We are now full-swing into the season of giving. Businesses choose their charity of choice, individuals sneak in some year-end donations (just in time for tax season), and those in need reap the rewards of the giving. But for a non-profit business, should the season of giving end when the New Year rolls around, or can it be the holiday season year-round? 

I used to work at a non-profit rehabilitation center for adults with mental illnesses. This was a very rewarding job, and each holiday season, a special extra effort was made to help people through what, for many, could be a very difficult time of year. With this came holiday donations and direct mail efforts to encourage people to give. The trick is, what were we to do after the holidays? 

My experiences in direct marketing have taught me that repeat giving lies in targeted marketing once someone has raised their hand and identified your organization as their charity of choice. A name and address is only as effective as the strategy and the database or CRM system that the donor information is housed in afterwards. 

Rather than only seeking big ticket donations, building a quality database of donors and potential donors, and then planning a targeted marketing strategy that spans the entire year, is essential to repeat giving. Picture this, asking thousands of past donors and prospects in the community to donate a small sum that would pay for one program member's Thanksgiving dinner, or could purchase one item to stuff a holiday stocking, rather that only asking for large sums. Although the big ticket donations are always important, building and maintaining a database system of donors, while acquiring new donors (even who gave small amounts) is more important to long-term success.

Once donors have shown differing levels of interest through e-mail, direct mail and social interactions, marketing automation systems can come into place and help arrange a series of touchpoints throughout the year to encourage annual giving and participation in events. Database and CRM integration across these channels makes headway for smart, targeted messages that keep the donor interested year-round and encourage a bigger donation for the next holiday season, attendance at major events, and a passion for your cause.

Variable print can personalize responses to donors over the holiday season, complete with pictures and success stories from the actual people impacted by the fundraising. Messaging throughout the year can be adjusted using your database system to make different campaigns based on different levels of giving and frequency of donation. As fundraisers and other ask-centric campaigns occur, communications can parallel as an outreach strategy year-round. The right systems can then track the effectiveness of different campaigns. It all starts with building and maintaining a quality donor database, but is expanded throughout the year to stay top-of-mind when the next season of giving rolls around.

All of these suggestions start with data! A holiday campaign isn't all about the money raised. Non-profits change people's lives. People donate because they care about your cause, and will keep donating if you have the right framework in place to encourage yearly giving, and increased giving. It's not too late to get your holiday campaign in gear, or to at least start planning for the next year. As your donor list grows, you can change the lives of more people and ensure a successful future for your organization.