At the risk of sounding like a nag, it’s only about two months until the most important six weeks of the year for the majority of fundraisers. Year-end giving can determine if a nonprofit organization succeeds or barely limps into the new year, and it can make or break a fundraiser’s career — or at least, his or her current position.
It goes without saying that the fundraising opportunities at the end of the year, if squandered, can never be redeemed. So taking some time in the latter half of September for planning for success is not a luxury — it’s essential to survival (yours and your organization’s).
Here’s my three-step plan for fundraising success for the end of the year.
1. Set up a schedule
Review it every day. Take action every day. Schedules, no matter how brilliantly conceived they are, do no good in a file folder or even posted on your wall. They only work if they are adhered to constantly and remain living, active “marching orders” by which you plan your day and weeks.
Imperative to developing a schedule that actually is used are two things:
- How much time does each player require to do his or her part? If your executive director insists on having five days to review a 100-word email, schedule five days. Failure to do so will just derail your schedule and possibly your momentum for year-end fundraising.
- Decide what you have to do at a very minimum. Planning to do everything seems to result in doing very little well. Stop jumping on every bandwagon that comes along; fundraising really is about tortoises, not hares.
That doesn’t excuse laziness. I am not suggesting ignoring viable options. Rather, weigh the potential of each, and plan your investment of time and money based on the expected return on investment. For example, should you participate inGiving Tuesday (Dec. 2)? This is a growing movement; in fact, I heard from Ewan Hastings from the Eric Liddell Centre in Scotland that the U.K. is importing this relatively new phenomenon this year.
My advice? Any time there is free media support encouraging people to donate to charity, take advantage of it. At a minimum, have an email in your constituents’ inboxes that morning. If you have the bandwidth to do more, fine — but at least get that email written and queued up to send.
2. Beef up your knowledge
There are so many free resources available that it can be overwhelming, so choose to invest your learning time in the busy final months of the year on what you believe will have the biggest return in terms of raising money. There are two free guides (that I know of) on Giving Tuesday: one from Campbell and Co. and one from Network for Good. nfpSynergy also offers free reports on a variety of topics for charities in the U.K. and Scotland. There’s a free report on using Twitter from Salsa Labs. And those are just the ones I’ve heard about in the last few days.
You probably won’t get all of these read and be able to put the learnings into action in time for this year-end giving season. But choose one of these or another resource that covers something that isn’t your core competency. Download the free book or report, glean from it what is useful to you, and then implement that. It there’s nothing in it that you can implement, quickly put it aside and move on (the joy of free information).
As you learn how to use a new tool and see the impact it has on fundraising, you will feel re-energized. Fundraising is never boring unless you let it become boring.
3. Act on information
The mailing you send on Dec. 23 will not provide results that you can use by 2014. But every email you send can help you know the next steps to take. Every donor visit or call you make can shape your messaging on the next call. Every email, call or note from a donor can help you sharpen your final efforts for 2014.
You can also be proactive, using information you have to encourage your donors to give before year-end. October is an ideal time to send a letter or email to people who gave in 2013 but haven’t yet given in 2014. Remind them that there is still time to renew their support before the end of the year. For those who have given, thank them again and tell them how important a year-end gift from them is to your mission.
This old dog knows that I haven’t written a single line here that is going to revolutionize fundraising for generations to come. But I have found that when fundraising works, it’s often because someone took the time to do the “usual” just a little bit better. There’s plenty of mediocre fundraising hitting our inboxes and mailboxes, not to mention calling us and talking to us face to face.
Be exceptional this year-end. Do what you do the best way possible. There’s not all that much time until Dec. 31, so determine every day to be a better fundraiser than you were the day before. That’s the best way to succeed in fundraising.
Originally published in NonProfit Pro.