Start planning now! How to get a jump on holiday nonprofit activations

When it comes to marketing strategy, holidays don’t follow a normal calendar structure. From planning beach photo shoots in the middle of a snowstorm to prepping for the end-of-year holidays before the first leaves start to fall—in the world of nonprofit marketing, it’s critical to stay ahead.

Get on board with Giving Tuesday.

The holidays are a crucial time for nonprofits because of campaigns like #GivingTuesday, a collaborative social media campaign and donation drive. NGOs all over the world participate in Giving Tuesday, kicking off the charitable holiday season on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

According to a report from called “The State of Modern Philanthropy”, 29% of annual donation volume occurs from #GivingTuesday through the end of the year.

Giving Tuesday is the perfect time to unveil your holiday fundraising strategy, launch e-certificates and holiday products, and call your donors to arms. To make a bigger impact, you could also partner with an influencer to spread your #GivingTuesday message. Not sure where to get started? DonorPerfect has an excellent collection of #GivingTuesday resources, running the gamut from campaign planning to email strategy, social media, donor retention, and more.

Suggested strategy for GivingTuesday

Like all holiday planning, your #GivingTuesday strategy should start early! Campaigns can run as early as four weeks out through email and social media. (Source:

Capitalize on trends within your audience—avoid doing what everyone else is doing.

Only you know what best serves your organization, and your audience. Therefore, a deep dive into your organization’s donation data will help you answer a few critical questions:

  • What resonates with your audience?
  • Who is your target donor? (An affluent Baby Boomer? A Millennial shopping for holiday gifts? The well-intentioned Generation Z?)
  • What can you offer in exchange for donations? (More importantly, would your donors actually want a physical representation of their donation?)
  • During the holidays, will you have more luck going after super-funders for large donations, or are you better served with a more product-focused approach that targets the average consumer?

The answers to these questions will help you identify your advertising angle. Once you’ve decided who and what you’ll be marketing, your planning moves to the how of your strategy.

There are plenty of ways to leverage donations as a method for cause-based giving. Depending on what resonates with your audience, you can offer basic dollar-amount donations or tiered product-focused options.

Provide options for one-and-done donations.

This is one of the simplest strategies to follow, and if your organization has a solid online presence, you probably already have this set up through a vendor like PayPal or Venmo.

A great way to capitalize on cash-based donations is with a sponsored matching campaign, like Camp Okizu’s September matching challenge. For every dollar donated to Okizu over the month of September, their sponsor network will donate $3.

According to The Big Give Research Initiative, 1 in 3 donors indicate they’d give a larger gift if they knew their donations would be matched in some way. The holidays are a great time for matching campaigns like this, if you have the right sponsors.

Explore ethos-based, story-driven content marketing.

The holidays are also a great time for stories. Appealing to your audience members’ giving spirit can be a surefire way to drive donations, but only if that’s something your audience is actually interested in.

The Adventure Project’s “Give Coal” campaign is a great example of ethos-based, story-driven product marketing. Donors purchase a lump of coal for a loved one (it’s actually a bar of artisan soap), and the proceeds from the sale go toward charcoal-efficient stoves delivered to women in Kenya. This idea capitalizes on two stories: the health impact of wood-burning stoves on Kenyan families, tied up in the familiar concept of Santa’s “naughty list.”

Offer physical products.

Last Christmas, I bought my aunt a narwhal. No, really!

The World Wildlife Fund offers incredible donation packages centered on a variety of endangered and at-risk animals. (And they market the heck out of these during the holidays!) I chose a mid-range product activation that included a ceremonial adoption, a certificate, a stuffed narwhal, and a few photos and information cards about the species.

This kind of donation package gives donors the best of both worlds. They know their purchase is making a difference (helping an animal), but the recipient still has a physical gift to open during the festivities.

(Spoiler alert: My aunt loved it.)

WWF Animal adoption

WWF’s product-focused donation tactic succeeds because donors have options to choose from. Dollar-amount donations only, adoption certificates, or full product sets including a plush adoptee. Who doesn’t love a stuffed narwhal?! (Source: World Wildlife Fund)

Try a mix of the above.

If you’ve segmented your audience into super-donors, monthly subscribers, and one-time purchasers, you may be better served with a mix of donation options. Most of the examples mentioned above offer tiered donation options. For example, the lowest “tier” could be a dollar-figure donation, a middle range includes a small gift or certificate, and high-range donors receive an extensive gift package, event ticket, or other mix of products.

With the right prep and audience analysis, you can wrap up holiday activations with ease.

If you’re reading this article, you’re on track for your preparations. Make your list, check it twice, and give your holiday promos the personal touches that resonate with your audience.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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