This is the giving season! Between now and December 31st, statistically, are the “make or break” weeks for your annual fundraising. It doesn’t matter what fiscal year you’re on. Donors operate on a calendar year.
So I’m offering up 5 tips to help you out.
Because people do most of their giving between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve — and I don’t want you to miss out
It’s a time when people feel grateful for friends, family and other blessings, and are inclined to be generous towards others. They want to share their blessings.
Your job is to tap into these feelings of generosity when they’re most at the surface. To strike while the iron is hot.
If you blow it now, you’ll leave a lot of money on the table. And you won’t be able to get it back until this time next year – when folks are in a giving mode once again.
Don’t waste the next seven weeks!
There are still some things you can do to positively impact your bottom line. Let’s take a look.
5 Things to Do NOW to Raise More Money by December 31st
1. Call your lapsed donors.
Thank them first, then remind them it’s time for them to renew.
Ask them to give again. To get their year-end tax deduction. Or to leverage your challenge grant. Or… whatever type of urgent reason you can muster.
If you can’t call everyone, call those who’ve given the most. And those with the greatest potential.
You don’t want to lose donors you already have. It’s much easier, and much less expensive, to keep current donors than to acquire new ones.
Yet most nonprofits do a lousy job, keeping only 27.3% of new donors and an average of 43% of all donors. That’s just 4 out of 10, compared with a 9 out of 10 customer retention rate for retail businesses.
Whatever you’ve been doing, if you’re like most nonprofits, it’s not working. The 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Report revealed that last year gains from new and recaptured lapsed donors were more than offset by losses in the number of lapsed new and lapsed repeat donors – for a net loss in donors of -1.4%. Yipes!
You can stop your donors from lapsing!
Retaining your current donors requires ONE simple thing at this point in the year – ASK THEM OUTRIGHT, and directly as possible.
This is really within your control.
I can’t say this any more plainly. The time for waiting by the phone, mailbox or inbox is over.
No it’s not impolite to ask again, even if you already sent a letter or an email or both.
- Maybe your letter wasn’t very good.
- Maybe you buried your ask in the middle somewhere, and they never even saw it.
- Maybe your ask was so gentle and vague that your donor wasn’t moved by any sense of urgency.
- Maybe you sent a generic appeal that didn’t trigger their passion for a specific project.
Whatever you did, that was then. It didn’t work.
You can’t give up.
You can’t allow donors who once showed an interest in what you do to simply look the other way. At least make sure you give them a real opportunity to take another good look.
Revisit your ask. Is it clear? Compelling? Specific? Urgent? Do what you must to reframe it.
Now… pick up the phone and go for it!
2. Call and/or visit your major gift prospects now.
If you segmented out a group of prospects and put them on the major donor track, make sure they don’t get ignored. It happens all too often!
Your intentions are good. You think they can give more, so you take them out of the “normal” year-end mailing so you can give them some special treatment prior to making an ask for an upgraded gift. Well… you know what they say about “best laid plans.”
- Maybe the staff assigned to them just ran out of time to develop a cultivation plan.
- Maybe you didn’t get around to implementing the cultivation plan the way you had hoped.
- Maybe the volunteer assigned to them never got around to setting up a visit.
If you can see the major gift approach is not going to happen as you had planned this year, get real.
Rather than treating these potential major donors with extra loving kindness, you’ve ended up ignoring them.
Trust me, I know. Not only have I seen this happen as a professional, I’ve also experienced it from the donor perspective.
PERSONAL STORY: One of the organizations I’ve consistently supported failed to ask me to renew my gift last year. I suddenly realized it when I attended a performance in early December and saw my name wasn’t listed in their program. I was sad. It made me feel unimportant to them. I intended to call them up to make a gift. But I procrastinated. I ultimately did give in January, but not as much as I would have. Plus they missed their opportunity for a matching gift from my husband’s company.
Don’t miss your opportunities! Securing major gifts is within your control.
It means you must ask. If you can’t do it in person, do it by phone. Leave a message if you don’t reach them; follow up with a personal note. If you can’t reach them by phone, do it by email. Or even try a text. Be as direct, specific and personal as possible. Don’t let anyone fall through the cracks.
