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Holidays That Boost Donor Giving — and the Rest You Can Ignore

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I don’t want to dis on Valentine’s Day, but just a week later on February 23, it’s International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day. And if you can stand all the excitement, February 26 is National Pistachio Day in the US, and February 28 is Rare Disease Day USA.

I’m not telling you this in order to mock these awareness holidays. There are no doubt quality nonprofit organizations that use these days to raise funds and/or awareness for their issues. More power to ’em!

But if they try to use those celebrated-by-almost-nobody holidays as reasons for donors to give, they will almost surely fail.

Made-up “holidays” are almost never reasons people give.

In fact, if you’re saying, “Give to help kids get good dental care because this is Children’s Dental Health Month” — you have a non-starter on your hands. Same with Low Vision Awareness Month, Heart Month, and Scleroderma Awareness Month — also February.

On the other hand, fundraising based on “real” holidays is among the strongest fundraising on most of our calendars. The reason it’s powerful is that a few major holidays have deep emotional meaning for many people. Obscure awareness holidays don’t have that. They are just days for most people — no memories, no traditions, no connection to the heart.

In fact, even most “real” holidays have little to no emotional impact that might push donors toward giving. Even widely observed ones like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Even Valentine’s Day has only shallow emotional content for most donors!

That’s why these are not strong fundraising propositions for most organizations:

  • “Show your love by giving on Valentine’s Day.”
  • “Honor your mother by making a special gift on Mother’s Day.”
  • “Stand with other patriotic Americans by giving on Flag Day.”

But most of all, you won’t do well with:

  • “World Hunger Day is coming up, so you should give to fight hunger.”
  • “Save the pistachios on National Pistachio Day!”

These lesser holidays are not harmful to fundraising. They just aren’t sufficient to move very many donors. If you do everything else right in your fundraising, the holiday connection won’t hurt.

The “real” holidays that have deep emotional associations for many people include:

  • Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas (or, more broadly “the Holidays”).
  • The High Holy Days in the fall and Passover for many Jewish donors.

There are other holidays that have resonance for specific groups. Ramadan and other religious observations, days celebrating certain saints and founders of institutions.

And for some, Easter. That day is very powerful for many Christians. And because it coincides with Passover and generally marks the coming of Spring in the northern hemisphere, it can boost fundraising for many organizations.

But if you’re using a little-known holiday or awareness day as a reason itself for people to give … be ready for failure.

Fundraising is about connecting with people by the heart and giving them a way to take meaningful action. You can do that any day of the year.

To find out more about how to form a meaningful connection with your donors and transform your fundraising, check out my online masterclass, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s available when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

Please share your experience raising funds on little-known holidays by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Hey, I think everyone can benefit from National Pistachio Day! It’s a fun way to tell your wonderful donors how thankful you are for what they’ve made possible, and no, it’s not pistachio ice cream.

  • I think it’s nuts to celebrate National Pistachio Day! 🙂

  • Marilyn Bilotti
    February 15, 2019 2:45 am

    Well made points. However, there may be some opportunity for gift-giving holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. For instance, for this Valentine’s day, I symbolically adopted animals as a gift for both of my children. Perhaps thoughtful fundraising that is tied into something that inspires or makes a donor’s life easier (like offering a good giftable option), or even have some fun (like the Bronx Zoo ‘Name a Roach’ gift https://bronxzoo.com/roach) would be an effective approach to holidays.

  • Claire Axelrad
    February 15, 2019 7:45 am

    Totally agree. Although I’ve had great success using the ‘lesser’ holidays for greetings and gratitude. What a nice surprise to receive a Valentine from your favorite nonprofit! Or even a totally unexpected card on Halloween saying “You are BOOtiful… and we’ve nothing to be scared about this Halloween because of your compassionate support.”

  • Thank you for this email. I suspect that the way to use lesser holidays as a fundraiser is if they connect somehow with your organization. I used to invite people to a non-gala until the donor stopped giving us free teabags. People loved it. Now we celebrate international Guerrilla Gardening Day because we get free packages of seeds from a donor.


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