Those holidays that don’t inspire donors to give

Coming up in a couple weeks is a very special day: Universal Children’s Day (November 20). It’s recognized around the world, a really big deal, at least in some circles.

But Universal Children’s Day is not a reason almost any donor will ever give. If you have fundraising out there right now built on the assumption that people will give because of the day, you may have an unpleasant surprise awaiting you.

My past is littered with miserably failed awareness-day appeals. And I’m not the only one. Clairification, at Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal notes that awareness days rarely work as a fundraising topic.

(That doesn’t mean you should not raise funds on or near important awareness days — it just means you’d better make your appeal strong on its own merits, because the proximity of the Day is not going to carry weight for you.

Here are a couple of other days Clairification notes don’t work to motivate giving:

  • Mother’s Day. Yep; I’ve tried and tried, and haven’t yet pulled it off. It seems like it should work. Let me know if you’ve done it!
  • Your organization’s anniversary. Just don’t! Nobody cares, other than everyone you work with.

Here are some holidays that do add power to a fundraising message:

  • Thanksgiving. In the US; Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving several weeks earlier, and it is not a strong fundraising occasion.
  • Christmas / The Holidays. That is, both the religious version of Christmas and the secular version, as well as a cluster of other holidays that happen around that time.

Then there are holidays that work for specific organizations:

  • Jewish holidays for Jewish organizations. Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur in the Fall and Passover in the Spring.
  • Easter for Christian organizations.

Beyond that, it gets very specific. I learned a few years ago that for organizations connected with US Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Birthday (November 10) is a huge deal, highly motivating for their donors. There are other holidays like that for other specific groups of donors.

Here’s the principle for holiday fundraising:

To be a donor-moving occasion, it needs to be deeply emotional to the donor you’re connecting with. With associated traditions, foods, and childhood memories. That’s why Awareness Days don’t do the job.

As with all fundraising, you always do better when you enter the donor’s world than when you try to pull the donor into your world.

Happy holidays!


Comments

2 responses to “Those holidays that don’t inspire donors to give”

  1. Thanks for the shout out. I think the thing about most ‘holidays’ is being donor-centered. If it’s a holiday your donor celebrates and cares about, you’ve got a much better chance than trying a holiday that’s not even on their radar. (That being said, I still don’t understand why Mother’s Day has never worked for me) 😉

  2. Thanks for the shout out. I think the thing about most ‘holidays’ is being donor-centered. If it’s a holiday your donor celebrates and cares about, you’ve got a much better chance than trying a holiday that’s not even on their radar. (That being said, I still don’t understand why Mother’s Day has never worked for me) 😉

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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