Get out the party hats and champagne – it’s time to write for end of year!

Most nonprofits receive a huge percentage of total yearly donations in the month of December. In fact, our 5th Benchmarks Study noted that international relief groups raise 50% of their income at the end of the year.

What’s more, nonprofits are raising more and more money online every year. Between 2009 and 2010, online fundraising revenue grew overall by 14%. So there’s also more pressure – and greater competition – than ever before, and making the most of the end-of-year opportunity means sending the best, most compelling email appeals you can. (No pressure though.)

Earlier this year, some of my very smart coworkers published a whitepaper called “Storytelling and the Art of Email Writing,” arguing that the most effective email appeals are the ones where donors are the hero – and donating is presented not as a transaction, but a chance to make a change in the world and say something about who you are as a person.

I think embracing that lesson is even more important at end of year. Simply put, people give end of year gifts for slightly different reasons than during the rest of the year. They’re less likely to be motivated by a tragic earthquake, or an outrageous legislative proposal that needs to be defeated immediately.

What’s different? People give at the end of the year because with a real, tax-deductible deadline looming, they sit down with their checkbooks and decide which organizations they’re going to donate to before the new year rolls in.

And choosing between donating to a wildlife organization or giving to a women’s rights organization isn’t like choosing between a red scarf and a blue scarf. Your choice says something more about you. It shows what you value, and what your values are. Your choice of charities at the end of the year speaks to your very identity.

Defining a clear, immediate, and specific need is still important. But take the time this holiday season to talk about what makes your organization’s supporters special. For instance, look at how this UNICEF appeal says what it means to be a pledge donor on a deeper, more personal scale:

What if every week were an incredible week?

A week when you felt meaning and purpose. A week when you knew you were literally changing the world for the better.

That’s what it’s like for U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s monthly Pledge Donors. Every month, they support UNICEF’s programs with a modest amount. And in return, they can be confident that with less than a dollar a day, they’re saving innocent, vulnerable children from pain and suffering.

So before you sit down to craft your perfect end of year appeal, check out “Storytelling and the Art of Email Writing.”