Things We Are Thankful for This Weird Year

Things We Are Thankful for This Weird Year

The Thanksgiving holiday (this week in the US, last month in Canada, with other nations and cultures celebrating similar holidays at different times) is a special time for fundraisers.

Because we live on thankfulness.

Being thankful is good for you. It improves your personal life. It strengthens relationships. It’s smart in business…

But for us fundraisers, it’s a foundational activity. When we thank the donors who freely give to fund our causes, our thankfulness is a key part of the “transaction.”

So we “get” the idea of giving thanks in a special way.

We asked several members of the Moceanic community what they are thankful for. It might not be an easy question in a tough year like this, but we think you’ll find their answers eye-opening and encouraging.

“I am thankful for all the brave fundraisers who have stayed strong and fundraised with gusto during COVID-19. When everything seemed so uncertain and topsy turvy, they did not weaken. They doubled down to connect with donors like never before. And together with their donors, they bring comfort, justice, and hope for a better tomorrow.”

Julie Cooper

“I’m thankful for those fundraisers whose first task every morning is to make sure yesterday’s donors will be sent a warm and personal thank you note today.”

Roger Craver

“I’m grateful for many things. Perhaps foremost, I feel deeply connected to so many beautiful friends and family. That gives me empathy, energy, a sense of loving, and being loved. I feel I can carry these gifts into my work, which means I’m always enthusiastic about the wonderful work that nonprofits and their donors accomplish.”

Harvey McKinnon

“I’m thankful for the leaders in organizations that prioritize fundraising education for their executive and board … those who were able to keep fundraising, not falter, and make informed decisions to move forward in response to the pandemic with the support of leadership.”

Fiona McPhee

“If every so often you sense a warm and grateful glow, it may have been sent by me. Because every day my copywriter’s heart is filled with thanks to walk this fundraising world with so many brave, passionate nonprofit professionals — and for the boundless generosity of donors — to build a better, brighter, more just world. A world of humanity, sustainability, peace, respect, and love. I love you all. Write on, keep fighting the good fight (the only fight!), and thank you.”

Lisa Sargent

“I’m grateful for the human capacity to love others. Throughout the trials of the past few months, one thing that has shone through is how, if we treat people properly, they are as willing as ever to step up and help others. Even when they have felt personally scared, isolated, disempowered, and disconnected.”

Adrian Sargeant

“I’m incredibly thankful for our members-only community at The Fundraisingology Lab. They are simply the most extraordinary group of people I know. And the opportunity to serve them as they navigated the uncharted waters of the coronavirus pandemic this year was truly a gift to me.

“Our members have not just survived; many have thrived in 2020. They have given me hope, joy, inspiration. I’ve been brought to tears by some of the difficult challenges they’ve faced, and I’ve jumped for joy to celebrate their success – often on the same day! So as I’ve spent 2020 mostly in my little home office, I am most thankful for every single one of those extraordinary members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Thank you!”

Christiana Stergiou

“This has been a tough year, but I’m thankful for the extraordinary generosity shown by wonderful donors around the world. They have leapt to save charities and their causes: organizations that called upon its supporters in their hour of need were shown the true power of love, generosity and community mindedness.”

Sean Triner

“I am grateful for wonderful fundraisers all over the world who continue to do the best they can under extraordinary circumstances. I am grateful I work in direct mail and the postal service is working so donations are flowing in. I am grateful for those organizations and thought leaders who adopted monthly giving early on, and I’m grateful that I played a part in ‘motivating’ them along as they’re in much less of a pickle than other nonprofits right now.”

Erica Waasdorp

What are you thankful for? Leave it in the comments below. Your thoughts will be a source of strength to other fundraisers.

Related Blog Posts:

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Pop Art Watch on Mans Hand 123RF

Your Calendar for Successful Year-End Fundraising

CLICK HERE to download this blog as a PDF: Your Calendar for Successful Year-End Fundraising.

It’s time to get on top of your year-end fundraising. For many organizations, December is go big or go home time — the month that makes it all work.

Is this year different?

