Prepare for a Prosperous End-of-Year (Part 2)

Last week I suggested three things to do now to help your organization prepare for an avalanche of year-end donations. These included reviewing your website with a critical eye to make sure it communicates well with the uninformed potential donor (not just to insiders); reviewing your receipting process and taking any necessary steps to facilitate processing an increased volume of donations in a timely manner; and investing in goodwill with your faithful donors, making sure they know how much you appreciate them.
Now that Jan. 1 is just 109 days away, there are a few more things you can do to make sure there’s nothing between your organization and a year-end gift from your supporters.

Plan your appeal schedule for the rest of the year
Maybe you have a terrific schedule and you’re clicking right along. Maybe you have a pretty good schedule but you’ve fallen behind. Or maybe you’re more into “spontaneous communication.”

If you’re in one of the last two categories, now is the time to look at the schedule (or scratch one out on a napkin) and ask yourself what is really, truly feasible between now and Dec.31. If you’re behind, don’t panic – just cancel the least important communications and, starting today, be on schedule for the critical ones that will generate year-end gifts. It’s more important to get the e-appeal out in late December than to try to catch up on the late August one that never came together.

Decide what the message is that you want your donors to hear. What will you tell them that will make your organization’s offer stand out from all the others? And don’t forget to be realistic. It’s far better to get two mailings and three e-mails out between now and Dec. 31 than to have an elaborate plan for strategic multichannel communication that never gets out of the starting gate.

Plan a specific appeal strategy for the last several days of the year
Everyone doesn’t catch up on their giving on Dec. 31 – but a lot of people do. This year, Dec. 31 is on a Monday. That means you’ll possibly want to have a short e-mail that arrives in the in-box early that morning – so you’ll have to have that set up and ready to go before all your colleagues hit the door for the holidays. You may also want to send a letter that gets in home on Dec. 26 or 27, or an e-mail around that time, too.

This is not a recommended plan, but it represents what some nonprofits are thinking about. And many of your donors are on the mailing lists of those nonprofits, too. So you need to plan how aggressive you want to be with your messages. You may decide not to mail or send a final e-appeal at year end, but make sure that’s a strategic decision you make – not the result of being too busy to get it done.

Consider a special message to major donors and corporations that support you.
Is there a project you’ll be launching in January, or a key opportunity that still needs funding this year? Can you put together a package for key donors that presents this opportunity in a way that is exciting and new?

November is often a great time to challenge major donors with a significant giving opportunity. Think “investment,” not just “business as usual.” (This isn’t the “we need to end the year on budget” appeal.) Packaging a need in a format that says to the donor “This is important and exclusive” may trigger significant year-end gifts.

All these ideas may not be appropriate for your nonprofit, but hopefully they got you thinking about what you should be doing now to make sure you have the strongest possible year-end. After all, when our donors have “Auld Lang Syne” running through their minds, we want to be sure they are not only remembering old acquaintances, but our nonprofit, as well.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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