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A Simple Way to Boost Donations this Holiday Season

The following is a guest post by Scot P. Chisholm, founder/CEO, StayClassy.

If you work at a nonprofit, then chances are your organization already has big fundraising plans for the rapidly approaching Holiday Season. Most nonprofits will be mailing out end of the year letters to existing donors, sending email appeals to their lists, and perhaps even throwing an end of the year gala or other special event.

With all of this activity already happening, it makes sense that nonprofits wouldn’t be quick to add anything extra to their plans. After all, who wants to fatigue donors with excessive asks? And why would it even be desirable to do more during this period?

Both are good questions.

The Importance of Individual Giving During the Holiday Season

The main reason to squeeze in as much as possible during the Holiday Season is that giving dramatically spikes during the month of December. Somewhere in the neighborhood of one third of all online gifts made throughout the year come in during December. And the average gift made in December is about 80% larger than the average gift made in other months.[1]

The numbers don’t lie. People give more, and in larger amounts, during December. This seasonal generosity presents a big opportunity for nonprofits. But it’s an opportunity that goes by fast and it’s easy to leave precious donations on the table if you don’t do enough.

There is a delicate balance, however, between making the most of the opportunity and causing donor and staff burnout. Fortunately, there is a simple way to boost your Holiday donations without consuming too much time or annoying your donors.

The Micro-Campaign

Over at StayClassy, we’re pretty big on peer-to-peer fundraising (where supporters create personal fundraising pages and share them with family and friends online). Just like other forms of fundraising we’ve seen results from p2p spike dramatically in December. In fact, we’ve even produced an infographic (see below) that lays out some of the unique benefits of adopting peer-to-peer as one of the core components of your Holiday Fundraising plans.

As we hit the beginning of December though, time is a little short to be launching a full-scale campaign. Plus that would take up time from your staff and probably annoy your donors if you’ve got other appeals planned (which you should at this point). So how can you leverage some of the benefits of p2p (like an average of $568 raised by each active fundraiser) without burning up resources or goodwill from donors? You can do it by creating a micro-campaign.

And what’s that? Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a small-scale peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. The key is that you don’t market it to all of your supporters. You make the campaign exclusive to your top supporters. People like board members, staff, and your most committed volunteers all make great candidates. You focus on the people that have the strongest connection to your organization (who won’t mind being asked for a little more of a commitment) and you spare the rest of your list.

Don’t underestimate the potential of a micro-campaign. You really don’t need a large number of fundraisers to boost your Holiday results significantly. We’ve seen some power-fundraisers generate over $10,000 through one page. And, because you’ll be recruiting people who really believe in your mission, you will be more likely to get fundraisers that will go above and beyond.

A mini campaign can also be a great team-building exercise. If you set a concrete goal for the campaign, like raising enough money to pilot a new program in 2013, you can rally your most dedicated supporters to achieve something tangible together. It’s a way of bringing people together around a common goal that will benefit the mission they each care so much about. It’s also an opportunity to reinforce positive feelings about your organization. By letting the people you invite into the campaign know that they are part of the “inner circle” that is being relied upon to accomplish the goal together, you will make them feel recognized and special.

Launching a Last Minute Micro-Campaign

It’s really not very hard to get an online campaign up and running. There’s no reason you can’t complete the actual setup in an hour or less. What’s more important is making sure you think about who your top supporters are and what you want to try to achieve together.

Start by making a short list of the supporters you want to get involved. It could be 10 people, 20 people, 50 people; whatever makes sense for your organization considering its size. Once you’ve got your list, make a conservative estimate of how much you think you can raise as a group. Keeping this number in mind, try and think of a specific programmatic or operational outcome you could fund with this amount of money. Then make that the campaign goal.

Once you’ve got your goal and your list, you need to recruit. You should aim to complete recruiting by the end of the second week in December so you can give fundraisers at least two solid weeks to get out there and raise money. As with all other forms of outreach, the more personal the communication the better. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and give the people on your list a quick call and get them excited! The more targeted the outreach is, the more people will start fundraising, and the better the results of your campaign will be.

If you're interested in learning more about using peer-to-peer fundraising this Holiday Season, check out the infographic below, and consider joining StayClassy for our upcoming webinar on last minute Holiday fundraising.


Scot co-founded StayClassy in 2006 to raise money for cancer research after his mother had battled the disease multiple times. Today, StayClassy is an online platform that powers the fundraising of over 3,000 nonprofit organizations world-wide, including Oxfam, National Breast Cancer Foundation and Invisible Children. StayClassy also hosts the CLASSY Awards, now the largest philanthropic award show in the Country.

Scot was recently selected by Businessweek as one of the top 5 most promising social entrepreneurs in America. He serves on the board of Team Rubicon and Jeans 4 Justice, and holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the UMass, Amherst.

[1] Network for Good

Topics: Fundraising