There’s no question this COVID-19 year is atypical for almost all fundraisers. The biggest thing is what has happened for those who stayed active through the spring and summer: Most had record-breaking fundraising results. Many hit their full 2020 revenue goal in April or May.

An obvious next question is this: Has December already happened? Did donors simply move their year-end giving into the spring in response to the pandemic?

Answer: Almost surely not. Don’t second-guess your donors, assuming they won’t give. Field a strong year-end campaign for best results.

Here’s a suggested calendar to your end-of-year fundraising. Your exact dates will vary, depending on a lot of factors, but I hope this gives you a good starting place.

I hope it helps! CLICK HERE to get this blog as a PDF: Your Calendar for Successful Year-End Fundraising.



There are two distinct reasons giving goes up at the end of the year:

  1. Offers that are specifically connected to the Holidays — Thanksgiving or Christmas meals, gifts for kids, etc. — are very compelling to many donors.
  2. The Holidays (basically US Thanksgiving up to New Year’s) are themselves reasons to give, even when there’s no connection with the Holidays themselves.

Your organization may have #1 as a factor for donors, but for sure you have #2.

If you have Holiday-related offers, start your Holiday fundraising early. Like early September. Maybe even earlier!

September is the sweet-spot for most gift-catalog fundraisers. “Get ready for the Holiday” appeals can do very well in this time.

It’s also the time for the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah), which this year start mid-September and go well into October.

NOVEMBER: Thanksgiving (US only)

Thanksgiving is an important holiday in the US, with deep emotional roots for many people. It is not far behind Christmas as an occasion for donating. It falls on the late side this year, November 26 (it ranges from the 22nd to the 28th).

If you’ve never done a Thanksgiving appeal, consider doing one this year.

The topic: Thankfulness. That’s right — remind your donors of the power and importance of being thankful and let them know that charitable giving is a great way to express gratitude. Connect gratitude with your cause in whatever way works.

An appeal like this can be very powerful when it authentically connects with the donor.


An email and/or social media campaign centered around Giving Tuesday can be quite strong. For many organizations, it is amongst the top digital fundraising campaigns of the year.

If you are cynical about Giving Tuesday, I don’t blame you. It’s an unusual occasion, but it continues to do well for a lot of organizations. It has somewhat successfully connected itself with the cluster of named days after Thanksgiving (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.). The motive for donors seems to be “give today because everyone is giving.”

A minimalist Giving Tuesday campaign would have three parts:

  1. Monday: “Get ready for Giving Tuesday! Or get a jump on it and give now!”
  2. Tuesday: “Join the Giving Tuesday movement and donate now!” (Possibly more than one message this day.)
  3. Wednesday: “It’s not too late to make a Giving Tuesday donation!”

Some organizations start their Giving Tuesday campaign on the day after Thanksgiving.

Decision: “Holiday” or “Christmas”

Which do you and your donors celebrate? Unfortunately, in the US, this has become a bit of a political football. Fortunately, not many of your donors are active in that debate. What your organization chooses to call the season depends on the heritage and culture of your organization and your donors.

Just to be clear, “the Holidays” as a whole is a cluster of celebrations, most of them in December, including:

  • Hanukkah (starts December 10 this year)
  • Winter Solstice (December 21)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • Kwanzaa (December 26)
  • Ramadan (migrates throughout the year; it won’t be in December until 2030)
  • New Year’s Day
  • Some Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7

There’s also a handful of Christmas-related minor holidays celebrated by various communities:

  • Nicholas Day (December 6)
  • Lucia Day (December 13)
  • Las Posadas (December 16-24)
  • Epiphany (January 6)

However you approach it, the Holidays are a potent giving season. Most traditions include gift-giving, and many also emphasize kindness and charity at this time of year.

Use faith imagery and language as appropriate. If not, do use secular images, like candy canes, Santa Claus, holly, etc. These things remind donors of their own connection with the Holidays and can do very well.


Most fundraisers have a campaign that combines the Holidays with the Year End. This appeal usually mails just before or just after Thanksgiving, to assure the mail will arrive in the first part of December.

