10 Ways to Maximize Holiday Giving Online

As nonprofit professionals know, holiday giving is no picnic.

The prevalence of online fundraising and growing popularity of #GivingTuesday have only galvanized nonprofits to maximize holiday giving online.

The value of holiday giving campaigns cannot be overstated: Around 30 percent of annual online gifts are made in December and donors give 80 percent larger gifts on average in December.

In this Golden Age of online giving, a little planning can go a long way. A successful holiday campaign will give your organization deep roots from which to grow in the New Year.

Here are 10 ways to maximize holiday giving online, so your organization can make the most of 2015.

1. Customize

The Internet is a beautiful thing, it really is. In fact, beauty has never been more accessible. Web applications allow you to brand and customize your website, donation pages, and social media profiles in ways that had previously been unimaginable to someone with no technical or design skills.

In fact, the ability to easily build a brand identity has made your life as a fundraiser or marketer better. How? Custom-branded donation pages raise six times more dollars than generic pages (and average larger gifts than generic pages). You’re able to build a recognizable brand across channels.

During the holidays you can really maximize the power of consistent messaging and branding by creating a donation page tailored for your year-end campaign.

Tips and tricks: 

  • If you’re making email appeals (you should be), carry over the email’s aesthetics and language to the unique donation page.
  • Highlight donors’ impact by stating:
    • Your campaign goal
    • The impact of a donation (e.g. $20 provides 10 meals)
    • Any matching partnerships you might have going on. People love to see their donations go further than they expected!

2. Mobilize 

Consider these two statistics:

  • 66 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device
  • 80 percent of people will delete emails not optimized for mobile

To maximize holiday giving online, you’ll need to employ email marketing for donation appeals, so make sure you’re ready to take on the itty-bitty inbox.

Tips and tricks:

  • Use an email marketing service that offers mobile-friendly email templates.
  • Limit subject lines to 35 characters or less.
  • Make those “Donate Now” call-to-actions large and clickable. As we all know too well, thumbs have a really hard time with small links!

3. Compartmentalize

Remember, your donors shouldn’t just be lumped into one big group. They’re individuals with different preferences and attributes. Some give monthly, some yearly, some volunteer with you, and others donate only to specific programs.

It’s more important than ever to use a service like Constant Contact to segment your contacts into lists that will each receive special treatment.

By personalizing your end-of-year appeals, you’ll be able to maximize holiday giving because you’ll be able to speak to your donor’s individual relationship with your organization.

Tips and tricks:

  • Demonstrate the impact a donor’s level of engagement has created. In other words, a message to a long-time volunteer should differ from someone who donated $10 eight months ago.
  • Send online holiday giving appeals to all donors. For example, don’t be afraid to contact your recurring donors for an extra contribution during the holidays. You’ll be surprised at people’s generosity, especially when you speak to them personally and genuinely.

4. Serialize

Most of us probably know this scenario too well: you open an email but can’t respond right away and, even if unintentionally, you completely forget about it. To maximize the success of your holiday giving campaign, don’t send only one email. An M&R Strategic Services study concluded that a 2-3 part email series had four times the response rate and almost double the average donation size of single email appeals.

Tips and tricks:

  • Try splitting your series like you would a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. For your email campaign’s purpose, this translates to: a campaign announcement, campaign progress message, and final push appeal.
  • Each email should include:
    • A visual component – this might be your campaign-branded banner, an explainer video, or a photo of your work in the field
    • Short, but compelling, copy about your holiday campaign and why the reader should take action
    • A bold-colored, very clickable call-to-action button

5. Visualize

A surefire, straightforward way to maximize online holiday giving?

Appeal to the senses. Visual content, like photos and video, are easily digestible, emotionally accessible, and extremely compelling.

Reading blocks upon blocks of text might be fine if we’re relaxing on the couch on a rainy day, but for the most part people are on the move and won’t have the time and patience to read your organization’s manifesto before deciding to donate to your holiday fundraising campaign.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Include a video in your email appeals and/or on your campaign page. Kickstarter noted that 54 percent of projects that included a video were successful, compared to 39 percent of those that didn’t include a video.
  • Create social media and donation page banners that are branded specifically for your online holiday giving campaign.

