The no-stress holiday card primer

Posted: Dec 13, 2017

Uh oh, it’s mid December, and your holiday message keeps getting bumped down the To Do List. Now what? Step One: don’t panic. 

The idea that your organization must send a holiday message before December 25th is no longer a rule. Holiday messages that kick off the new year are more and more becoming the norm, so if you are just coming around to pulling together that holiday message, fear not.

For those of you who are in the scramble of putting together a holiday message, we’ve got a few tips to get you on your way:

1. Snow? Lights? Or avoid holiday festivities all together?

Keep it neutral, but don’t be afraid to be seasonal. Winter color palettes that perhaps tie into your brand colors, or imagery that speaks to the season is okay. Winter and the end of the year are times of transition for organizations, people, and the weather, so don’t be wary of a little seasonal context to help people close the year or welcome the new one.

2. Video or photo?

Photo is generally an easy and quick option. However, if you want to try video out, most phones can capture decent quality video that can help you send a message that feels natural and authentic. Try embedding your video into your email template to spread your holiday cheer.

Unsure what smartphone video editing software to try? iMovie (iPhone) and Adobe Premiere (Android) are great options.

3. Easy tools for laying out holiday message visuals?

You want your final holiday message to look on-brand and polished, but what if you’re lacking design prowess or are pressed for time? No worries! Here are three great free online programs to help you lay out a visually compelling message:

Try Canva for a variety of easy-to-edit free templates, photo editing tools, layout grids, graphics and fonts.

BeFunky has easy-to-use templates and simple drag-and-drop features for easily making photo collages.

Or, Desygner, similar to Canva, provides easy-to-use templates as well as access to a number of free images.

But, for those with a bit more design time on your hands, here's a fun example of what you could accomplish. 

4. Should you send targeted messages to specific audiences?

Consider sending one universal holiday message, then having each director or leader within your organization follow up with a personal note to select contacts they have close relationships with.

If you want to tailor your message to different audiences—or even just the subject line—segment your lists by groups like donors, volunteers, staff, supporters, or political contacts.

Reminder to fundraisers: this is a great time of year to say “thank you” to your donors, so consider including them in this list, and personalizing for the big kahunas.

5. Funny or serious?

Writing quippy, hilarious holiday messages can stymie even the most seasoned communicator. Ask yourself why you’re writing this message: is it to express gratitude? Entertain? Address a certain issue?

Pick a theme, like “a list of your community impacts,” “looking ahead to a new year,” or “thankfulness,” and stick with it. Your card doesn’t have to have your recipients rolling in the aisles to be memorable and appreciated.

For reference, here’s an example of one of our past holiday cards where we tried to insert some humor.

6. Who should send it?

Open rates are traditionally better when emails come from a human instead of a company. Or, for bonus digital marketing points, use your holiday card sender as an opportunity for A/B testing: send half the cards from a leader at your organization and the other half from the organization itself and see which has more readers.

7. Should you or shouldn’t you ask for donations?

Tough call. Remember, roughly 30% of all giving happens in December, so your donors are readier than ever to give when asked. If you haven’t done an end-of-year ask, consider a multipurpose holiday card that shares your successes and reminds your audience about why they should consider supporting you during this month of giving. If your theme is gratitude, or they’ve just received a few asks from you, maybe leave it out.

We hope this list decreases your stress about holiday cards, so you have more time to stress about fitting all those gifts into your ever-shrinking carry-on. 

This post was written in collaboration with Kelsey Harris.