Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it…

December fundraising planning has begun. And while this Virgo is all in favor for early and exhaustive planning (particularly for year-end when most organizations raise 50-60% of their online revenue), I’m concerned about a trend I’m seeing amongst my clients — premature solicitations.

In the past week, four organizations I work with have independently suggested going out extraordinarily early with both offline and online end of year appeals arguing that there will be an early out advantage.

I get that year-end is make or break. I get that it’s the time to be aggressive with asks. And I certainly understand the instinct that earlier is better. But our years and years of experience with timing and testing have shown that earlier is not better. And just because organization X sent their holiday catalog appeal on November 1, doesn’t mean they are raising any money with it.

Why wait?

  • The election will suppress response. With the onslaught of election mail and email arriving in homes in late October and early November, don’t time your appeals to hit at the same time. You will get overlooked and overshadowed.
  • There is no early advantage. The majority of donors do not begin year-end giving until after Thanksgiving. I have tested timing mail appeals and online solicitations early in the hope of “beating others to the punch.” Every one of these attempts has failed, while later attempts have brought in the most revenue.

So what should you do?

  • If you don’t believe me, test it yourself. Send half of your donors an early appeal. Send that same appeal two weeks later. Measure which one performs better.
  • If you don’t have the list size or capacity to test, wait until after Thanksgiving to begin your asks. 
  • Go hard online during the last week of the year. I don’t believe in treating donors like ATM’s, but I do believe in asking when the time is right. On average 40% of EOY online revenue comes in between December 25 and December 31 (see chart).  Make good use of this time.