Year-End Giving

Your Complete Guide to Year-End Giving Campaigns

Scott E. Mills Scott E. Mills
Nov 2021

Your Complete Guide to Year-End Giving Campaigns
Year-End Giving can be a stressful time for nonprofit organizations. For a good reason! If you look at year-end giving trends, more than 20% of annual giving occurs in December. From Turkey Trots and Giving Tuesday to food & clothing drives and everything in between, year-end is popular for bringing communities together, and helping those in need. Many people are also looking to make last-minute donations to qualify for a tax deduction.

Do you have a plan in place and the necessary tools to maximize this year’s giving season for your organization? Below, we’ve outlined six critical items you should consider for closing your end-of-year giving campaign on a high note.

Did you know that in-person races cost approximately 52 cents for each dollar they fundraise? Virtual races in comparison only cost around 15 cents on a dollar raised.

Interested in starting a virtual race?

6 Tips to Consider When Deciding on Year-End Giving Campaigns

  1. Review your previous Year-End Giving Campaigns.
    COVID-19 pandemic hit nonprofit organizations hard, with many forced to make challenging staffing and compensation decisions. According to the BDO, 75% nonprofits reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted revenues and funding. That’s why we suggest looking back at your year-end campaigns for the last few years to get a better idea of which strategies and tactics best helped your organization achieve your fundraising goals pre and during COVID-19. Key questions to ask include:

    -Funds raised and contributors?
    -Did it meet your expectations?
    -Which strategies and/or campaigns got a maximum response?
    -Did response vary based on demographics?
    -Which campaigns weren’t successful, and why?
  2. Analyze your organization’s financial health and budget.
    Assess whether your financial situation has changed since last year, and how close are you to meeting your financial goals for this year? This will help you understand how much (or how little) to invest in email/mail solicitations, marketing, and other strategies to drive fundraising. When we meet with clients, we advise them to set realistic but aspirational financial goals. This opens the door to trying new fundraising ideas – like Virtual Races - that may have laid dormant for years, maybe because of a risk-averse board or one set on running the same campaign year-in and year-out.
  3. Evaluate fundraising scenarios and stay nimble with your approach.
    Consider all your fundraising opportunities and compare those on a similar basis: Feasibility, Investment (both monetary and staff time), Ease of execution, Capabilities (technology support, marketing, etc.), Financial outcomes (net profits, return-on-investment, etc.). Doing so will give you a better (read: realistic) view of the opportunities at hand. This could weed out some fundraising campaigns that would probably fall short of community engagement and/or are too costly to set up for very little return. For example - should you invest 2 months and 25 thousand dollars that can potentially bring in 75 thousand dollars in revenue, or invest 1 week and 6 thousand dollars that is capable of fundraising 60 thousand dollars? A scenario evaluation will allow you to make informed and sound asset allocation (cash and staff time) decisions for your organization.
  4. Tailor campaigns for different demographics and center on what matters to your community.
    Creating a strong sense of community adds real value to our lives. Nonprofit organizations play a critical role in helping influence how people feel and interact in their communities. We suggest running campaigns that resonate with the demographic, which may mean creating different campaigns for each. A donor segmentation model can help determine which campaign is likely to have the most success. Additionally, consider the willingness to give for different donor segments and create a fundraising plan that has clear gives and gets for each of these segments. For example - Students may only be able to donate a small amount but can be instrumental in making your fundraising campaign go viral and reach more small-dollar donors.
  5. Start the planning process EARLY!
    There’s nothing wrong with starting your year-end giving planning in March or April. We encourage it! However, all too many nonprofits (over 50%) end up scrambling in November and December to meet their fundraising targets. Start early to beat the rush of emails people receive in the later months. Don’t let November roll around to start engaging with your donors about upcoming campaigns for Giving Tuesday or holiday giving opportunities. Give them ample time to prepare or register for your event, and ask their friends and family for donations.
  6. Try Something New
    As goes the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”. During Year-End Giving season most people get inundated with solicitations, invitations to galas, item requests for holiday auctions, and so on. So how do you ensure your year-end fundraising campaign stands out? Well, one way of doing so is to tailor all year-end campaigns to and around your mission. For example - don’t just host “a” gala, or “a” 5K .. rather have your mission shine through these events. This could mean a “walk/run around the zoo premises” for a local zoo or a “science day gala” for a school or university. Think about what makes your organization unique, and carry that theme across the event - from invitations to registrations, to giveaways and more.

The Growing Popularity of Virtual Races

Virtual Races have not only gained popularity among people looking for their next fitness challenge, they're also proving to be highly cost-effective and successful events for nonprofit organizations. For a good reason as they are:
  1. Quick to set up – save months of staff time and start your race in just days.
  2. Scalable – invite participants without hitting any capacity constraints.
  3. Affordable – Virtual Races costs around 15-20% of a comparable physical race.
  4. Efficient – spend 15 cents on a dollar raised versus 52 cents.
  5. Accessible – rally a global audience to get fit and give back.
Dollar for dollar, virtual races are super affordable, making them a terrific option for nonprofits with small budgets. Large and mid-size nonprofit organizations also see excellent returns on virtual race investments.


Successful fundraising at year-end requires analysis, thoughtful planning, and execution. Running fundraising events has never been easy - from managing event logistics, participant recruitment, and corporate sponsors to building a robust peer-to-peer channel. You could run many types of campaigns to connect to your donors and community and meet your fundraising goals this year. Our virtual race and online wellness campaigns have created “new blood” for new volunteers or donors in their community. For those thinking about incorporating new ideas into your year-end fundraising efforts, we invite you to get in touch with us today to learn more about Virtual Races and Get Fit. Give Back!

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