Do year-end fundraising pitches aimed at procrastinators work?

I’m declaring year-end e-mail pitches to nudge procrastinators a successful tactic, but I’m interested in your thoughts about circumstances under which they might fail or backfire… as well as your thoughts about what type of message is most successful — a direct-and-to-the-point “don’t forget” email, or something with a little more emotional oomph.

Network for Good recently reported that nearly 50% of donations they receive in December come in during the last six days of the month.  It also reported that average donations in December have historically been higher:  $189 in December 2007 compared to $135 during other months that year.

Taking the nudge to heart, a small food closet here in Sacramento tried an end-of-the-year reminder via its e-newsletter.   The approach was a brief, very personal article about the view from the executive director’s office – describing the chaos, including large numbers of people lining up for food, and stacks of donors’ checks arriving with notes.  One reader immediately wrote back:  “This letter is the BEST one I’ve read from you all…while all you do and communicate is wonderful, the letter below painted the picture so well. Thank you for all you do. I will drop a check off soon…”  And minutes later, the agency was notified that a $1,500 donation had been received online.

CARE sent a straightforward e-mail reminder with the subject line “3-2-1!  Make your gift before the New Year!”  The e-mail included a giant “donate now” button.  Feeding America’s (formerly America’s Second Harvest) e-mail reminder was similarly straightforward:  “Last chance for tax-deductible donation for 2008,” which focused on tax benefits of giving now.  And in case you didn’t get it, the “tax-deductible” line was repeated within the copy twice, hyperlinked to the donor function of the agency’s website.

What do you think worked best?  A short-but-sweet reminder, without a lot of emotion?  Something that focused on the tax benefits?  Or something that was a gentler reminder, a little longer, but still reminded people it wasn’t too late to give?  Or did the most successful tactic depend on the agency and its relationship with the people who receive the appeal?  It would be great to have real data about the results, but I’ll take informed opinion from you as a starter!

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