In many countries, a Year End appeal is strong because December 31 is a tax deadline. Recent changes to the tax laws in the US mean far fewer donors will bother to claim any charitable tax deductions, but it is an important deadline to stress anyway!

I don’t need to tell you this, but someone may need the reminder: Just because it’s a Holiday/Year End appeal doesn’t mean you can skip the fundraising basics! You still need a strong and specific call to action.

The fact alone that it’s a “giving time of year” is not the reason people give. They’re just more likely to think about giving than at other times.

MID-DECEMBER: Year End Follow-Up

Here’s a way you might increase that year-end campaign revenue: Add an extra appeal a week or two after the Year End appeal, using the same topic as the Year End appeal. Keep it simple, and scale back on the donors you mail — such as current (gifts in the last 12 months only) and possibly remove low-dollar donors.

This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s an important appeal for many.

Another possible follow-up activity: A postcard, sent to donors who have made online donations, urging them to give online.

DECEMBER 26-31: Calendar Year End campaign

In the US and other countries with a December 31 tax deadline, the final week of the year is often by far when most giving happens. Do not neglect it!

Email several times, starting December 26. As often as every day. And email twice on December 31, the biggest online giving day of the year.

That’s a fundraiser’s year end! Share what you’re doing this year, what you’ve done in the past, and what has (and hasn’t) worked for you at this critical time.

CLICK HERE to download this blog as a PDF: Your Calendar for Successful Year-End Fundraising.

Want to get every single one of these appeals right? Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a community of fundraisers who support each other by sharing information, ideas, and encouragement. Members also have access to the best tools, time-saving templates, practical courses and other great stuff to help you survive and thrive this year-end. Find out more now.

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CFRE Points:
Pop Art Woman with Christmas Gift e1510632339324

Almost Everything I Know About Fundraising I Learned from Christmas Carols

The Holidays are such a fun time of year. One of the best things, as far as I’m concerned, are the songs we sing during the Holidays. Sure, you’re pretty sick of them by the end of December, but they’re always old friends that remind you of childhood.

But who knew they had so much fundraising wisdom built into them?

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about fundraising from Christmas carols:

Angels We Have Heard on High

Excellent fundraisers are like angels singing out their wonderful news for the world to hear. They sing it sweetly and with gusto, because they know they’re changing the world. The other kind of fundraisers — the ones who mutter their message under their breath because they’re embarrassed to ask for money? They aren’t very good as angels. And they don’t do so well.

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

It’s usually smart to deck your fundraising messages with boughs of holly or other corny clip-art holiday decorations this time of year. It evokes a sense of the time of year, when people are feeling generous and connected. You can hardly go wrong with a good sprinkling of Holiday decorations in your fundraising.

Frosty the Snowman

In this song, a pile of snow, a carrot, some pieces of coal, and an old hat are magically transformed into a living being. In fundraising, we take paper, ink, and postage stamps — and magically transform it all into good deeds. It’s just as magic as Frosty! We should be just as thrilled as we would be by a walking, singing snowman (and considerably less creeped out).

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Never forget that just as the Holidays are to the “gentlemen” mentioned in the song, fundraising is “tidings of comfort and joy” for your donors. They love to give. They want to be involved. You are your donors’ friend; it’s nothing to be dismayed about sending out fundraising messages.

O Come All Ye Faithful

No matter what your cause, it’s largely the Faithful — folks who practice their faith — who are showing up and supporting you. Work with that fact, and not against it, for best fundraising results.

Over the River and Through the Woods

A disproportionate number of our donors are older and female: Grandmothers. It is well worth going to great lengths, over rivers and through woods to find them, because they’ll be your most loyal supporters.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

According to this song, Santa has one heck of a database on his constituents’ behavior — with real-time information on who’s crying, shouting, or pouting, when they’re asleep, when they’re awake, when they’re bad, when they’re good. That’s a lot more than just recency, frequency, and value! While few of us can expect to have a database like Santa’s, it’s great to keep track of as much as you can. It works for the Big Guy in Red, and it can work for you.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

That last week of the year, between Christmas and New Year, are merry indeed for fundraisers. Especially those of us raising funds online, when giving spikes to an amazing high.

