Now Is the Time: 6 Ways to Stand Out in the Year-End Madness

I read today that nagging is a sign of caring. So, here’s a big dose of caring! I want your organization to have the very best year-end possible when it comes to raising money. So that means you have to be hard at work now. Hence just a bit of nagging on my part.

The truth isn’t all that pretty. There is an overabundance of competition in the mailbox and inbox. Stores have been reminding us about the holidays since right after Labor Day (if not sooner), and disposable income already is being mentally (or literally) spent on gifts and gadgets. And on top of all that, donors are scratching their heads and wondering, “What is it this nonprofit does anyway?”

“Wait a minute,” you say. “Our donors love us! They totally get us! They love what we’re doing!” I believe that’s true—for some. But a lot of your donors probably are confused.

I know this because I read the statistics on donor loyalty (dismal) and retention (scarily bad). I know this because I listen to students trying to figure out why Organization A is different from Organization B. I know this because I get a lot of direct response—mail and email—and I’m confused. In fact, in the last 10 days, I’ve been invited to feed hungry people and have my gift multiplied five times! Provide four Thanksgiving meals for $1! Give a Thanksgiving dinner and care for only $1.25! Why should I choose one over the others? They all sound good to me. Maybe the easy way out of this dilemma is to just do nothing.

So now is the time to combat this confusion.

1. Now is the time to remind your donors what they have made possible by giving to you earlier this year. A newsletter or e-newsletter that has some specificity and results will help people see that a gift to you does really make a difference.

2. Now is the time to let your donors know how very, very grateful you are for their partnership. What’s been done is because of what they’ve given. Make sure your donors are feeling appreciated and they know they are part of the solution, not just anonymous dispensers of cash.

3. Now is the time to remind donors who haven’t given yet in 2016 that you miss them, and that they can have a real impact when they renew their support. Don’t assume they are maintaining computer records to flag them when they are in danger of lapsing. They aren’t. You have to politely ask them to give again.

4. Now is the time to update your website if needed. When was the last time the photos on your homepage were changed? You don’t have to spend a lot to give your homepage a facelift for the holidays.

5. Now is the time to make sure your Facebook page is chock full of interesting content. I took a look at the Facebook pages for the three organizations that invited me to donate to feed hungry people. If that’s how I was choosing which one to support, it was no contest—the one with the great cover photo and current posts was the clear winner. The other two led with statistics—lots of them. My head was overwhelmed, and my heart was overlooked.

6. Now is the time to see if there are any stops you haven’t pulled out for the last 90 days of the year. Do you have your year-end e-appeals scheduled? Is there a calendar for Facebook posts so everyone doesn’t take off for the holidays and leave your page to gather dust? Is your year-end appeal well underway? Are receipts going out quickly for every gift, and is the message fresh and sincere? Does the auto-responder for online gifts sound like it was written by a truly grateful human being? Is your online donation site ready for the increased workload at the end of the year?

The end of the year is coming. But knowing that isn’t enough. What are you doing to make it a fundraising watershed? Because this old dog believes it gets down to this—in a world of “one size fits most,” what are you doing to show your donors and prospects that you are a perfect fit for them?

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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