Make sure everyone gets some sort of specific ask!
3. Send a “courtship” communication.
Donors will give to you when they feel they’re in a relationship with you.
It’s very much like in your personal life. There’s a select group with whom you will exchange gifts, and “relatives” tend to be high up on that list. What have you done to make your supporters feel like part of your family this year? To make them feel you see them as more than just credit cards?
- Maybe you’ve just sent a generic thank you, treating their gift merely as a monetary transaction.
- Maybe you’ve only communicated with them when you want something from them again.
- Maybe you’ve considered your e-newsletter as your engagement strategy, failing to take into account your constituencies’ different interests and needs.
- Maybe you’ve done little at all to engage them thus far this year.
You still have time.
You’re in charge of building the relationship!
This is a great time of year to count your blessing (i.e., your donors) and thank them. Show them what they mean to you, and how much their gift means as well.
Many organizations will send an annual report at this time of year. It warms donors up and reminds them of all the good done by their giving, setting the stage for your appeal a few weeks later.
Other organizations will send a special holiday greeting, either by mail (post card or greeting card), email or via a link on social media. The cute little puppy above is a “Happy Holidays” example uploaded to YouTube by the ASPCA. Take a look at my Pinterest board for some ideas of more great ways to “court” donors with thank you’s and online greetings.
You also might want to consider making #GivingTuesday a #Gratitude Tuesday.
It’s not too late to make friends with your donors and show them what they mean to you.
4. Make sure it’s easy to donate to you.
When’s the last time you tried to donate to your organization?
Test it out for yourself!
Try it out now, before the hoards (hopefully) descend on you in a few weeks. Try to do it on a smart phone as well. How’s that experience?
- Maybe it takes too many clicks?
- Maybe it requires providing too much information?
- Maybe, for folks uncomfortable giving online, there’s nothing there to make them feel secure?
- Maybe you fail to include a way for folks to give offline?
- Maybe for folks who have questions there’s no readily available contact information?
- Maybe your donation landing page is just a dry, bland form, lacking any branding that ties it back to your campaign and makes your appeal compelling ( e.g., photos and/or a video)?
Inadvertently, you may be losing a lot of money because the process is awkward, leaves too many unanswered questions, or simply allows folks to lose their fire and give up somewhere along the way.
Optimize your donation landing page now, while there’s still time!
5. Don’t lose the forest for the trees.
Before you put your year-end campaign to bed, it’s worth checking it against the goals you set for yourself when you began.
It’s too easy to lose sight of these goals in the rush to get everything done. But guard against getting lost in the minutiae.
What’s most important to you at this point in time?
- Maybe you want more new donors?
- Maybe you want to renew more donors?
- Maybe you want to upgrade more donors using a monthly giving strategy?
- Maybe you want to leverage more matching gifts?
- Maybe you want more major gifts?
- Maybe you want more online gifts?
There’s no one right answer. Just make sure that what you do between now and the end of the year is targeted to get you where you want to go.
7 Weeks ‘Til ‘Fundraising Season’ Ends: Drop the Little Stuff; Go For the Game-Changers!
Want More Year-End Tips?
Besides the 5 suggestions above, there are a slew of things you can still do to maximize your fundraising success this year. Are you pulling out all the tools in your tool kit? To double check, get my newly revised and expanded Year-End Fundraising To-Do’s and Checklists.
Don’t just wait for the best and hope to get lucky. Take charge and grab your copy here!
If you can’t do everything suggested this year, do what you can. It will still make a difference. Plus you’ll be way ahead of the game for next year.
Do it now, while you’re thinking about it. In the end, it will not only improve your results — it will make your life less stressful. There’s nothing like knowing you’re doing the right thing to bring you peace of mind.
I wish you peace.
Fundraising professionals should remember to ask for planned gifts as the end of the year quickly approaches. For example, fundraisers should seek gifts of appreciated stock and property, gifts from Donor Advised Funds, gifts from IRAs (even if the IRA Rollover is not renewed), and even bequest commitments.
Folks can read more about year-end planned gift fundraising at: https://michaelrosensays.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/do-not-make-this-year-end-fundraising-mistake/