared], we have nearly twenty years’ experience in helping charitable clients do just that. Using the recent holiday giving appeal we developed for Little Warriors as an example — and, in the spirit of giving, of course — we’re here to share with you a few of the tried and tested techniques we’ve learned along the way.

Make it personal

Donors are pretty special people — after all, without them, most charities wouldn’t exist. So it’s important to make them feel recognized and appreciated. One simple way to do this is to talk to them like an old friend. Steer away from corporate speak or generic stats and figures and start using vocabulary like “you” or “our”. Your words should make donors feel part of a warm and welcoming community, not like they’re just another number in your donor database.

Notice the use of inclusive language in the Little Warriors’ holiday appeal.

Create a sense of urgency

In developing your holiday giving campaign, think about what might happen if you don’t reach your fundraising target for the year. Chances are, the people who rely on your services would feel the effects most dramatically — essential services might need to be cut or program budgets reduced. Or perhaps operations would cease to continue altogether. Whatever the case may be, it’s important for your donors to understand why their gifts are needed and why they’re needed now. So spell it out. Explain how much it costs to support someone in need. Tell them how their donations will be used to improve or sustain services. And make them realize that every penny counts.

For the Little Warriors’ holiday appeal we focused on the cost of providing treatment to one child in need, and the fact that the organization receives no government funding.

Use a multi-channel approach

Direct mail is a popular tool when it comes to holiday giving campaigns, but often it just isn’t enough. Remember that each one of your donors will have different needs — and that includes how they like to be communicated with. To ensure you’re covering all bases, repurpose your holiday appeal message across a range of different channels, like e-mail, web and social media. And don’t be afraid to over-communicate — after all, according to the age-old “Rule of Seven”, the average person needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they feel compelled to act.

Here’s how Little Warriors shared its holiday appeal on social media.

Don’t forget your manners

Donors are the lifeblood of most charitable organizations, so it’s incredibly important to recognize their support. It might sound obvious, but a simple “thank you” goes a long way in making donors feel valued. Remind them of what their gifts have helped your charity achieve. Express your unwavering gratitude. And, if you want to take things one step further, recognize them in person at donor appreciate events, include their name in your annual report, or give them a shout-out on social media — there’s no limit to the number of ways you can show thanks.

Here’s how Little Warriors chose to give props to its donors.

Provide options

Make it easy for donors to choose a gift that suits their needs by highlighting various ways to give. A simple donation form with a few suggested gifts is helpful, as it allows donors to see how their money is making a tangible difference. And don’t forget to include easy instructions for donating by cheque, credit card or online.

Timing is everything

Sure, donations might come flooding in during the month of December, but most donors take a few weeks — if not longer — to decide where to allocate their hard-earned dollars. To get on their radar early, it’s important to send out your holiday giving appeal by end of October or early November. Or, you could adopt a multi-stage approach and send out a teaser explaining why funds are needed, followed by the “big ask” in early December once donors have had time to consider all their options.

Need help with your holiday giving campaign? Contact us today. We’ d love to help.