In fact, when is the "year-end"? Halloween collides with Thanksgiving and Christmas. New Year's and Easter seem more contemporaneous than ever. Jewish people have in fact several new years, including the one that floats around September-ish and another that's all about trees. Corporations and institutions have various fiscals, some even have program years that aren't in synch. My Japanese tea ceremony colleagues can hardly wait for the new year, but do put the old one to bed with bonenkai, a "say goodbye to the year" party. All of these sentiments impact one's emotional sense of conclusion and beginning, to be sure.
Thanksgiving would be a great time to solicit, if not for the fact that it is Thanksgiving.
Finally, good communications strategies would dictate that it's best to avoid the flood if one wishes to be noticed, but at the same time, why not be in the crowd that is hedging bets: lot of folks are considering the last-minute donation before the end of the IRS year. Most likely you are preaching to the choir with this appeal (unless your budget is huge and you can afford to take out ads, this is another story entirely.)
My most successful year-end appeals tackle the issue as if it were sweeping up after a major league play-off: they always have an envelope, a web address for online donations and a phone number. Year end gifts are usually more “rewards” for being good rather than reasons to enable the first fruits of the new year to ripen, so I like to add facts about what's about to happen on the first of the new year as well. Never speak about shortfall, unless you are about to go under for real for good.
More creatively, another way is to create a special new year for your organization. It may be more mission driven than December 31, 2009.
But no matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.