This year, make year-end online giving a lot more straightforward. Here’s a four-email template, courtesy of, that can maximize your donors’ participation in year-end fundraising. The basic rules? Keep it simple, short, and focused.

1. About a month out, start with a splashy, single-page email announcement of the campaign, featuring a strong visual or video and a few sentences (no more than 150 words) of sharp copy. Make it clear that participation is easy, and include a #hashtag for linking the entire campaign to social media. Include a big, clear DONATE button at the bottom that directs them to a similarly branded giving page. (Don’t change this page.)

2. Then, the next week (or for the next two weeks sequentially), using the same strong visual content, layout, typeface, colors, and #hashtag, tell one (or two) compelling stories. A photo or video (or both) of the person who’ll benefit from your cause, a narrative arc linking her story to your larger campaign, and very specific examples of potential donor impact. Again, keep your copy minimal — no more than 150 words ­— and include the DONATE button and #hashtag.

3. The day before the campaign ends, fire off a short, urgent, visual-heavy reminder. Play up just one day left and last chance and final opportunity, but keep copy very light. Add the magic button. Add the #hashtag. Keep everything consistently branded.

4. Lastly, your final Thank-You email, sent upon completion of the campaign, has three purposes: It tabulates the total giving for the campaign, it expresses genuine gratitude, and it reminds donors that while you’ve leaned on them a bit for the holidays, the need for giving is present every day of the year. Invite them to learn more/read more/click here to stay engaged as you move into the new year.

These ideas aren’t just mine. has a great layout for much of the above, but plenty of nonprofits are doing it this way now. The practice reflects the best way to differentiate your campaign from the potentially overwhelming flood of year-end emails folks will receive. Make your stand apart by keeping your emails simple, elegant, and pointed.