For charities across the globe, the last few months of the year are consistently the most generous time of year. Nearly one-third of annual charitable giving occurs in December, whereas 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.
For Catholic charities in particular, this is an exceptionally opportune time to instill a spirit of generosity as we enter the holiday season. In fact, nearly 18% of all faith-based giving happens in December. Year-end bonuses, tax-deduction deadlines, and a spirit of holiday generosity come together to make December an outstanding month of giving.
This boost in donations doesn’t happen by itself. To make the most of year-end giving, your Catholic charity needs a plan. Here are three ways to encourage philanthropy among your supporters:
- Send an end-of-year giving letter.
- Offer online giving options.
- Follow up with those who give.
It may feel like the time of year to take a step back and ease up on communications as your community focuses on the holiday season. However, remaining silent guarantees that supporters will turn to other charities to express their generosity. Plus, you’ll miss a vital opportunity to share your core mission and make connections with other followers of God.
Tip #1: Send an end-of-year giving letter.
Sending out letters encouraging supporters to give often helps many ministries, parishes, and Catholic charities scrounge up extra funds needed to cover budgetary shortfalls or fund new projects.
Develop a committee devoted to writing donation appeals to your prospects. Turn to those who have demonstrated a history of generosity to your charity, because those who are rooted in their faith are often the most generous. When crafting your letters, keep in mind the following components:
- Emotional appeal: Invite your community to donate by emphasizing faith in your messaging. Inspire them to look beyond their own worries and to serve someone in greater need. Even if they’re unable to donate, they can express their support in other ways by volunteering for your organization or by sharing their faith with others.
- Potential impact: At the heart of your appeal, help people see how generosity is integral to living their faith. Explain how the donation will impact your charity’s work. Give specific examples. Will it help to expand current offerings by funding a specific project? Will it go toward funding marketing campaigns to spread the word of God amongst new supporters?
- Donation and contact details: Don’t forget to share how prospects can donate. Share the link to your online donation form or provide a self-addressed envelope along with your letter to send in checks. This ensures donors know their exact next steps once they’re inspired to give. Always provide a way for the recipient to reach out with questions or request additional information as well.
- Beginning your year-end asks by saying thanks: It’s important to acknowledge donors for their past support before you ask them to donate again. So first, send a heartfelt thank you email that highlights the impact of their donations over the last year. Be sure to include photos and highlights that illustrate milestones you’ve been able to achieve because of their support.
Speed up the writing process by using templates like those found in Fundraising Letters’ guide to donation request letters. There are faith-based options that provide plenty of space to personalize your messaging and emphasize how a donation will impact your charity and its work in spreading faith.
Emailing these appeals will certainly be quicker and more convenient for your team, but you’ll also want to take into consideration that some supporters may prefer physical or even handwritten letters. Taking the time to craft individual messages expresses that you care about each individual’s contribution, so if you have the time, consider sending these via direct mail.
Tip #2: Offer online giving options.
Catholic charities have been able to match up and face the adversity brought on by the pandemic throughout the better half of this year. Like churches and similar organizations, your charity likely had to drastically rework its giving strategy to meet these challenges head-on. As part of these adjustments, it’s essential that you make it as easy as possible for supporters to give to your organization.
While you should certainly continue offering traditional donation tools (like mail-in donations), you should expand your offerings to accommodate donors and ensure that they can give from the comfort of their own homes. This means extending donation opportunities to the digital space. As re:Charity states in its virtual fundraising software guide:
“Taking the steps to transition your core fundraising efforts to a purely digital space is more crucial now than ever….If you pause all fundraising efforts, you risk donor attrition and lose out on the relationships that your nonprofit has already worked so hard to develop.”
On your charity’s website, feature an online giving page where you can safely and easily collect donations. This is one of the most straightforward fundraising ideas that many faith-based organizations adopt, and the end of the year presents an invaluable opportunity to push it across all marketing channels.
Chances are that you already offer digital donation tools, but your team should also take the time to optimize your giving form to maximize success. For example, this resource suggests that your form should be branded with your messaging and mobile-responsive. For those who feel inspired to demonstrate consistent commitment to their faith through your charity, offer a recurring giving option directly on your form. This will encourage them to continue giving into the new year.
For those who cannot give online, encourage them to mail their regular contributions. No matter their preferences, meeting prospective donors’ needs will ensure you capture as much financial support as possible, both during year-end giving and throughout the rest of the new year.
Tip #3: Follow up with those who give.
As Greater Mission suggests in its church capital campaign guide, your fundraising efforts aren’t over until you follow up with those who donate to your charity. The new year is the time to celebrate year-end generosity among your community of supporters, so effectively wrap up your year-end giving campaign by trying out these tips:
- Share results. Tell your congregation how successful your year-end fundraising efforts were. If there’s a specific project their contributions are funding, be sure to provide updates in order to communicate the impact of their generosity.
- Send gestures of gratitude. Say thank you early and often to those who demonstrate generosity during year-end giving through email, a phone call, or a handwritten letter. Remember, giving is first a spiritual experience, so a gift is a response to spiritual growth. Don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate that.
- Ask for feedback. Survey supporters to gauge what they liked about your approach to year-end giving, as well as any areas that could’ve been better. That way, you can adjust your approach moving forward, and be well-prepared as you ramp up year-end giving next year. Not to mention, this will demonstrate that you value their opinions and serve as a meaningful step toward stewardship.
Once the year comes to a close, these final few steps will ensure you properly express gratitude and share impact. Double-check that everyone—especially your mid-range and major donors—received the appropriate documentation and follow-up messages for their donations.
Depending on the amount of outreach, it’s best to designate a follow-up committee to simplify this process. All in all, aim to share final updates about your campaign and what you’ll be able to accomplish in the coming months thanks to your supporters’ generosity.
The mission of Catholic charities is vital. Paying staff and investing funds into furthering your mission is critical to sustaining your work and all who share in that opportunity.
When it comes to developing a year-end fundraising strategy for your organization, some forethought goes a long way. Especially now that some supporters have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, it’s crucial that you invite the rest of your community to continue their regular giving (and even increase their contributions) if possible.
If you’re still struggling to develop an effective year-end giving strategy, a consultant can provide you with clear direction based on firsthand experience. For a Catholic charity, it’s a good idea to search for one with proven faith and commitment to the Church. We suggest starting with this guide from re:Charity, which highlights leading consulting firms like Greater Mission.
Backed by an experienced team and with these tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to engage donors, encourage faith-filled giving, and promote spiritual growth as supporters are filled with the holiday spirit.
Guest Author: Thomas Sonni
Tom Sonni founded Greater Mission in 2006 so that he might expand his life’s work, empowering the Church to live and share the greatest mission ever conceived: To know Jesus Christ and make Him known. Tom brings more than twenty-five years of experience designing stewardship models and managing capital campaigns along with years of experience in strategic planning, constituent research, annual appeals, major gifts, and legacy giving. Tom has guided efforts that have raised over $400 million for the Church.