Are you thinking “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Kaching!?”
That’s akin to making the holidays all about the commercial aspects, and losing sight of the season’s wonder, awe, gratitude, love, and warmth of community.
Yes, many nonprofits raise the lion’s share of their annual fundraising goal in the last few months of the year. In fact, December accounts, on average, for 31 to 50% of all contributions from individuals. So, you’re to be forgiven if you’re excited to see the money come flowing into your coffers.
But, just because it’s solicitation time does not mean it isn’t cultivation/stewardship time.
Ever time you communicate with donors you need to show the love.
How you spread love through your mission-focused work.
How you love your supporters.
How love, not money, is at the heart of all philanthropy (philos/love + anthro/humanity).
Even though you’re ramping up fundraising activities this month, you can’t lose sight of your donor. And what’s in it for them if they give to you. So, ask yourself:
- How will donors feel when they receive the year-end missive you’re sending?
- How will donors feel when they say “yes” to your appeal?
- How will they feel immediately after they give?
- How will they feel later — a month, two months, three months, six months and 12 months after they give?
Do you come across as being only about money?
You may if your year-end fundraising looks mostly like this:
- Help us meet our fundraising campaign goal.
- Help us raise $XX,XXXX (money) before the year ends.
- Grab your tax deduction before December 31st.
Such admonitions are all about you, your deadlines and money.
They are things people think about with their brain, not their heart. With their reasoning, not their emotions. WIth the part of their brain that makes them give a token or habitual gift, not a thoughtful or passionate one.
And once the gift comes in, then what?
Do you simply take the money and run?
If a donor makes a gift and you simply dispense an automated thank you, and nothing more, that’s not a donor relationship. That’s a transaction
If you get all ATMy at this time of year you’re going to lose these donors by this time next year. Or you won’t get them to give more. Or tell their friends how great you are. Or do any of the other things that donors do when they love you.
One-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow. In fact, a whopping 80%+ of first-time donors won’t give again.
Transactions won’t help you next year or the year after that.
No. You’ve got to transform the transactions into something longer lasting.
You want donors to feel terrifically warm, fuzzy and inspired after they give to you.
Yes, you’re going to ask — maybe multiple times — at this time of year. But to get the desired response – and feeling — you still have to ask the right way.
And that means segmenting your mailings, personalizing your messaging and outreach, and all that good stuff that shows your donors you know them. You understand their passions, their worries, their need to support themselves and their families, and their desire to also help strangers and make a difference in the world. You want to help them be able to do all these things.
Think beyond December.
Whatever success you have this month, it will be short-lived unless you’re ready with a strong, donor-centric acknowledgment program.
After folks give, they must receive a prompt, personal thank you. And I don’t just mean a form receipt. Send something that reassures the donor their gift has been (1) safely received, (2) wisely applied to the purpose for which it was given, and (3) deeply appreciated.
Showing genuine gratitude means indicating you appreciate them for more than their wallets.
- Ask if there are other ways they’d like to become involved.
- Help them feel a sense of belonging.
- Maybe even give them a warm phone call (Penelope Burk’s research revealed that donors who got thank you calls from board members within 24 hours of the gift’s receipt gave 39% more the next time they were asked than donors who did not get called).
- Send new donors a “welcome to the family” packet.
- Give donors the direct phone number of someone they can contact if they ever have any questions, concerns or needs you can meet.
Simple “ATM” activity now will be a lot of sound and fury, signifying relatively little in the long run.
Yours is the rare nonprofit who reaches out to your donors in a donor-centric manner.
Rather than always be selling, always be thinking about building relationships.
Of course, you should be fundraising (aka selling). But shift your mindset a bit. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. What exactly are you selling? It’s not a year-end fundraising goal. It’s not the chance to get some tax savings. Those things will hopefully happen. But they’re not the heart of the matter. They’re not, fundamentally, the reasons people give.
Keep donors close by thinking — at all times — about ways you can stay in touch. Think too about strategies that encourage your supporters to want to stay in touch with you. It’s your job to get donors thinking they really, really wants to be your friend.
You don’t just want them giving you a drop in the bucket this one time.
Fast and furious donor acquisition strategies at the end of the year may help you meet your budget goals this year. But if they aren’t donor-centric, and if they aren’t part and parcel of a comprehensive plan that includes ongoing stewardship of these supporters, they won’t help you that much in the long run. Research continues to reveal that for every $100 raised very close to that same amount (in some years a little more; other years a little less) is lost to attrition. It’s just a silly, transactional way to do business. You’ll be right back in the same place next year.
Focusing on getting in as much money as possible during this most generous time of year makes perfect sense. I implore you, however, to move beyond transactional fundraising.
Move towards a more transformational business model that moves your organization forward.
Want the donors you acquire this year to have a robust lifetime value?
If you want to develop a strategic donor acknowledgment program, check out How to Cultivate An Attitude of Gratitude and Keep Your Donors. 41 full pages jam-packed with the theory and practice of gratitude, one of the most effective yet least effectively utilized donor retention strategies.
I give you my 100% guarantee you’ll find it helpful. If for any reason you don’t, you have my 30-day, no-quesions-asked, full refund guarantee.
Photo by NOAA on Unsplash