Home Nonprofit Fundraising Create a Winning Year-End Appeal

Create a Winning Year-End Appeal

E-mail Print PDF

As we stumble into November, it's probably hitting most of you that the end of the year is just around the corner. And, given the fact that you're all human, you're probably just now starting to think about your year-end appeal, even though you swore to yourself last year (and the year before) that you wouldn't leave this crucial mailing for the last minute.

No worries. We have some ideas that will keep the ball rolling and help you create a winning year-end appeal.

The year-end appeal, also known as the Christmas appeal or the holiday appeal, is one of the most common and most important appeals for nonprofits. It's usually the single largest mailing, both in quantity of letters sent and in amount of money raised, since many donors wait to round out their giving at the end of the year.

This year, it's anybody's guess how the appeals will do across the board. We're nearing the end of what has been one of the rockiest years in a long time for many nonprofits. And, I hate to say it, if you depend on your year-end appeal to meet your budget, you might be hurting more this year than other years. (That's why I always recommend a diversified fundraising approach--but that's for another post.) Now, more than ever, you need to get it right.

Here are some do's and don'ts that will get you on the way to a winning year-end appeal:


  • Build a mission-focused letter centered around one moving story. If you don't know how to do this, read one of our posts on nonprofit storytelling.
  • Emphasize the need and urgency.
  • Tie your appeal in to the season. People feel extra generous this time of year, and you want them to feel generously toward you.
  • Include an extra incentive, if possible, through a challenge or matching gift.
  • Let your donors feel that you know them by including ask amounts based on their personal giving history. If you don't know how to do this, contact us--we can help.
  • Personalize the letter and include a personalized reply device. Send your letter in a closed-faced envelope instead of the impersonal window envelope.
  • Include an enticing "teaser" on the outside of the envelope. Tell your supporters why they should open the letter.
  • Strive for excellence. Make sure your photographs and artwork are high quality. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Sloppy grammar and typos send a message of incompetence--not exactly what you're going for now, is it?


  • Fall into the cliches of the season. You don't want to sound like a worn out greeting card.
  • If you're a Christian organization, avoid the tired line of "God has given us the ultimate gift, now we need to give to others." That isn't Biblical and it isn't compelling. Instead, tie the need to scripture and your mission.
  • Ask your donors to make up your budget shortfalls and bring you from "red" to "black." Your budget is your problem. Your supporters give to your successful mission, not to your ledger book.
  • Wait until the very last minute. You want to get your year-end appeals out as close to Thanksgiving as possible.
  • Skimp on quality. Budget-friendly mailings are one thing, but poor quality is something else completely. Shoddy mailings get shoddy gifts.
  • Panic. If you find yourself stuck, you can get help.


Want more help creating a winning year-end appeal? Turnbull Marketing Group can help. From story guides to winning writing to printing and mailing services, we have you covered. Contact us today and let us help you help others.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment

security code
Write the displayed characters