How to Write a Unique End-of-Year Donation Letter
End-of-year letters are a great way to cap a year’s worth of fundraising efforts. While fundraising takes various forms like email and letter campaigns, events, contests, and donation requests, donation letters are some of the most important. Letters are fairly straightforward and easier to complete than some other types and yield ongoing corporate sponsorship relationships.
Donation letters come in many different forms, for each time of the year and for every kind of donation. One of the most common, and most lucrative, is the end-of-year donation letter.
In this article, we will cover:
- What Is an End of Year Donation Letter?
- Structure of an End of Year Donation Letter
- Best Practices to Make Your Letter Stand Out
- End-of-Year Donation Letter Examples
- Final Thoughts
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What Is an End of Year Donation Letter?
As a nonprofit, donation letters are a standard part of your fundraising efforts. A donation letter is a request for donations that is sent to a company, individual, or organization that accepts them. Some examples of donation letters include in-kind donation letters (requests for goods rather than money) and lapsed donor letters (for donors who have donated in the last few years but in the last 12 months). You should check out some lapsed donor letter fundraising samples when you get the chance.
For example, Best Buy is known for sending funds or gadgets to organizations that support technological literacy and education. But they do not have the resources to sniff out every nonprofit that fits the bill, so they accept donation letters.
What is an end of year donation letter?...Tristan is thinking the same thing!
Nonprofits send letters detailing how much money is needed, and for what, to Best Buy, and then Best Buy selects the ones it wants to contribute to.
An end-of-year donation letter is very similar: it is a donation letter that is sent at the end of the year. There are a few reasons why these are treated as a separate group than standard donation letters, namely:
The end of the year is often the last chance to accomplish a set fundraising goal
The end of the year is typically more giving than other times due to the holiday season
The end of the year is the perfect time to use what remains from the current year’s budget
An end-of-year donation letter is sent out in the last few weeks of the year in order to appeal for funds to wrap up your organization’s yearly goals. As such, there are a few changes to make compared to a standard donation letter, or a fundraising appeal letter that you need to implement.
Structure of an End of Year Donation Letter
The end-of-year donation cycle is usually agreed to start on Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving which has been unofficially designated as a charitable holiday.
From this date on, best practice is for organizations to send a specially drafted end-of-year donation letter, rather than standard letters.
An average of 31% of all annual donations are made in these last few weeks of the year, so it is very important to get it right. The first step is to look at the overall structure of your letter.
One of the keys to a successful end-of-year donation letter is to humanize your cause and, by extent, your organization. Using thoughtful terminology and expressive imagery, you can accomplish this in the first few lines of your letter.
Your cause, not your organization, needs to be the center focus of your letter. Rather than asking the potential donor to give to your organization, you should instead appeal to their emotions and ask them to give to your cause.
This is because people donate in order to help with the world’s issues, not because they think your organization deserves it (even though it does.)
For example, instead of saying:
The Foundation for Equal Pay (example organization) needs your support!
You would write:
Your donation helps close the wage gap.
This emphasizes the fact that the donation directly benefits the cause. Clearly making this link in the introduction frames the context for the rest of the letter.
Your introduction is where you should inject your big-picture mission as well as stats that highlight the need for action. If applicable, this is also where you will reintroduce yourself to a past donor. Remind them of their last donation amount and explain the benefit it had.
The first paragraph of your end-of-year donation letter, just after the introduction, is where it will begin to deviate from other donation letters for other times of the year. There are essentially two ways to formulate your first paragraph to leverage the end-of-year spirit.
This tip is called "creating urgency", but many nonprofits find there is actually no need to create it. The end of the year is your last chance to fulfill your goals for the year. It is also the last chance for donors to secure any tax benefits for donation, according to 501(c)3 donation rules, before the fiscal year wraps up. Of course, this is not the primary reason people donate, but it certainly helps.
Creating urgency has been shown to increase your odds of securing a donation. This is because, in any persuasive endeavor like asking for donations or sales, the most common move of mental gymnastics that the prospect, or potential donor, performs is one of delay.
