Annual Campaign Fundraising 101 Fundraising Plans

How to Build Your Year-End Prospect List

Last week, my colleague Lisa wrote about how to build a timeline for your year-end campaign strategy. A well-developed plan and timeline is key to a successful year-end strategy, as half of annual giving still happens at the end of the year, with 12% happening in the last 3 days

Your year-end fundraising strategy might include a combination of direct mail, digital fundraising, Giving Tuesday, and phone, zoom or face-to-face solicitations. That being said, did you know direct mail is still the most popular vehicle for year-end giving? Meaning your mailing list is crucial to bringing in year-end revenue. 

So whether you start planning today or December 1st (which we don’t recommend!), building your prospect list is often the most cumbersome task, so let’s chat today about how to tackle it.

Maximize direct mail ROI by mailing to the right people

Let’s first discuss who should be on the list. Since large direct mail initiatives can get expensive quickly, be strategic about who you plan to include in the mailing to maximize your ROI. I like to focus year-end mailing efforts on donor retention and donor recapture, with a small dose of qualified prospect solicitations mixed in. Basically, and this is going to sound simple, but I recommend that you only mail to people who are very likely to respond! Consider excluding groups like deeply lapsed donors (5+ years since their last gift), cold prospects and long ago event attendees or volunteers, as they would benefit from a more tailored cultivation strategy. 

Pull in the right information to support your campaign strategy

Once you have your list criteria built, spend some time thinking about what fields of information you want to include. Name and address is a given, but be sure to include each constituent’s preferred mailing salutations, nicknames, email address, phone number, amount of their last gift, and any information on how they engaged with your nonprofit in the last year. This will help you customize their solicitation letters, tailor this year’s ask, and lead us to the next step: segmentation. 

Segment your list for personal, compelling solicitations

If your data can support it, segment your list so you can personalize solicitations as much as possible. Segmentation is the process of grouping similar groups of donors together, based on shared attributes, so you can customize messages to them during the campaign. This is key to seeing the revenue roll in! Start with a general campaign message, and layer in personalization to each donor group. Consider the following segments as you tailor communications:

  • Current donors (this year and last year)
  • One-time only donors (who have less than a 20% retention rate)
  • Lapsed supporters or LYBUNTs (donors who gave Last Year But Not This Year)
  • Prospects (qualified through a board member or research)

There are many ways to segment your donor list, so consider your overarching strategy and bandwidth to determine how much customization you can realistically execute. Today’s freebie will help you start the segmentation process.

Dirty data does not drive revenue

Now for the fun part… list clean up. Spend the time now running your list through NCOA to eliminate old/bad addresses. Make sure all of your salutations are accurate and spelling is correct, as we all know any misspelled names or simple typos will land your mailing directly in the trash. You can also consider removing foundations, corporations and businesses without contacts. This process can be tedious, but will ensure a successful return on your appeal investment. (Hot tip: Build in a mechanism for updating this data in your database directly so your information is fresh moving forward.)

Since it’s only July and you are now ahead of the game, you still have time to incorporate stewardship as a part of your year-end campaign strategy. Make sure every single donor from last year has been thanked, knows the impact of their last gift and feels connected to your organization before you send them another solicitation. Then, put your plan into action!

Ready to get started? Download this worksheet to help you strategize ways to segment your list and target your outreach accordingly.