Year-End 2016: Lessons Learned

Lessons_Learned.jpgThe last week of the year is the biggest week for direct response fundraising, especially digital, and 2016 was no exception. Across the board, CCAH clients outraised previous year-end campaigns and beat revenue goals. Here are a few of our lessons learned from digital year-end 2016 that can be utilized to boost your campaigns during all of 2017.

Multichannel Is A Must

It’s been an industry trend over the last couple of years to see email money go down at year-end while web money is on the rise. This means your web, social, and ad strategies are just as important as your email strategy. Make sure your website is ready—have a lightbox, a donation ask prominently featured on your homepage, and other high traffic pages, as well as changing your main web donate forms to campaign specific forms. Try testing a homepage takeover or full interruption page against a lightbox–make sure to measure your bounce rates, as well as your donations. And finally, any matches, goal amounts, and other special offers need to be consistent across all channels.

Content Is Still The Queen

You can have the best strategized campaign ever conceived, but if you don’t give your donors a compelling reason to give it won’t matter. Make sure you have great creative—countdown clocks, a match, a goal, and well written copy. And make sure that your creative is emotionally compelling, urgent, and, lets the donor know WHY your organization is the best place to donate to.

Timing Matters

Get it done in advance: Year-end is a stressful time for fundraisers. One week could make or break your revenue goals for an entire fiscal year. But most of your team is away for holiday celebrations, and mailers can get clogged. Do as much as you can in advance, including writing and approving copy, producing your emails, and scheduling them to launch. That way during the last week of the year you’re free to do the fun stuff, like refreshing your donation and email performance reports.

Messaging cadence: Every nonprofit is fundraising—and fundraising aggressively—during the last week of the year, so your messaging cadence can have a huge impact on whether or not your appeals are seen. Most audiences can handle multiple emails in one day, emails almost every day in the last week, as well as several social posts a day. Monitoring response rates and unsubscribe rates will help you determine when you are messaging too much.


You most likely have folks on your email list that you don’t send every appeal to: sustainers, major donors, very recent donors and that’s a good thing. But year-end is not the time to be shy. These audiences can be very generous, and can outperform your normal segments. Include them in your highest performing sends—like on 12/31—with special versioning that thanks them for their dedication to your organization, and explains why they are receiving an extra solicitation.


Getting caught in a SPAM filter is a major concern year round, but that worry definitely spikes during the last week of the year. Maintaining email hygiene and best practices year round—and throughout year-end—is your best defense against SPAM. But there are several factors that are out of your control. Sending an increased volume of email will naturally result in more spam complaints. It is also important to remember that most nonprofits email using a shared IP address, rather than a dedicated one. Because of this, your deliverability may be impacted by the behavior of another organization. If you have questions about whether or not you’re emailing using a shared IP, check in with your eCRM or mailer.

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