If someone does not donate to your cause, they are not thinking to themselves "You are never getting my money". They are thinking "I cannot or do not want to donate right now, but maybe later." Demonstrating the urgency of your cause tells them, subconsciously, "Sure, you could donate later. But look at how much better it would be to donate now!"
Pro Tip: One important thing to note is to not push creating urgency too far. There is a line between showing your potential donor the importance of acting fast, and appearing desperate or ill-motivated.
Employing the Holiday Spirit
The second way to leverage the end-of-season is to utilize the idea of "holiday spirit". The holidays are some of the most popular times to donate, in no small part because people are feeling more generous.
Nancy is ready to flex her holiday spirit in her donation letter!
A great way to participate in this generosity is to hold a year-end or holiday-related campaign. Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, this campaign should highlight your organization’s generosity, as well as your donors’.
Explain in your letter that you are hosting donation drives, fundraisers, and other events in order to fund a very special initiative for the holiday season. This reminds your potential donor of the generosity of the times, and shows them that your organization is already committing to giving.
Organization and Project Specifics
The second paragraph of your end-of-year donation letter should emphasize your organization’s story. This is where you shift the focus (slightly) to the group of people who are the most passionate about your work.
Note here that you are not diving into a "look at me" piece about your organization, but rather offering transparency into how the money raised will be used and distributed to those in need.
For example, instead of saying:
The Foundation for Equal Pay has the ability to change the world.
You would write:
Our team members have direct experience in the skills needed to solve this problem. All we need is a little help.
This again emphasizes the human side of the exchange and helps the donor gain clarity around how their donation will be used.
Always end your letter with a thank you and a call-to-action. Thanking someone in advance for their generosity, as well as for their consideration for your cause, is good form. It shows the potential donor that their time has been appreciated and that your team understands that they are very busy. It also gives you a place to recount your cause and its importance.
For example, instead of saying:
Underprivileged neighborhoods need your help in the fight for health and wellness.
You would write:
Thank you so much for helping underprivileged neighborhoods in the fight for health and wellness.
By working in your cause, you are wrapping up your message within the potential donor’s head in a way that centralizes it, rather than your organization and, by extension, the nitty-gritty of actually sending money.
By the end of your closing remarks, your potential donor should be ready to become an actual donor. Next, it is time for your call-to-action.
How To Write a Call-To-Action for Your End-of-Year Donation Letter
A call-to-action is exactly what it sounds like. It calls your donor to the action of sending money. Remember, by now your donor is ready and raring to help with your cause, so the call-to-action should be very clear and concise.
It is tempting here to continue expanding on your cause and your amazing team. Instead, infuse this passion with the rest of the letter, and leave the call-to-action alone to do its work. The CTA is a means to an end.
Of course, there are ways you can spice it up, which we will touch on a little later, but for right now, here are the basic steps to writing a call-to-action for an end-of-year donation letter:
Decide On Payment Formats
Before writing a CTA, you will need to know how your donor is actually going to pay. Accepting cash and checks is always good, but be sure to have an electronic method as well. If you have a nonprofit management software like Springly, this can be done very easily. If not, you can still set up a Paypal or Stripe account and accept cards through those.
Pro Tip: Note that Springly now has a free version of our software dedicated to payment.
Write a Few Versions of the CTA
Your goal in writing CTA is the ease of payment for your donor. This is called lowering the action threshold, or the amount of effort the donor has to put in to actually send payment.
This is why a CTA needs to be short and concise. If a donor meets a wall of text just before they send payment, it makes it that much more likely that they will put it to the side to deal with later, which opens up the chance that they will forget about it.
Focus On Visualization
The best CTAs are visual. If you are sending your end-of-year donation letter electronically, you can use a button rather than text or a simple link to draw the eye to the most important details.
If your donation letter is actually a letter, you can use colors and organizational branding to highlight the CTA.
