3 Super Simple End of Year Data Driven Fundraising Tactics (with Examples)

If you read the entirety of this blog post and follow the steps outlined, you will feel more prepared, organized and ready to dive into the busiest (and potentially most hectic) fundraising quarter of the year.

data driven fundraising tactics

Is August 8th too early to be thinking about end of year fundraising? Yes, no, maybe so? Some might argue it’s too late.

Regardless of how you answer the question, it’s important to realize that December 31 will be here sooner rather than later, and with that, so will the end of 2017. Any and all fundraising goals you had for the calendar year will have either been met, surpassed or failed to have been achieved.

Whew. End of year is a fun time.

With that in mind, prioritizing your time as a busy nonprofit professional becomes even more important during this final stretch. And if you ask me, August 8th isn’t too early to start thinking strategically about where your time should be allocated.

I’ve written in the past about tools that can help make you more productive, and the simple “three ways” you can actually raise more money, but today I will strive to be a bit more specific with my help. Less theory, more practicality. Where tools are nice and strategies to raise funds are important, what we will focus on today are actual data driven fundraising tactics. We’ll walk through three, step-by-step examples of different tactics you should act on now and continue executing through the end of the year.

If you read the entirety of this blog post and follow the steps outlined, you will feel more prepared, organized and ready to dive into the busiest (and potentially most hectic) fundraising quarter of the year.

Ready? Let’s go.


It’s important to know that the tactics we are about to cover are not for every organization. I don’t want to waste your time, so please make sure your organization has these two simple prerequisites before you continue reading:

  1. You have a donor database (i.e. Excel spreadsheet, NeonCRM, Raiser’s Edge, etc.) with at least 3 years of donation data
  2. You have a Fundraising Report Card® Pro account

That’s it.

Tactic #1

Which donors are on the verge of lapsing? No, that isn’t a rhetorical question, I’m being genuine. From your database, which donors are on the verge of lapsing this year?

It’s August 8th. That means we have a few more months before the calendar year is over. Which donors from your database donated in the last calendar year, but have yet to renew through August 8th of this year? This is the first segment of people we’ll want to target.

Soon-to-be lapsed, or as I will refer to them from time to time, at-risk donors are going to be the centerpiece of your first (and primary) end of year fundraising tactic. You may read myriad blog posts that give you the best advice on how to write a strong end of year appeal (and that is well and good), but what we are going to focus on is how you prioritize your time to make sure donations come in before time runs out.

Our goal is to easily identify five people you can pick up the phone and call today. To do that, follow the simple steps below.

Action items:

  1. Configure your Fundraising Report Card® and go to your “lapsed dashboard”
  2. Click on the $5,000+ segment for 2017 and click “export these donors”
  3. Review their profiles in your database or CRM and then engage these donors

lapsed donor data driven fundraising tactic

Seriously, it’s that simple. Point, click, engage. That will be the theme of our end of year data driven fundraising tactics.

Year end fundraising tactics need to be quick, easy and produce little “wins.” That’s exactly what segmentation and prioritization is all about. The goal is to help you focus in on the right donor at the right time.

For help thinking strategically about engaging with these lapsed donors, consider reading these blog posts:

Tactic #2

Lapsed donors are important, but what about downgraded donors? Individuals who made contributions last year, but have yet to renew at the same level this year are the second segment of donors on whom we’ll focus.

Again, we are at the beginning of August. That means your downgraded donors have a few more months to match (and hopefully give more than) last year’s total. Point, click and export the downgraded donors from your top giving level segment just like we did with lapsed donors.

downgraded donor data driven fundraising tactic

Unlike lapsed donors, less content is available online regarding downgraded donors.

Yet, with that being said, this article from the Sharpe Group is worth referencing:

Tactic #3

Upgraded donors (the opposite of downgraded donors) are the third segment worth devoting your time to come end of year. Think about it for a moment— these are donors who have already increased their giving year over year, and it’s only August. Wow.

You may be thinking, “My job is done here, why would I further engage these folks? They’ve already upgraded,” but that’s the exact reason you should engage with them. The simple and blunt question, “Why have you increased your giving this year?” will not only be informative, it could be transformative.

You can, and should, use the information you glean from your upgraded donors when you engage with your soon-to-be lapsed and downgraded donors. After talking with your upgraded donors you’ll be able to answer the question, “What did we do (if anything) that compelled our donors to give more.” Then you can use that information in future engagements.

Again, just like before: point, click and engage.

upgraded donor data driven fundraising tactic

Many thought leaders, bloggers, and nonprofit professionals have their advice on how to upgrade more donors.

A few articles I find helpful are:

Pro tip: Don’t worry about these segments of donors from a “fiscal year” perspective. Your donors don’t know or care that your organization runs on a fiscal year. Lapsed “fiscal year” donors will be interesting for boardroom discussions but not super actionable, especially at the end of the calendar year.

Applying this at your shop

Hopefully you’ll agree that the data driven tactics above are pretty straightforward. If you meet the prerequisites outlined at the beginning of this post, you have a powerful game plan at your fingertips. Now’s the time to put it to work.

If nothing else, hopefully this article inspired you to with the following:

  • Technology exists to help you be more productive. You don’t need to spend a week making pivot tables in order to keep tabs on specific segments of donors. Use existing technology and tools to help.
  • Think about end of year well before the end of the year. As we get closer and closer to December 31, you’ll want to track these metrics and segments to make sure you are making progress. Do that monthly to stay on track.
  • Get others involved. Share your tactics with colleagues and coworkers so that you have a wider reach and greater effect for the organization. For instance, share a specific segment of downgraded donors with a volunteer for them to make phone calls. This frees up your time and ensures these donors are receiving outreach.

If you’ve made it this far and you’re interested in applying these data driven fundraising tactics, that’s great. Want some more help on how to do it?

Schedule a time to chat with me. I’ll help you get setup and ready to go.

3 thoughts on “3 Super Simple End of Year Data Driven Fundraising Tactics (with Examples)”

  1. Hi Zach! I’m such a huge fan of the Fundraising Report Card and your posts! They are timely, useful and always relevant. For customers that have both the FRC and also are customers of Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud, Inc. I’d recommended following your suggestions and filter lapsed and downgraded donor list to concentrate on records with the highest likelihood to make an annual gift to your organization. Organizations can save money but not soliciting records with poor likelihood. Using the assigned next ask amount or target gift range provides guidance in the right annual gift range. These strategies together will increase income, reduce the cost to raise a dollar and raise the average annual gift amount per donor. No matter what third-party partner organizations use there are likely better identified records to solicit over others. All of these strategies together are a Win-Win in my book!

  2. Zach, this is a timely and excellent blog. Nonprofits are busy and there is so much that demands of the time from the staff. It is imperative to get on the tactics you are proposing as soon as possible and not wait any longer. Obviously, every thing should be done in a thoughtful and methodical manner. Thanks.

  3. Your report card is a great example of descriptive analytics, what has happened. Without both predictive and prescriptive data sets nonprofit professionals are reacting to future realities instead of impacting the future. Anyone focused solely on year end reactions instead of reframing the mindset within the donor base is metaphorically on the hamster wheel. This traditional data lens is precisely why donor retention has not really moved in over a decade. Tracking only transactions limits managements view of designing strategy. I have learned first hand that using other data sets, outside the traditional, and implementing year end strategy a year in advance is the only real way to truly create the success we all want. The experience of moving donor retention over 95% taught me that moving past the traditional metrics and benchmarking was the only way to create the desired outcomes.

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