December has proven itself to be a month of many things - gingerbread houses, the first snowfall, jam-packed mall parking lots. And regardless of the holiday you and your family celebrate, there is often the urge to reflect, be grateful, and give back. It’s the latter of these that makes this time of year the busiest for non-profits across the country.  About 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year. Of those donations, about 18 percent are given in December alone. This spike pushes nonprofits to find effective ways to appeal to their donors, and many prioritize the three game-time strategies listed below.

1. Understanding the motivations of the giver

When impact brands can be mindful of what encourages donors to open their wallets, they can optimize the success of their approach. Simplistically speaking, individuals have been considered to give for three reasons - to act on their empathy during the holidays, to give the gift of a donation in someone’s honor, and to enjoy the side benefit of making a tax-deductible contribution. The best way for nonprofits to know they are addressing all of these factors is through reaching out. Obvious? Yes. But also imperative. The public’s sense of generosity at the end of the year is more than just a trend; it’s a fundraising force that’s up for the taking.

2. Leveraging the past year’s successes

The catch is that the majority of these donors are not incredibly proactive in seeking out nonprofits; they have to be approached. In 2012, the Washington Post stated that Americans spend more time
watching TV in a day than they do researching effective charities in an entire year. We can’t expect the public, then, to sift through countless Google hits to find the organization that best aligns with their values while responsibly using their money. Nonprofits have to do that work for them, rigorously pitching their mission and their impact as something worthy of investment. One of the easiest ways for organizations to do so is through reflecting on their accomplishments from the past year. This recap not only establishes to the public that the nonprofit is making tangible change, but also builds up momentum heading into January. Donors want to feel like they are a part of something bigger - something that’s gaining speed.

Consider this 2013 email from the Bowery Mission below. One of the frequent moves made by nonprofits is to send out a holiday card, reviewing the progress from previous contributions, that can then double as a reminder that it’s not too late to donate before the New Year. 


3. Appealing to the spirit of the holidays

As people fly across the country to spend time with their loved ones, they tend to think more about the lives they are able to live - and about all of those without such a luxury. Many nonprofits, like the Wounded Warrior Project pictured below, have found great success in positioning themselves as the ideal outlet for this strong emotion. The language that these organizations use and the narratives they provide directly appeal to the pathos of their recipients, describing the many ways in which one man’s holiday can be another man’s hardship.


Unlike the world’s biggest TV, or the world’s nicest piece of jewelry, there is a deeper meaning behind the gift of a donation. And gratitude, both on behalf of the prospective donors and on behalf of the nonprofits themselves, can go a long way in raising support for the greater social good.