Year-End Fundraising: 3 Innovative Ways to Stand Out

The end of the year is a chaotic but exciting time filled with family, the holidays, and reflection on the year behind us. For nonprofits, it’s just as busy since it’s time to host engaging events and make any final fundraising pushes for the year to meet and hopefully exceed annual goals.

There isn’t any time off when it comes to fundraising and pursuing your cause — especially not during the holiday season. In fact, the end of the year is the most charitable time of year. Fundraising studies estimate that 30% of the year’s contributions are made in December alone. That’s because people are naturally in a generous mindset and thinking of what they can do for others during a season devoted to giving, but encouraging that generosity won’t come without effort and persistence from your nonprofit’s team.

As we continue to live in a socially-distanced society, nonprofit fundraising professionals have to figure out how to engage and inspire supporters to give in a virtual landscape. Last year, nonprofits learned that it takes a bit of creativity to bridge the gap, and taking the successes and shortcomings nonprofits experienced into account, you’ll be well-equipped to take efforts even further this year.

If your nonprofit needs another event or fundraiser to toss into your calendar, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll explore three innovative ways you can cut through the clutter and stand out to supporters during the year-end giving season, including:

  1. Host a year-end gala
  2. Create custom t-shirts for your cause
  3. Hold a peer-to-peer fundraiser

The extra effort your fundraising team puts in will certainly be reflected in your fundraising totals and increase in overall support. Let’s dive in so you can put the final touches on your year-end calendar.

1. Host a year-end gala

Imagine sitting at a table of like-minded individuals, bonding over a worthwhile cause and a delicious meal. That’s exactly what a gala is: an evening filled with the chance to toast an admirable organization and network with new people. Hosting one at the end of the year gives you an opportunity to reflect back on the past year, thank your committed supporters, and strengthen relationships heading into the new year.

Set your year-end gala up for success by thinking through your strategies and taking notes from other organizations. You can make the most of your gala by doing the following: 

  • Pick a relevant theme. Your theme might be ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ or some other holiday theme. Then, set a dress code, get decorations, and line up the right catering to help set the ambience for the evening. This might be a black-tie event with snow-themed decorations, poinsettia plants to add to the atmosphere, and refreshments that fit the season’s flavors.
  • Pair it with an auction. Nonprofits often coordinate auctions alongside their galas. This adds an extra engagement element and opens up the chance to increase your revenue. Procure items that fit your attendees’ interests and your gala’s theme and budget.
  • Leverage your partnerships. There’s a lot that goes into hosting a gala, and the costs can quickly add up. Turn to your partners and line up sponsors to help offset some of the costs. Welcome in-kind gifts too, like auction items, venue space, and catering.
  • Create a thoughtful thank-you video. Sum up your organization’s year with an impactful video. You can feature testimonies from people who have been impacted by your work and supported your efforts.

With all the planning it takes, you’ll need a quick turnaround time and an efficient team, but it’s not too late to pull off a successful gala. Handbid’s guide to hybrid and virtual galas explains that the option to go digital eliminates a ton of the extra details you’ll need to finalize, like finding a venue and caterer. There are even some great vendors who can help you line up some awesome auction packages that guests will love and online auction sites out there that can help you move everything online.

2. Create custom t-shirts for your cause

Who doesn’t love a great t-shirt? People can buy them for themselves, but t-shirts also make great presents, especially when they represent a cause the person cares about. T-shirt fundraising provides people with something tangible in return for their contributions, helping you inspire more people to give to your cause.

You can create the perfect holiday fundraiser and inspire last-minute gifts by trying out strategies like these:

  • Offer an exclusive design. Your design will be your biggest selling point. Put thought into it by infusing elements associated with your cause (like your logo, slogan, and other visual elements). You might even market it as an exclusive design that will only be on sale during the holidays. This will help create a sense of urgency and tap into people’s natural fear of missing out if they don’t place their order soon.
  • Offer multiple styles and colors. Everyone’s style is different. Someone might love a classic crew neck tee in green, while someone else might love a long-sleeve Comfort Colors tee in blue. Offer a few different styles to fit everyone’s style.
  • Create complementary items. You’re not restricted to only t-shirts with a fundraising platform that has a larger catalog of custom apparel. Create designs that use the same fonts, wording, or graphics for hoodies, beanies, and mugs — all perfect for warming people up during the cold winter months. Offering sets of products will help create a collect-them-all mindset and boost sales.

Bear in mind that shipping delays, stock shortages, and other logistical challenges affect every type of business, and t-shirt fundraising platforms aren’t immune. Start collecting orders now so that your supporters can ring in the new year with their t-shirts or start their year off right by getting them early on in 2022.

3. Hold a peer-to-peer fundraiser

Empower your supporters to volunteer without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Try hosting a peer-to-peer campaign. Volunteers will take to digital outlets (primarily social media) to ask their friends and family to give to your cause. 

This works for a number of reasons. For one, people will see that their loved ones support and trust your organization, helping them to trust the cause, too. You can single-handedly multiply your reach. Think about it: if just 15 people managed to inspire 10 people to donate to your cause, that’s an additional 150 supporters! Not only this, but you’ll reinforce volunteers’ commitment to the cause as they explain why your cause is so important to them to their family and friends.

This is a perfect way to inspire donations during the most charitable time of year. Bonfire’s peer-to-peer fundraising guide dives into several strategies for engaging supporters through peer-to-peer fundraising, including:

  • Make sure your story shines through. Inspiring someone to give means connecting them to the cause. Use images, videos, and compelling text to explain your mission and put a face on your cause.
  • Give fundraisers the resources they need. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for people to raise money for your cause. Start by equipping them with the right peer-to-peer platform, then supply them with candid photos they can use to enhance their campaign page and well-written templates they can copy and edit for social media.
  • Incentivize supporters with t-shirts. Combine two year-end strategies into an ultimate one. Encourage fundraisers to sell branded t-shirts alongside their campaigns to maximize the number of donations they collect.

Peer-to-peer fundraising works well year-round, but it’s particularly great to leverage during a time of year when people are feeling extra generous. Best of all, it doesn’t take a ton of planning. All you need is a peer-to-peer fundraising platform and some volunteers, and supporters can start launching their campaign pages in no time.

In every fundraising appeal you make, remember that the end of the year is a time to say thank you. It doesn’t matter if someone volunteers, donates, or connects you with their friends and families. They’re taking their time to be generous and provide your organization with the resources it needs to achieve its mission. With these tips in mind, you can move forward with your year-end fundraising plans and make the final few weeks of the year count. Good luck!

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