Welcome, everyone, to what is officially the holiday season! This time of year can mean many things: time with family, exciting annual traditions, and (perhaps a little too much) good food or holiday treats. What this time of year means for the nonprofit space, however, is a real uptick in charitable giving. According to USA Today, 34% of U.S. charitable giving occurs in the last three months of the year, with 18% of those donations coming just in December. As the holiday cheer heats up, so does the giving!

While it is marvelous that the holidays inspire such generosity in the hearts of donors, this phenomenon is also no secret. A great number of organizations plan their fundraising campaigns to peak in scale and visibility in December, making this one of the most competitive times of year to catch the attention of donors, or even existing funders. The best way to shine through the crowd is to engage directly! Break out of the 2D world of emails and letters, and bring your campaign to the public, face-to-face. To understand what can be done to make the most of this wonderful time of year, let’s look at the lessons we can learn from around the field this holiday season.

Visualize your mission
One organization that successfully creates visibility and engagement is International Justice Mission (IJM). In partnership with the Dressember Foundation. IJM challenges women around the world to wear a dress every day in the month of December to raise awareness and funds to fight human trafficking. Turning dresses into a symbol of the battle against exploitation and trafficking is an endorsement of the power of femininity in this global fight. Dressember also encourages participants to purchase dresses from ethical clothing brands that further fight exploitation, such as The Giving Keys, Noonday Collection and Elegantees. Finally, the campaign is an excellent visual reminder of the causes that matter to the people in your life.

I can speak to this personally, as Global Impact’s amazing VP of human resources and administration, Stephanie Scholz, participates in IJM’s Dressember campaign. Here’s what she recently shared about her experience:

“This is my 5th year participating in Dressember. I almost didn’t register. I thought about taking a break because I like pants. But the men, women, and children that are trafficked and enslaved don’t get a break. So I will wear a dress again – EVERY DAY in December for Dressember to help raise money and to help raise awareness for this issue. We must be the change.”

Engaging donors and having a consistent reminder of the organization’s mission has brought IJM into sharp focus as the giving season kicks into high gear. IJM’s collaboration with Dressember marvelously combines symbolism and visibility to create a holiday season campaign that truly stands out.

Create cause experiences
Another example of a highly engaging year-end campaign is World Vision’s Give-back Gift Shop, which took place on Dec. 2 and 3 in New York’s Bryant Park. Through this pop-up experience, World Vision hit the ground running for December, crafting a fun and family-friendly atmosphere that also connected people with the power that their contributions to could have.

The Give-back Gift Shop helped visitors discover ways that they can make their holiday gift giving even more meaningful. Guests could browse the World Vision Gift Catalog for gifts to donate in a loved one’s honor, or purchase a hand constructed good from a fair-trade artisan. Visitors could also take a hands-on approach, building a care kit full of care essentials complete with a personalized note to aid in the preservation and restoration of dignity for people overcoming poverty, disaster, homelessness, and abuse in the U.S. and abroad.

Finally, the pop-up featured a number of experiential activities that combined fun with meaning and education. Visitors could take a photo with a live goat while learning about the incredible impact the donation of an animal can have for a family’s future. Guests could also participate in visual immersions through a video experience or a celebratory photo booth, which connected them with the wonderful outcomes of giving children power and choice in their lives. The World Vision Give-back Gift Shop offers a fun and educational destination that blends holiday cheer with calls to action, making it an example of the very best of holiday campaigning.

Balance tradition and innovation
The final lesson of the holiday season is to innovate and invest. While tradition is one of the cornerstones of the holiday season, even in fundraising (I can hardly name a Christmas movie that doesn’t feature the Salvation Army’s iconic bell ringers), the line between classic and stale can be a fine one. Knowing how much to differentiate from your year-round fundraising campaign strategies can be a tightrope between familiarity and excitement. On top of these considerations, investments must be weighed: what is the optimal strategy to balance returns with overhead?

Every organization is wholly unique, and there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution for a fundraising campaign, holiday or otherwise. That is why an expert, outside voice can be the key to efficiently crafting a campaign that achieves all of your organization’s goals.

Having raised nearly $2 billion for causes, ranging from global health to environmental sustainability, Global Impact is perfectly positioned to serve as a partner to empower your fundraising. To learn more about what we can accomplish together, reach out to us today!