Now that you have the structure down, it is time to employ some best practices and tips to really make your end-of-year donation letter sing.
Best Practices to Make Your Letter Stand Out
While the most important thing about your end-of-year donation letter is to highlight your cause and the need for funds, it is also a good idea to make a few tweaks and design decisions to improve your chances of success. Here are a few:
Emily is ready to dive into these best practices!
Give your audience a chance to interact by including a small task or activity along with your letter. (For example, ask them to give a stranger a compliment after they submit their donation).
Write about a person. Give a specific success story from your work.
Address the recipient by name.
Ask for a donation at least twice.
Include a signature line in the letter to show it comes from a person within your organization as opposed to the organization itself.
Visualize your recipient and imagine what would be most persuasive for them to read.
Include some creativity in your donation form. For example, include two options: "No, I do not want to donate." and "Yes, I would like to help!"
Use a larger envelope to draw attention to your letter against a stack of junk mail.
Include additional materials, such as a piece of cloth for a quilt or a picture of a beneficiary.
Print your letter on heftier paper.
Use a template to speed up the process.
Employing these tips will give your letter a competitive edge against the myriad other letters your donor is sure to receive during the holiday season.
Once you receive funds, be sure to include a thank you letter for donations as well as any donation receipts.
End-of-Year Donation Letter Examples
Here are some stellar end-of-year donation letter examples that show what a very effective letter should look like!
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
IFAW’s 2020 end-of-year donation email is a perfect example of creating urgency. The first words on the email are "time is running out!" The email also begins with a donate button CTA that makes it easy for donors to see where and how to give.
Massey Center’s end-of-year letter contained a small but heartfelt activity for donors to complete in order to humanize the process and provide a little more community for the cause. Included in the letter was a piece of paper with the signatures of all of the staff members at Massey, as well as a line for the donor to sign as well. What a great way to show that the community is just as important as the donations.
Source: Massey Center
Habitat for Humanity Williamson County
On the other end of the spectrum, Habitat for Humanity’s branch in Williamson County offered a simple letter with no fix-ins. All they did was demonstrate the need for funds, and what those funds have accomplished in the past.
Source: Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County
Baptist World Aid Australia
Baptist World Aid’s donation letter delivers a one-two punch of effective best practices. They open with a story of one of their beneficiaries and how the organization improved her life. Then, they offered to match all donations made by the donor.
Source: Baptist World Aid Australia
Solar Aid’s end-of-year donation campaign was actually a continuation of a past campaign. Earlier in the year, they sent a solar-powered light to any donors who gave a certain amount or higher. After a few months, they requested a photo of the donor using the light, as well as a description of how it helped them. This helps to build a relationship with people who may become long-time donors.
Source: Solar Aid
The end of the year is one of the most important times for a nonprofit. A disproportionately large amount of money is given during the last few weeks of the year, as nonprofits push to meet their goals.
By focusing on humanizing your message, and pushing the story of your goal, rather than your organization, you can create an effective end-of-year donation letter that communicates exactly what you need. Plus, applying the tips and tricks and following the examples above, you can ensure that your letter is as effective as possible.
Once you complete a successful end-of-year fundraising campaign, you should use nonprofit management software (like Springly!) to manage funds, automatically issue donation receipts, and keep track of expenses.
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💡What is an end of year donation letter?
An end-of-year donation letter is an appeal for funds that typically utilizes urgency or the holiday spirit in order to boost fundraising efforts. Find out more.
🔑 How can you make your donation letter stand out?
The primary way to make your donation letter stand out is to humanize the message. Focus on the success of your organization, rather than your organization itself. Focus on your beneficiaries and your cause. Find out more.
📝 How do you write an end of year donation letter?
Start with an engaging intro that tells a story and personalizes the appeal for the recipient. Then, dive into statistics and show the effectiveness of your previous fundraising campaigns. Finally, conclude your letter with an eye-catching call-to-action and by thanking the reader for their consideration. Find out more.