holiday nonprofit

Ah, the holidays… they’ll be here in no time. The build up is arguably the best part – when you feel that first fall breeze, when the family group text starts blowing up with “I’ll bring the pecan pie” or “Who’s hosting this year?” when that first big snow storm comes through and you silently celebrate while working from home in your PJs with your favorite coffee cup. Just thinking about it gets me excited! For most companies, the holidays are focused around selling – Black Friday, Christmas, and Hanukkah, last minute trips to hell the mall… did you know the average American spent $929 on gifts in 2016??

As I mentioned, most companies are focused on marketing to their usual demographic with the classic “buy, buy, buy,” tactics. There is one anomaly: The Nonprofit. Like many organizations, the holidays are the biggest time of the year for nonprofits, but instead of “buy” they’re saying “give.” The correlation between nonprofits and the holidays is pretty obvious, but in case you need it spelled out for you: giving is better than receiving, #GivingTuesday, last minute tax breaks and so on.

Fast Facts

  • Americans donated $390 billion in 2016
  • Of that, 72% of donations came from individuals (80% if you include bequeaths) 
  • The following three categories receive over half of all donations: religious entities, education, and human services, at 32%, 15%, and 12%, respectively.

All this is to say, there’s a lot of individuals out there who donate a heck of a lot of money to a very select group of nonprofits.


What not to do: 


There are literally hundreds of other ways to market around the holidays. Leave this one alone. A brief Facebook or Twitter post or two about #GivingTuesday is alright, but please, do not center your holiday marketing strategy around this day. There are bigger non-profits out there that will outbid you with their Google Adwords budget. (Side note: when I was working for a moderate-sized non-profit, we considered a holiday Adwords campaign. The bid for words like “donate” and “giving” were over $50). You have better ways to spend your marketing budget.

Just slowly back away from #GivingTuesday. Don’t make any sudden movements. It can smell fear.  

What to do: 

Leading up to the holidays, be sure to have registered your non-profit with AmazonSmile – after you’ve been registered, you can promote your unique URL that will allow people to shop on Amazon, all the while, 0.5% of sales will go back to you. Everyone is going to be shopping anyway, and most of it’s online. Win Win. 

Plan an event. Everyone is in a party mood around the holidays. Now’s the perfect time to plan a fundraising event – just make sure it matches with the overall vibe of your organization. If your target audience is a few high-level donors, you may want to consider a cocktail party – ask the CEO and board to bring their friends, have an open bar, charge a high price for tickets – if this is your audience, go all out! If you’re targeting warm bodies, plan a multi-day, family friendly, free event (market it as a “get the kids out of the house” event). Consider family-friendly activities, invite Santa, grab your local high school’s band and ask them to be carolers. The possibilities here are endless! 

Make it personal. Change it up. Do something new. Is your nonprofit having a holiday party? Put some pictures on social media! Create a different or new direct-mail piece with an interactive element (budget dependent). Make a holiday themed fast fact sheet about your organization. There are plenty of creative, holiday-themed ideas you can use in your email, direct mail, or social media marketing. You’ve just got to put on your thinking cap! 

Stewardship, stewardship, stewardship. I get it. I’ve worked at a nonprofit. The holidays are so busy that it almost seems impossible to thank every single one of your donors. But you HAVE to do it. This is not optional. Especially around the holidays when everyone is searching for that warm fuzzy feeling, a simple acknowledgment in a timely fashion can go a long way. 

A final word

You, my non-profit owner, CEO, marketing manager, or whomever, are doing wonderful work. I cannot thank you enough for being one of the brave souls to take on the challenges of working in the nonprofit sector. Market to the best of your abilities, and give us a shout if you’d like some help. Good luck with the holidays! 

Looking for a few quick tips to kick off your holiday season?  Check out the recording of our Holiday Marketing Webinar: 

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