Get ready for the holidays now

Here’s How to Start Your Christmas Now

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I know, Christmas marketing starts earlier every year. There’s something just annoying about that, if not actually wrong.

What I’m about to tell you might make it even worse.

But it will help you raise a lot more money in the last few weeks of this year. So I think you can put up with some pre-Christmas annoyance even earlier than usual this year.

Which is my point: You need to start your Christmas now!

I’m going to call this whole crazy thing “Christmas,” even though it’s only partly about Christmas, and for many people, it’s not about Christmas at all. But please be patient, because I want to give you something useful for your fundraising, even if you and your donors don’t celebrate Christmas in any of its many forms. And part of what can really improve your fundraising is Christmas Magic — or Christmas-like Magic.

Define “the Holidays” for your organization and your donors

The whole idea of what the Holidays are can be complicated. (Especially in the US, where it has been just a bit politicized).

So just to make it clear, I’m talking about the cluster of celebrations that happen in the month of December — and you must be crystal clear what that means for you and for your donors.

For some organizations, this is so easy you’re probably wondering why I bring it up. For you, it’s about Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you and your donors celebrate. It’s not so easy for everyone though. For you, it might just be “the Holidays,” because your donors celebrate a diverse range of December holidays. Or you might find you’re somewhere in the middle, where you talk about Christmas, but it’s more the not-so-religious version.

This is an important exercise, especially if it’s not obvious for your organization. Define it before you start the fundraising work. Know what you have in common with your donors, and then go for it!

Map out a cross-channel integrated plan for the months of November and December

Many fundraisers that do a lot with Christmas/Holidays start their campaigns in early November. That’s not too early. Here’s a potential line-up of direct-mail appeals (calibrated for US fundraisers, and for Christmas. Adjust accordingly for Hanukkah or other holidays):

  • Christmas appeal I: in-home date around November 15
  • Christmas appeal II: in-home date just after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas appeal III: in-home date about December 15
  • Year-End appeal: in-home date December 26-31

For email, you start later, deliver more frequently, and add a couple of unique twists, something like this:

  • Giving Tuesday: Tuesday after Thanksgiving (yes, this is a good thing to do)
  • Christmas I: around the same time as Christmas appeal III
  • Christmas II: about a week later
  • Christmas III: a few days after that
  • Year-End series: Email every day of the final week of the year, possibly skipping the weekend dates. Email twice on December 31 (Yes, really do this! It works)

This is the full deal. You may not have the budget or capacity to do all of these. Do as many as is realistic for your organization.

Get in the mood

Why Christmas/Holidays is such a strong season for charitable giving is they have deep emotional connections with most people — religious or not.

It’s important for a fundraiser to tap into that shared emotional life and do fundraising that’s different from other times of the year.

That can be a challenge now, in the depth of summer, when the weather is warm and you’re either just back from or about to leave for your vacation. It’s a little hard to remember what the Holiday season means on an emotional level.

So do what it takes to tap into what the season feels like. (More on this in a couple of weeks. Watch this blog!)

Get ahead of the game

It’s just smart to do your Holiday season work early. It helps you avoid errors that happen when you’re rushed. It helps you balance your budget through the end of the year. And when something unusual happens during the season itself, you’ll be better positioned to respond — because the foundation of your work will already be done.

Happy Holidays!

If you’d like to learn more about how you can dramatically increase your direct mail income, check out my online course 7 Steps To Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail (Without spending more time or money!). You will be able to access this and all of our other courses when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

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