An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Year-end appeals

by Michael Burke

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the latest installment of "An insider's guide to funding afterschool," a blog series by Mike Burke, Director of Development at the Afterschool Alliance, featuring strategies to successfully fund and sustain out-of-school time programs. Check out the first, second, third and fourth installments.

As the calendar year draws to a close, many of you are busy with year-end fundraising campaigns. Because many people wait until December to make their tax-deductible donations, the year-end appeal is a great opportunity to engage your donors with highlights of the past year, as well as an opportunity to look forward to the coming year. If your afterschool program reached significant milestones, or has exciting plans to expand or begin a new initiative in the coming year, the year-end appeal is the perfect time to ask your donors to continue and/or increase their support.

In the digital age, there are many different approaches to how you can go about conducting your year-end appeal. Don’t discount the traditional direct-mail letter—it’s still an incredibly effective method for raising valuable funds. Some programs may opt instead to engage donors through email or social media.

Whether you are engaging your donors through direct-mail, via email, or using a combination of both, there are several key things to remember as you wrap up your year-end campaign.

Compare your year-end appeal to other campaigns

You’re probably receiving a lot of appeals from other organizations in both your mailbox and your email inbox. Take some time to examine their requests for support and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you like in their request for support?
  • Is there anything in their messaging that rubs you the wrong way?
  • Do you feel connected to their mission? If so, what makes their messaging effective? If not, what are they lacking?
  • What makes their appeal stand out from so many others?
  • The bottom line: Would you give to them?

Then, take what you’ve learned and use it to refine your own outreach.

Don’t limit yourself to a one-time request for support

Just because you have distributed your direct-mail letter or email does not mean you are finished with your year-end campaign. You have asked for support once—now ask again.

  • Many, if not MOST online donors wait until the last day or two of the tax year to make their donations. Make sure you have a “last minute” email ready for distribution, along with Facebook, Twitter and other social media solicitations planned for December 30 or December 31. It is important for donors to know on New Year’s Eve that they “still have time to support afterschool.”
  • Make sure that your “last minute” ask ties in to the messaging of your direct mail/email solicitation.

Stay in touch with your donors

Once you have acknowledged your donors for their 2016 gifts, make sure that you continue to engage them throughout the next year!

  • Make the most of your communications and social media tools to show your supporters how you are building upon the accomplishments of the past year.
  • Even the most committed donors can begin to reconsider their support if they feel they are becoming disconnected from either your program or your mission.

Donors today have practically an endless number of causes or organizations that they can choose to support. Making sure your donors stay connected to the mission and work of your program throughout the year is not only the best way to ensure that your year-end campaign is successful, but to keep your donors committed to your afterschool program over time. Remember, investing in donor engagement is much more valuable than trying to win them back once they feel disengaged.

Good luck to all of you with your year-end fundraising campaigns!

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance