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How charities can maintain holiday giving spirit all year long

December is the month of giving, so we’re looking at how charities can encourage this level of activity all year round.
Two women shaking hands in front of a box labelled donations

The end of the year is a big time for non-profits, with 30% of annual giving occurring in December. Holiday season is a time of goodwill, a time of giving to those less fortunate. That’s great, but how can we maintain this momentum into the new year?

We explore some email marketing top tips to keep up the holiday spirit all year round.

Utilize automation

Image of welcome email from Movember charity

Use automation programs to nurture your customers with the right message, at the right time. Automation programs allow you to create emails that are triggered based on set criteria, such as a new customer signing up, or an existing customer not opening an email in two months.

Once you’ve spent time setting up an automation program, it will run in the background. This allows you to communicate with people in a way that’s not possible if you had to do these sends manually. Automation is a great tool for charities, as budget constraints often mean not-for-profits have smaller than average marketing teams.

First of all, ensure your welcome programs are doing their job. Ensure you have a welcome program for people who sign up as well as one for anyone who’s donated or volunteered. Some people may sign up to get more information before they commit, so make sure you’re delivering the experience that will motivate them to support your cause.

Utilize dynamic content and personalization to make the message highly relevant. Tailor the message so that it talks directly to people who have recently donated, or to those who are yet to donate. A good welcome series will go a long way in immediately nurturing the relationship, and setting you off on the right foot.

You should also have a re-engagement program set up. There will always be those donors who donate once a year and then go quiet. A re-engagement program allows you to check in with them when they’ve stopped engaging, and lets you remind them of what’s important. This is also a great time to remind them the impact of their previous donation. Use friendly language and offer a clear CTA, giving them an easy way to reconnect with the cause.

Employ a cross-channel strategy

Image of social media post from Dogs Trust charity

A great way to get support year round, is to have people think of you all year round. Utilize the many digital channels available to you to have an online presence – keeping your charity at the forefront of people’s minds throughout the year.

Social media is a great option for charities, as organic social doesn’t require a significant budget behind it. It offers you a platform to raise awareness and educate people. It’s also a great place to share updates, thereby demonstrating the positive impact any support will generate.

It’s a great platform to grow a community and raise brand awareness as people share and comment on your posts. Make sure you have a hashtag that people know to use when sharing their own social media content. This could be photos of a fundraising event for your charity for example, then you can gather all of this engagement in one place.

As well as social media engagement, this doubles as great user-generated content. You can then use this in your email marketing to show prospective supporters what you do and bring your charity to life.

Show the impact of their support

Image of yearly roundup email from Save the Children

Donating to a charity isn’t like other transactions – you don’t get anything tangible from it. Likewise, as it’s not something you experience yourself, it’s not always clear if it’s money well spent. Make sure you’re showing supporters evidence that their support is benefitting people who need it. By showing people how their donation is helping, you’re giving them that feeling of satisfaction, which will likely encourage a repeat donation.

It’s important to show the real life outcome made possible by a donation, or for the supporter it can feel like your money’s gone into the abyss. This doesn’t need to be specific, but general case studies and good news updates from the work your charity does will be great for a supporter to see. Consider a monthly newsletter which shares the good news stories from the month to all supporters.

Communicate human to human

Email from Make a Wish Chief Mission Officer

Most charitable giving is based on an emotional connection. It’s a very emotion-led thing to do, so match the emotional investment from the supporter by engaging in empathetic marketing. All supporters are people, so ensure you’re using human language and engaging as you would face-to-face.

A way you can use email to do this is to send a thank you message from your CEO, founder, or similar – whatever is most appropriate for your brand. Sending an email with a real person’s name in the friendly from address, and adding a photo and name to the campaign itself can make it feel much more personal. You can do this as and when someone makes a donation of time or money, and at big milestones such as Christmas, the end of the financial year, or on the charity’s anniversary.

Empathetic marketing is also about speaking to people how you would in normal conversation. Use your copy to convey your message in a clear, and natural way. For example, don’t be afraid to say ‘the people you supported in December still need you in June’.

Remember best practice

A great customer experience is what makes people favor your brand, and that’s true in the not-for-profit sector too. As we’ve already discussed, when you donate to a charity, you often don’t get a tangible thing yourself to make the donation feel worthwhile. Providing a great experience to your supporters is a great way to ensure they get something positive in exchange for their support.

I have certainly donated to charities in the past, only to be so bombarded with so many follow-up requests for more money that I ended up almost regretting the initial donation. Of course charities have a cause to fundraise for, but you don’t want to hound your supporters. There is definitely a balance to be found.

Ensure that when you do contact your supporters you are sending out quality communications that have a purpose. Use segmentation and personalization to make the message relevant and appealing to that particular customer, so it doesn’t feel like spam, and makes them feel valued.

Another great way to keep your email campaigns engaging, is to test them. Run A/B tests regularly to make sure your content is in-line with your customers’ preferences. The best way to figure out what your supporters want to hear from you, is to ask them. Offer a preference center that lets your supporters choose how often they want to hear from you, on what channels, and what style of content. This allows you to serve them highly relevant content, and keeps them happy and less likely to unsubscribe.


Keeping your supporters’ engaged throughout the year relies on staying front-of-mind, and providing a positive experience that encourages more support. Deliver an engaging customer experience through email marketing, and utilize other channels to keep the engagement going.

December will probably always remain a stronger month for charitable giving, due to cultural reasons and the fact it’s the end of the year. However, engaging campaigns across multiple channels, using clever language, and a great customer experience will lead to a more engaged audience all year-round.

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