For any nonprofit, year-end fundraising is like the Super Bowl. Your team has put in tons of hard work throughout the season. You’re ready! You’ve practised! You’re pumped! And your generous donors are waiting for tickets to go on sale for the Big Game.And what a game it is! Over 30% of annual giving is made in the month of December, with 12% happening in the last three days of the year. That’s HUGE! And donors’ procrastination can work in your favor, because it means there’s still time for you to reach out and ask for those donations.They’re out there and ready to give… all you have to do is tell them how. And yes, you do need to tell them! There are thousands of nonprofits out there, and so many worthy causes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make sure people know why your cause is most deserving of their charitable giving dollars.Let’s begin.
1. Have a Game Plan
Set a specific year-end fundraising goal, ideally based on both your short- and long-term needs. Decide in advance what success means to you, whether it’s a dollar amount or a number of additional donors. Share your plan with staff and volunteers early on to get everyone involved and spread out the work.To help build your plan, consider these questions:
- What do we want to accomplish? Dollars are great and crucial to your mission, but what do you want to tell people you’ve done with their gifts? Imagine the results of your best-case scenario, and work backwards from there.
- How do we want to reach out? Different people prefer to be contacted in different ways, and your resources are limited. Consider what the most effective communication channels will be to reach your ideal donors, and focus on those.
- Who do we want to contact? Even skywriting only reaches a limited audience, and that’s probably not in your budget. Depending on your goal, your audience may vary; choose the folks most likely to respond to your year-end fundraising appeal and address your appeals to them.
- What do we want them to do? Choose the one thing that you want donors to d0 right now. Do you want them to donate to a specific fund? Switch to recurring giving? Buy a particular fundraising item? Use that as the one clear call to action in each of your messages.
2. Send the Right Message
While numbers are great, you may want to save them for your annual report. Now is the time to share stories rather than statistics; people are more generous when they can relate to an individual’s story. Show potential donors what their gifts will support, and let previous donors know how their gifts have already helped. And while it’s your organization asking for donations, the message isn’t about you: tell supporters how great they are for wanting to help.
As you’re developing your story, balance that with keeping your message simple, short and sweet.
December’s busy for everyone! A single great picture can really help attract attention, and a nice big “donate” button makes it easy for donors to take the one, specific action you want.When you’re ready, don’t wait, start planting the seeds of generosity now! Updates on Facebook, Twitter, and on other social channels are immediately visible. Clean up your mailing lists, review your printed materials, write that newsletter… just because your donors procrastinate doesn’t mean you can wait until the last minute to say “me too.” Make sure you’re in donors’ thoughts when they’re ready to give; plan out a few scheduled email messages and emphasize urgency as the year’s end approaches.
When donors want to give, where do they go? They look up your website! Regardless of whether they give online or off, potential supporters will likely check out your website beforehand. Are you putting your best face forward?You certainly should be keeping your home page up-to-date, of course. If your “current events” are from last summer, get in there and update things! Even if you need to do some digging to find out who can make changes to your website for you, it’s well worth the time to tidy things up for your new guests.
To encourage greater giving, make sure to feature fundraising prominently on the home page of your website.
People won’t give if they can’t find the right place easily. A nice, bright “DONATE” button near the top of your home page will ensure that everyone knows where to give, and you can link it straight to your main GiveCentral giving page or to a specific fund you’d like to highlight this season.
4. Say Thank You
…a lot.A brief “thanks” with a donation receipt is nice, but that alone won’t build the relationship you’re hoping to develop that will keep donors coming back.
That first “thank you” is not simply a courtesy, it’s your first opportunity to reinforce the great decision they’ve just made.
Following up with donors on the results of their giving is another great step on the path toward what will hopefully become a lifelong partnership. When you can show the concrete results of their gifts, donors are reassured that they’ve made a good choice and encouraged to give again.Thank yous don’t just have to be emails or letters! You can recognize donors on your website or ask their opinions about your next initiative. Invite them to give in other ways – by volunteering, by attending an event, or by telling friends about your incredible achievements. Word-of-mouth is great for giving!
So What’s Next?
It ain’t over ’til it’s… well, it’s never over. Thankfully, your mission is well worth it!
Fundraising for your organization is an ongoing task even after the year-end fundraising blitz is over, but you can make it more manageable by beginning a plan for 2016.
Break things up into more reasonable chunks if a full-year calendar is too much to tackle at once! Take a look at what worked (and what didn’t) in this round of giving, and adjust your future plans and activities based on what you’ve learned.How can your plan become better aligned with your organization’s mission? What targets should get more attention in your next fundraising push? Where could your time, energy and budget be better spent? How will you continue to grow your list, and how can you best keep the donors you already have?What will you be doing in 2016?