Monday to Wednesday, 10am - 4pm, ET
1.855.281.5499 (toll free)

Top 3 Tactics of Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaigns


By Taslim Somani MBA,
Vice-President, Digital & Marketing Strategy, Stephen Thomas Ltd.

It’s the holidays!  Is your holiday fundraising campaign ready for action?  There are so many things to consider when launching your campaign – from messaging and engagement, to reach and conversion.  Here’s a look at a case from Kids Help Phone’sBuy A Kid Some Time” campaign, now in its 5th year, and 3 lessons to help make your year-end fundraising more profitable than ever.

Case Study:  Kids Help Phone – Buy A Kid Some Time

The Buy A Kid Some Time holiday fundraising campaign was designed to break through the clutter of the holidays with a compelling, yet simple message that inspired action: “Buy A Kid Some Time”. The microsite,, includes emotional videos that stress the need for support, along with copy that provides answers to questions a potential donor may have.  Multiple waves of emails drive traffic to the microsite and a customized e-catalogue, where donors purchase symbolic increments of counselling time or sign-up for monthly giving.

Got a small budget?  Then start small!  The Buy A Kid Some Time campaign started with just one video!  With some thoughtful planning and leveraging of all your assets, these tactics can work for any campaign, no matter the size.

Top 3 tactics to make your holiday campaign successful:

So, what is it that makes the Kids Help Phone campaign so successful, and what lessons can you take away?  It boils down to 3 things:

  1. Engage on an emotional level
    People respond to emotion!  What makes the Kids Help Phone campaign so special is that people can relate – whether it’s their own kids, the friends of their kids, or when they were a kid themselves.  Prospective donors can see that the holidays should be a happy time for kids, but instead, for many, the holidays are a time of isolation, abuse, sadness, and so, they can’t help but feel compelled to offer support to those kids who need help.  This campaign allows people who care about kids, to feel great about giving to Kids Help Phone, especially during the holidays.

    Compelling, but simple, low-cost animated video has been used as a cornerstone of the campaign.  Here’s a great example:

    Plus, to keep the campaign fresh, each year the campaign is updated with new content.  This year in 2013, the site has been updated to include revitalized look and feel along with an engagement tool – an interactive quiz that talks about the emotional issues kids are facing today, and how Kids Help Phone helps.  Take the quiz here:

    Your takeaway: Use emotion to full-effect for your holiday fundraising campaign and base it on your brand values.  Tug on those heart-strings and make a compelling case for your cause using real stories connected to the holidays.  You can use inexpensive animated videos (even those shot with your iPhone can be great), personal stories, quizzes, simple photo slideshows and other interactive elements.  If budgets are tight, start with just one video or one short story with a great picture, and build on it each year. Getting your prospective donors to engage with you and feel emotional about your cause will get you more gifts.

  2. Go the extra effort to make your campaign about the holidays
    The Buy A Kid Some Time campaign is all about the holidays - about how kids feel during the holidays and the organization’s response to them during the holidays.  From the design to content, the campaign evokes the spirit of the holidays and doesn’t shy away from talking about Christmas.  It’s timely, it’s relevant, and it makes sense.  Emails leading up to Christmas talk about last-minute gift ideas.  Emails leading up to New Years talk about the festivities and getting in the last donation before the end of the year for a 2013 tax receipt.  Even the donation page itself gives prospective donors choice, just like an e-retailer, allowing donors to choose from a variety of time increments, including the option to be ‘Always There’ – the monthly giving program.

    Your takeaway: Play up the holidays – in design and content.  Play with holiday themes and imagery to connect with your audience, and tie it to key dates like Christmas and New Years.  This will make it relevant because the holidays are top of mind for your audience.  And, if you can convince them that making a donation is a ‘giving act in the true spirit of the holidays,’ then that will help your bottom line.

  3. Use all channels and tactics available to you to maximize your reach
    Kids Help Phone’s Buy A Kid Some Time campaign has been able to maximize its reach, both to its existing base of supporters (by sending out emails to as many email addresses in its database as possible), and to new audiences through multi-channel advertising.  The campaign has advertised on digital superboards, billboards, transit advertising, in national newspapers, and online, all through great partnerships.  Although the campaign is now in its 5th year, it continues to be successful and yield net positive returns!

    Your takeaway: Use all the email lists throughout your organization for your holiday campaign, whether they were acquired through events, past donations, your e-newsletter or other means.  These are your best prospects.  Adding more of these internal names is a negligible increase in cost, but is guaranteed to boost your fundraising net dollars.  Finally, nurture your corporate and media relationships to find creative opportunities for external marketing during the holidays for your campaign through donated media placements, special funding or PR.  These don’t have to be national in scope; depending on the scale of your organization, relationships with local newspapers and online bloggers who care about your cause can be valuable as well.

    You will reach new audiences and your existing base, and, you’ll have helped build lasting support for your brand.

Here’s to a successful holiday fundraising season!  I’d love to you hear from you too – from great campaigns you’ve seen, challenges you face or questions.  Leave a comment below or contact me on twitter at t_somani.

Cheers and happy holidays!

About the Author:

Taslim Somani MBA, Vice-President Digital & Marketing Strategy at Stephen Thomas Ltd. has worked with charities such as Kids Help Phone, Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB), Red Cross Lottery, Heritage Canada Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society Ontario, SickKids Foundation, Food Banks Canada, The Salvation Army, CANFAR and many others to implement groundbreaking marketing and fundraising initiatives.  Her work has been featured in Canada’s leading industry publication - Marketing Magazine, and she won an ECHO Award for the Buy A Kid Some Time campaign for Kids Help Phone.

Taslim is currently a member of the Canadian Marketing Association’s Digital Marketing Council, has contributed to Direct Marketing News, and other publications and has presented at industry conferences including the Association of Fundraising Professional’s (AFP) Congress and Fundraising Day, the Canadian Marketing Association’s Annual Direct Response Conference, Digital Leap, Artez Interactive, among others.