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Fundraising: Double Your Response Rates for Your Giving Tuesday and Year-End Appeals

Updated: Apr 25

Money roll

Simple. Effective. Field Tested.

Fundraising: Double Your Response Rates

Hi! I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving, even if you couldn't be with all of your friends and family.

As the year comes to a close, it’s important to remember that 30% of all giving takes place between Thanksgiving and December 31, and 12% takes place in the last 3 days of the year.

Most of this money comes from donors who give less than $10,000. This should give hope to everyone raising money who has been feeling anxious that their donor's wallets are in "lockdown."

The Rule of 5

The Rule of 5 is a winning follow-up strategy that will improve your response rates no matter when you use it. It's helped me raise millions of dollars and I know it will help you too.

As you're gearing up for your Giving Tuesday campaign or an end of year appeal, or any email campaign for that matter, follow these basic follow-up tactics to increase your response rates and percentage of gifts. In fact, if you follow these tactics precisely, you'll find that your response rates will more than DOUBLE!

1. Send a solid appeal letter with all the basics:

a. Use short paragraphs.

b. People read headers first. Always use a bolded header for each paragraph.

c. Ask for a gift at least three times in the letter, either directly or indirectly.

d. Sell the need and impact, not your programs.

You don't have room to pitch your programs.

Always send the details of your programs as an attachment.

e. Use a pull quote to pitch the ask somewhere.

It will be one of the first things a donor will read.

f. Don't talk about "you" or oversell what you do.

Focus on connecting the donor's gift to the impact your making.

2. Once you send out an initial solicitation email, wait 5 days. If you don't hear back, send it again on the 5th day. However, use a different subject line than the one you used the first time.

3. If you don’t hear back in 5 days, send another email on the 5th day. Again, use a different subject line. At the top of this email, before solicitation text, add something to this effect:

John, when you have a moment, read the email and the attached PDF.

Demand for infant formula has tripled since COVID. Your gift will make a difference.

I’ll call you early next week to hear your thoughts and answer your questions.

All the best,


4. Then, within 5 days, call the prospect. If they don’t answer, leave a message for them to call you back. Do NOT ask for a donation when leaving a voicemail.

5. If you haven’t heard back within 5 days, call again on the 5th day (or the 6th or 7th). If you don't reach the donor, leave another message, but this time, tell them that you will be sending a reminder email in the next 5 days.

Note: If this an end of year appeal, time the entire process so the last email goes out on the 27th of December.

6. When you send your last email for your Giving Tuesday or end of year campaign, change the subject line again and write something to this effect at the top of the email, before the solicitation text:

John, now is the time to ensure infants have enough formula during the holidays and the start of the new year.

Pick a sponsorship level from the attached PDF and then make your gift online at: www.???

You have ??? days left to make a tax-deductible gift for 2020.

Your gift will make difference -- in the lives of dozens of infants in our county.

Thank You . . . and Happy Holidays!


Persistence will pay off if you’re passionate and kind and you don’t come off as pushy. People are super busy at this time of year— just like yourself—but it is the season of “giving back” . . . some folks just need a little nudge.

Fundraising: Double Your Response Rates

Keep safe and healthy!


Looking for answers?

I’m here to help. Contact me . . ., or 858.888.2278

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

Tom Iselin has built four sector-leading nonprofits and four foundations. He’s written six books, sits on six boards, and hosts a video blog and podcast. Each year, Tom speaks to more than 5,000 nonprofit leaders at conferences across the country. He is considered a leading authority on high-performance nonprofits, and his impact on the industry has been featured on CNN, Nightline, and in Newsweek. Tom is the president of First Things First, a business specializing in board retreats, strategic planning, fundraising, and executive coaching. To relax, he loves mountain biking, hiking, skiing, tennis, and baking.

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