6. Energize

Did you know? In 2012 and 2013, 10 percent of all annual donations were made in the last three days of the year. If you really want to maximize holiday giving online, you have to maintain your campaign’s momentum through those 3 critical days.  Here’s how.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Utilize that final push email we talked about in #4 to make a last minute appeal to supporters.
  • Highlight how close you are to your campaign goal and emphasize that every dollar counts.
  • Demonstrate the impact a donation will have on your organization’s mission.
  • Ask your most dedicated supporters (power fundraisers, board members, volunteers and large donors) to share your cause and get the word out.

7. Socialize

Last year, online giving during #GivingTuesday — the national giving day that follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday — nearly doubled compared to 2012. Additionally, the average online gift size during #GivingTuesday was 40 percent larger year-over-year ($142.05 compared with $101.60).

This is, in no small part, due to the campaign’s social media powerhouse. #GivingTuesday experienced a 468 percent increase in tweets between 2012 and 2013. On December 3rd alone 293,770 tweets carried the #GivingTuesday hashtag!

The point? Social media does really play a big part in encouraging people to share causes and participate in philanthropy.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Create a special hashtag for your holiday campaign.
  • Do some solid planning and kickoff your holiday campaign with #GivingTuesday.
  • Engage donors through social channels by thanking them for their support, calling out stellar fundraisers, or announcing donation matching programs.
  • Include your campaign hashtag and social share buttons with each email appeal you send during your campaign.

8. Recognize

It goes without saying that organizations should always thank and recognize donors for their support. Likely, you send an automated thank you email immediately after a donation is made, but don’t forget about that donor just yet. You’ll want to send another, more personal thank you message after your holiday campaign comes to a close.

Demonstrating gratitude to supporters isn’t just polite; it strengthens connections to your organization, reduces donor attrition and, according to one study, can contribute to a person’s future generosity.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Use an email marketing client like Constant Contact to segment your online holiday campaign donors so you can send them a relevant thank you message that outlines the impact of their donation.
  • If you’re utilizing peer-to-peer fundraising, call out your top fundraisers and send them a personal message that highlights how important their hard work was to your campaign’s success.

9. Analyze

Take every campaign as an opportunity to learn and improve. Gathering, tracking, and analyzing data from your online giving campaign today — from email open and click-through rates to social shares to donor acquisition rates — will give you the insight you need to run a better, bigger, more successful campaign tomorrow.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Track year-over-year performance during the holiday season.
  • Really pay attention to donor churn in the New Year. If you lose a lot of newly acquired donors in 2015, you may need to take a hard look at your communication strategy.
  • Try experimenting with email subject lines, messaging, and email send times throughout the year so that when it comes down to planning your online holiday giving campaign, you have an idea of what works and what doesn’t for your audience. Make sure you also analyze the results of your email campaigns during your holiday campaign.

10. Utilize

Around 60-70 percent of an organization’s new donors won’t give again next year.

53 percent of donors who leave an organization do so because of the organization’s poor communication.

Scary stuff.

End of the year campaigns are a critical time to raise more money and reach new audiences, both of which can seriously contribute to an organization’s year-over-year growth.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Don’t forget about holiday campaign supporters — remain connected with them in the New Year
  • Ask for feedback about their experience giving to your organization online, so you can maximize online giving for all future campaigns.
  • Keep your organization’s blog and social media channels up-to-date so donors don’t feel like you’ve run off with their money and aren’t living up to your campaign’s promises.


If you utilize these 10 tips to maximize holiday giving online, you will be opening up an opportunity to grow your organization and connect with new audiences in meaningful ways.

As online giving continues to boom, it isn’t to be taken lightly that the supporters you reach during an online fundraising campaign are excited to contribute through your online portals, respond to your email appeals, and share your message on social media. They’re brand ambassadors and cause evangelists that can really empower your organization to work towards its mission in 2015.

Maximizing holiday giving online isn’t just about the now; it’s about future.

Welcome, the modern nonprofit.

Do you have additional tips for holiday fundraising? Let us know in the comments below. 

About the Author: Terri is currently a marketing associate at Classy and the editor of the company’s blog. She spent the previous year as a co-founder of a Start Up Chile company, (attempting to build) a software product for nonprofit organizations to map and visualize their impact. Terri maintains a strong interest in and passion for activism, electronic music, traveling, political economics and amplifying social impact through technological innovation. Terri has also written on politics, music and technology in various publications

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