Do you have that year-end feeling?
You know, the one that many fundraisers get around this time of year?
Kind of frenetic? Kind of anxious?
You’re not alone.
The average nonprofit receives 30% of all donations in December. And 10% arrive in the last 48 hours of the year! So, yeah, it’s really busy. And a lot is on the line.
Today I was talking with one of my clients, and she apologized for acting so frantic and rushed. She said:
“Do you remember having that feeling? Did you get it when you used to work in the trenches? That worry that maybe you won’t hit your numbers? That people won’t give as much as they gave last year? That some of your major donors won’t renew. That maybe you’re not sending enough emails? That you’ll wake up on January 1st and be in BIG trouble?”
Oh, yeah. That feeling…
Of course I’ve felt it! But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help overcome that feeling.
6 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Make the Most of December Fundraising
Today I’m going to offer up some practical tips to help you check all the tasks you must complete off your list. The first one is the BIG KAHUNA. Gosh… I hope you’ve got this one handled. But, if not, there’s still time. I promise!
1. Put a Year-end Fundraising & Marketing Plan in Writing
I call this the old holiday “making a list and checking it twice” strategy!
Maybe you’ve got something vague in your overall Work Plan for the year. Something like “send year-end appeal and emails.” That’s a good start. You also need something specifically outlining every single one of your year-end strategies. Not just fundraising, but marketing too. The warming folks up… and the striking while the iron is hot.
If you don’t have a documented year-end fundraising and marketing plan, take a couple of hours right now to create one.
It will be well worth your effort, even if it takes your entire morning or afternoon. You’ve got to be organized to cope with year-end anxiety. You don’t want to be running around like the proverbial chicken with your head cut off! So get a beverage of your choice, sit down in front of your computer or a piece of paper, and do a little thinking before doing. It will save you hours of aggravation.
What’s happening when, and who’s responsible?
All of your organization-wide strategies to secure year-end gifts must work together. Seamlessly. You don’t want to step on each others’ toes. Donors don’t distinguish between emails they receive from the marketing department vs. the volunteer department vs. the fundraising department vs. the membership department. So make sure you’re on top of everything.
You plan should look like this:
First A happens. Then B. Then C. If C works, then D. If C doesn’t work, then E. And so forth. For A, Joe is responsible. For B, it’s Mary. For C, D and E, it’s John. Julie will stay on top of everyone and do regular check-ins.
Make sure everyone charged with responsibility for carrying out aspects of the plan is aware of their responsibility.
Discipline yourself to check in regularly with folks to see how they’re coming along with their assignments. Do this with staff and volunteers. Cheer folks along, celebrating their successes.
2. Passionately Embrace Your Year-End Challenge as a Fundraiser
You’re supposed to be busy!
But busy doesn’t have to equate with stressed. Being busy means you’re getting good things accomplished. You’re focusing on helping facilitate philanthropy, thereby both reaching your organization’s goals and helping your donors be the change they want to see in the world. Good stuff!
Reconnect with your passion.
Remind yourself why you’re doing this work. It will help rev you up and give you the energy you need to successfully get through the month.
Take a few minutes to write down the top 5 – 10 things your organization accomplished last year of which you’re proud.
I know it sounds corny, but do it. It won’t take long. Just remind yourself of all the good that gets accomplished through your organization – and through your donors. Remember that fundraising is not just a responsibility. It’s a privilege — one that is earned by organizations that do good work and make a difference to people and the world. You’ve got to keep it up, because people are relying on you.
3. Get Your Asks Out Now
Your year-end mailing should be out now.
If it isn’t, get it out ASAP. Never think “I missed the deadline; guess it’s too late.” Just do it!
Whatever fundraising appeals are not yet out, check them over to make sure they’re covering all the essentials.
