If you’re contemplating a Thanksgiving fundraising appeal, you may be wondering how to compete with the media noise of the holiday season. This is a crucial time for fundraising because 30% of annual giving happens in December, but it’s also a time when your audience is most overwhelmed by sales and nonprofit messaging.

You need to find a way to connect quickly with potential donors and inspire them to make a donation. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for gratitude messaging — people are in a giving mind-frame, and you can incorporate the Giving Tuesday program into your campaign. 

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Elements of a great message

To craft an effective Thanksgiving fundraising appeal message, focus on three things:

  1. Gratitude (yours or your donors’) 
  2. Need
  3. Hope 

Donors like to feel appreciated and know that their contributions make a difference. Show them gratitude and tell them exactly how their gifts are needed and used to establish meaningful relationships. You can build on those connections for continued donations that will support your organization long-term.

Gratitude

How often do you send uplifting messages to your donors without asking for anything from them? At most organizations, development staff are stretched thin and prioritize results, meaning that most communication has a donation request attached.

Thanksgiving gives you a chance to strengthen connections to your donor base. When they know what their donations are achieving and how they are changing people’s lives for the better, it gives them a positive feeling. Sharing individual stories and images in addition to numbers and statistics means that you will appeal to a wider audience.

You can also use your Thanksgiving fundraising appeal to remind your donors of the abundance in their lives. Studies show that feelings of gratitude can cause people to feel more generous, so encouraging your donors to reflect on giving thanks can improve your results.

Be mindful of your tone, however, as it can easily discourage givers. You want to lead them into warm feelings, not create negative ones about their blessings.

Need

Donors will be more trusting of your organization and more inclined to contribute when you answer these questions about your campaign:

  • What is the problem you’re working to solve?
  • How much money do you need?
  • How will your organization use these funds to solve the problem?

While you want to avoid over-informing potential donors, you should provide a detailed outline of what their money will do for your organization. You can also include volunteer opportunities that will help people to understand that the needs go beyond the financial.

Hope

Thanksgiving fundraising appeal
Women for Women International’s homepage promises sustainable hope in the form of “a yearlong training program that gives her the tools she needs to support her children and transform her life forever.”

What is the vision of a sustainable future for which your organization is aiming? Be sure to include that hopeful ideal in your messaging by using powerful language and images. This assures donors that there is a purpose to their giving and that there are real benefits to those contributions.

Thanksgiving fundraising appeal scripts

You can use these scripts for your fundraising messages, either in single messages or an automated email series over the holiday period. All of them use the formula of gratitude + need + hope and can be designed using any Constant Contact email template.

Example #1

Dear _________,

During this Thanksgiving season, we are reflecting on how grateful we are to have a life filled with [things your organization provides for clients].

Every day, we meet people who are living in very different circumstances. We are honored to help them meet their needs through the support of donors like you.

[You might include a brief story of an individual here, if appropriate.]

This holiday season, we are hoping to raise $[XXX] so that we can provide [what] to [whom] over the next [period of time].

We’re participating in #givingtuesday — a day set aside to balance the commercialism of the holiday season with the spirit of pure giving. Some of our donations will be matched that day by [matching donors], so your impact could be doubled.

Can you help? Even small donations matter a great deal in this campaign.

With your help, we can [your hope/vision for the future]. Thank you so much for your support. 

Sincerely,

[Your signature]

[Organization]

Example #2

Happy Thanksgiving, ________!

Our entire staff and volunteers want to express thanks for your support in our efforts to [what you do]. Over the past year, we’ve been able to [list some acccomplishments]. Without supporters like you, we wouldn’t be able to do this work.

In the coming [time period or holiday], we hope to [express specific hope]. To make that happen, we need to raise $[XXX].

[Spell out what you hope to accomplish — tell a story or paint an image of the future you imagine being able to create].

If each of our donors can give $[XX] or more, we can make this happen. Will you help?

In Gratitude,

[Your signature]

[Organization]

More holiday fundraising ideas

Thanksgiving fundraising appeal
Giving Tuesday takes place the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is meant to offset the commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.‌

Some organizations raise the bulk of their annual needs on this day by taking advantage of matching fund offers and other Giving Tuesday resources. Since it’s such a big topic within the nonprofit industry, you might be surprised to learn that most of your donors have never heard of Giving Tuesday. Educating your donors is an opportunity to generate warm feelings about giving. Consider messages like:‌

  • Giving Tuesday was created to bring back the spirit of giving in the holidays.
  • Giving Tuesday offers a wonderful opportunity to show gratitude for the abundance in your life. 
  • Keep the spirit of giving alive during the holiday season by honoring the Giving Tuesday tradition.

‌‌Some charities spread their campaign strategically over the holiday weekend, alternating messages of pure gratitude for Thanksgiving with donation requests leading up to Giving Tuesday. Others blend the two holidays in their messaging. ‌One important thing to note about Giving Tuesday is that there are many fund-matching opportunities available to charities on this date. Facebook has historically done some fund-matching for campaigns run on the platform, and there may be matching grants available specifically for your organization’s mission.

The holiday season is also a great time to host a sponsored event, either to thank your donors and connect them to your mission or to offer silent auction items for holiday shopping.

You might also create a special page for gift donations and include services like sending the gift recipient a beautiful card acknowledging the gift.

Start your Thanksgiving appeal today

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reach out to your audience. As we’ve discussed, an ideal campaign will combine the theme of gratitude with a description of your need and a clear image of what you hope to accomplish with your donors’ help.

Get started by designing your own email campaign, adapting the gratitude + need + hope theme to your organization’s mission. And, if you haven’t checked out The Download, Constant Contact’s online marketing guide for community services, be sure to look it over. You’ll find lots of ideas to help you to do more good work in the world.