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!
There’s been a lot chatter about the ice bucket challenge and whether this wildly successful fundraiser will ring in a new order for the nonprofit marketplace. An informal poll by Philanthropy News Digest showed 47 percent of respondents think it represents “something new in fundraising.”
At first glance, it looks like a new approach. It certainly tosses a lot of received wisdom out the window. It doesn’t 'demonstrate need.' It doesn't use 'performance-based measures.' It doesn’t even 'tell a story' -- the donor communication du jour. So, yes, it challenges some of our basic assumptions.
But on closer examination, we can see that it actually uses several tried-and-true techniques. They’ve emerged in a slightly different form, but they should be familiar to many of us.
- Good brand name. The ice bucket challenge leverages the name recognition of a well-established, respected organization. ALS has a good reputation, they are well-known in the health circles. That counts for a lot. Even if you know nothing about the organization, you’ve probably heard of this devastating disease.
- Friends asking friends. Now we call it peer-to-peer fundraising, but it’s a well-established principle: solicitation is most successful when it takes place between two people who know each other and who run in the same circles. You don’t see bosses challenging employees. Not cool, right?
- Challenge campaign. It taps into our competitive streak and gives us a chance to be part of a team. Almost every organization has seen this work at one point or another. Donors unresponsive to regular pleas for funds all of the sudden jump on board when it’s a matching campaign.
One more positive note -- in an era when nonprofits are tempted to invest in expensive things like target analytics and the latest fundraising software, it’s refreshing to see a highly successful fundraising activity just take off on its own.
You have better things to do than browse the internet looking for resources. The following organizations offer the best in online training, free/low-cost templates, samples policies, networking opportunities and in-person training. They give you solid, no-gimmicks advice without trying to sell you pricey products.
- Foundation Center
- Nonprofit Ready free online course
- BoardSource templates, guides and how-to's for board members
- Network for Good
- TechSoup The Place for Nonprofits and Libraries the source for discounted software and hardware
- Venable LLP - Nonprofit Services great slide shows, webinar recordings and tip sheets
What if one of your board members called you up one day and said, “I’m going to be in Atlanta next month. Are there any donors I can meet with while I’m there?” or “My college roommate just sold her successful company. How should we connect with her?” Or, how about, "I'd like to write some personal thank you notes to our donors. Would you send me some names and addresses?" Well, these are all things board members actually did say. Their willingness to cultivate donors (yes, they truly volunteered) was just one of the co-benefits of a highly-successful thank you call effort. Find out more about how you can launch your own board engagement/thank you call effort in these slides.
Charity watchdogs evaluate thousands of nonprofits every year. Their ratings influence donors' giving decisions and can either positively or negatively impact on an organization’s brand. Nonprofit executives, especially development directors, should carefully manage their organization’s profiles and pay close attention to their ratings. Check out these slides for ideas on how to gain the upper hand in the watchdog game.
The May 13 free webinar focuses on “Recapturing Lost Donors: Effective Strategies for Getting Them Back on Board.” We review the most common reasons people stop giving; how to prioritize your list of "lost" or lapsed donors; and talk about some cost-effective, “win-them-back” approaches you can implement right now.
Do you wish you had a predictive model that would help you answer questions, such as:
- Which new fundraising activity is most likely to yield the best returns?
- How much does consumer confidence impact my bottom line?
- What level of experience should I look for in my next development hire?
At a training I gave last month on strategies for upgrading donors, a major gifts person wanted to know which of the five strategies -- conditional ask strings, sustaining programs, recognition lists, matching campaigns, or second-gift asks -- would produce the best results. Unfortunately, I couldn't point to an analysis of industry-wide data that would help us chart a path to success. But then I thought, why not? Why can't we have statistical models for the development office?
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