Make them specific, both regarding purpose and amount! Use one good story to illustrate your success. Stay away from lots of data. Avoid ego-centricity; your appeal shouldn’t be filled with “we,” “our,” “us,” “name of your organization.” Use a P.S. to stress your most compelling arguments – e.g., what the gift will accomplish, and why they should give right now (90% read the P.S. after the salutation and signature, so make it count).
Make a tiered lists of your donors who’ve not yet given and call them.
This means lapsed donors first, beginning with those who gave the most last year. High potential prospects next. Tell them you’re calling to follow up on the appeal they already received. Thank them if they’ve given before. Tell them what their gift accomplished – because of them. Make them your hero! Ask them to give again (if they were new last year) or to make a bit larger gift (if they’re an ongoing donor). Ask for a specific amount. Ask them to join with you in giving before the end of the year (make sure you made a gift; yes, this includes you if you’re a staff member).
If you can’t reach folks by phone, email them.
Or text them if you know that’s their preferred mode of communication. But don’t not ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. Period. You won’t succeed by sitting in your office waiting by the mailbox. Or telephone. Take charge of your destiny!
4. Get Social
Send out some posts on Facebook or Twitter (or whatever social platform your constituents use most frequently) to remind folks of your mission and accomplishments.
Besides the fact that you’ll reach folks you’d otherwise not reach, you’ll also predispose your current supporters to give to you when asked. You do this by making your posts as ‘feel good’ as possible. Do this daily if you can.
Your goal is to ‘pre-suade’ donors to give by offering up little gifts of meaningful content. Content they can use. Content that makes them emotional. Tell stories. And use visuals (photos and video) that draw folks in (people don’t like to read as much as they used to, sadly).
5. Make Sure Your Website and Donation Page aren’t Depressing Response
Make a donation to your nonprofit and see what the experience is like.
Better yet, ask a friend or family member to do so.
Use these questions to evaluate whether a few tweaks might be in order:
- Does the donation landing page language mirror your campaign, or is it generic?
- Does the donation landing page and/or home page tell a compelling, emotional story?
- Is giving easy and straightforward, or does it take a lot of clicks to figure out how to donate?
- Is the donation form clearly readable (not teensy font) and easy to fill out?
- Are there too many fields to complete?
- Are there too many choices offered (you don’t want folks to think “Oh, I’ll think about this and decide later.”)
For more tips on your donation landing page, check out Bloomerang’s article: Donor Abandonment: What It Is and How to Avoid It.
6. Use Your Board Leadership to Help
Even if your board isn’t currently engaged, there are still ways to enlist their support before the end of the year.
One of my favorite ways to involve board members is through thank you calls. Assign each member several thank you calls to donors above a certain level. I’ve found board members love this, because the donors they reach are so touched and provide such positive feedback. Plus research by Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, shows that donors thanked by board members renew at a higher level than those who are not called. This research has been recently confirmed, and it’s definitely something I’d recommend you test for yourself.
You can also ask board members to let you know who they connected with over the course of the past year. Maybe they met someone at a special event. Or a volunteer activity. Or a tour. Give them a list of event attendees, volunteer events and tours to review. When they find a name they know, ask them to make a call to that person (if they’ve not yet given) to ask them to join them in this year’s annual campaign. Give them a little script so they feel prepared. Ask them to leave a personal message if they get a voicemail. And give them pre-addressed notecards so they can mail a follow-up note with a remit envelope.
Be the Energizer Bunny
Stay positive. Keep smiling. Don’t worry. You’ve got this!
If you’ve got your year-end fundraising plan completely under control, yay you! If you need to spend a bit of time making a list of ‘to-do’s, now’s a good time.
And if you can’t do everything you wish you could this year, get ahead of the game and put it on your list for next year.
[NOTE: If you’re a subscriber, you’ll find more year-end tips in your SUBSCRIBER DASHBOARD under the “My Clairification” menu bar at the top of every page. Just click on “Monthly Tip.”]
Photo by Claire Axelrad as part of a series: The Art of Philanthropy – ‘Love of Humankind’ – as Seen Through the Prism of the World’s Art Museums