Related posts:

Learn more about how to connect with donors in a meaningful way any time of the year by taking our most popular online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Valentine

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

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.

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Children Christmas tree e1534403489644

VIDEO: How to Feel the Holiday Season When It’s Still Far Off

One of the strange challenges of the serious fundraiser is the long stretch of time between when you should be crafting your messaging and when it finally goes out to donors.

And now, the midst of August, is when that gap is weirdest and most challenging, because you should be working on your end-of-year and holiday season fundraising now.

The most un-Christmasy time imaginable! It really causes cognitive dissonance to try to get into the holiday spirit at a time that’s so not that holiday!

Here are some simple writer’s hacks to help you, drawn from a long career doing year-end fundraising months before December.

I think you’ll like these simple approaches.

PS: And while you’re getting into the Holiday spirit, it’s also time to think about ways to strengthen your fundraising. I can show you how in my online course 7 Steps To Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail (Without spending more time or money!) Check it out when you join The Fundraisingology Lab!

CFRE Points:
Christmas appeal
Direct Mail

VIDEO: How to Plan Your Christmas Appeal in Advance for Maximum Impact

It’s Christmas in August here at Moceanic, and Sean has a plan for meaningfully improving your Christmas/Holiday/Year-End campaigns.

Starting NOW.

This very short video will give you a framework that will not only improve your results during the critical last few weeks of 2018 but save you time by starting now.

Want help with your direct mail as we approach the fruitful last quarter of the year? Check out Jeff Brooks’ course 7 Steps To Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail (Without spending more time or money!) It’s available when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Woman with Christmas Gift e1510632339324
Direct MailMajor and Mid Value Donors

Using Christmas or Holiday Campaigns to Deepen Donor Relationships

In some countries, and for some charities, Christmas (or Holiday) appeals are the biggest fundraisers of the year.

They also offer a wonderful opportunity to strengthen relations with some of your most generous and wonderful donors.

Try these ideas for your top donors…

  • Send them a beautiful gift before the appeal lands.  Something mission focused is great, like a locally made dream-catcher or a scarf from the village they have helped.  Can’t think of anything appropriate? Try flowers, sponsored by a local florist. It really works!
  • Call them, say thanks for previous donations and explain what they (not you) achieved with these donations. Finish by asking them to look out for a letter about whatever your case study is. For example ‘about Jane who cannot afford shoes for school…’
  • Two to five days before the campaign deadline, call those who haven’t donated yet, but usually do.  Ask them what they thought of the campaign and if they intended to donate. That’s a nice reminder and again, you are building on your relationship.
  • Call people who give to the campaign, say thank you and tell them what they will be achieving with that gift.  It is also an opportunity to ask for more if you are short of target.

All these things should work – but you need to be aware of the volumes.  You may only get through to a third to a quarter of those you want to speak to.  So make enough calls!

Want to know more about Mid-Value Donors? Sean covers this important topic in the Mid-Value Donor Super Course which is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
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Digital Fundraising

Loving and Punning on Valentines Day

I got this lovely email from World Animal Protection (WAP).

It worked on me.  BUT generally, humour is risky in charity direct marketing.

I think this is for a few reasons:

  • Not everyone gets the joke!
  • Making light of your serious cause needs to be considered carefully: brand implications, offending the people you are trying to help
  • What you think is funny, often isn’t
  • Humour and laughing are not the emotional reactions known to encourage people to give.  A letter that makes someone cry is much more likely to elicit a reaction. Unfortunately, we charities have a lot of case studies that do that – including WAP.

I do think WAP will do well out of this. Clear offer, and nice ask and they likely know their donors.

Here is the intro…

Loving and Punning on Valentines Day 1

And the puns / offer…

Loving and Punning on Valentines Day 2 updated

Want to really master the art of nonprofit communications? Check out Jeff’s 4-session masterclass, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits that’s available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

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