Year-end priorities

By some estimates, charities receive upwards of 40 percent of their donations in December -- so it pays to be prepared. Here are five quick recommendations for making the most of your year end giving.

1. Show donors fresh, relevant content. Be sure to consider what your donors will be seeing when they look at your website or open your year end appeal. Use new photos and up-to-date information about your issues . . . especially if your issues are getting media attention. Work closely with your program staff to weave messaging and action into your appeals.

2. Execute your solicitation activities. Year-end letters and emails, matching campaigns, a final push for major gifts; they all need to happen now. Be conscious of the calendar and other people's schedules. If your executive director or board chair will be writing personal notes on year-end letters, make sure to leave enough time. It always takes longer than we think! And, if you’ve been holding a solicitation, waiting for someone to make a personal call, don’t wait anymore. Send it now.

3. Connect with office staff. Lots of staff will be taking time off. But it's also your busiest time of year, so plan ahead. Remind everyone that you're gearing up for year end. Post a visible reminder like a dashboard or a thermometer on your door or bulletin board. Beyond your development team, be sure administration and finance know how to handle year-end gifts and how to help donors with things like stock transfers, in case you're not around. Add some fun and gratitude for the extra work.

4. Engage board members. Request help in finishing out the year. Have all board members made a gift this year? Provide regular communications during the coming weeks to keep everyone up to date. You might want to hold a board fundraising webinar or schedule thank you calls. Personal thank you's can be a great way to engage your board in outreach and build meaningful relationships with donors.

5. Pay attention to your online presence. Plan for a shadow box, home page hi-jack, and new lead stories. Make it easy to find info on stock transfers, IRA rollovers, donor advised funds and other specialized gifts. Check your profiles in Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Guidestar to make sure your info is up to date.

In the midst of the excitement and pressure . . . don't forget to breathe!