Winter is Coming…Plan for Year-End Success!
October 29, 2015

In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the House of Stark warns us that “winter is coming…”

Many a Stark family member has learned the hard way that not being prepared can lead to lethal consequences.  Like the Starks, nonprofit fundraisers must strive to be prepared for the coming winter, too (although the white-walkers are not our biggest current concern). Our biggest threat to success would be the lack of a comprehensive plan to optimize end-of-year fundraising.

While your organization might not have a fiscal year that coincides with the calendar year, it is important to acknowledge that the approaching end-of-calendar-year is prime time for fundraising. Donors will be thinking about making their final tax-exempt charitable contributions, so be prepared with a sound year-end giving plan for all of your donor constituents. I have found the following five activities essential to year-end fundraising success:

1. Post-Gala Fundraising
The fall Gala season is coming to a close, but post-gala fundraising has only just begun! Events are a great way to identify and cultivate new donors. If your event check-in and registration process worked well, you have collected the e-mails of everyone who attended your gala: sponsors, individual ticket-buyers, table hosts, and their guests — who often did not pay to attend. Here is your chance to follow-up with that group. A post-event e-mail to all of your guests, ideally sharing collateral from the event (photos, short video clips, sponsor attribution), provides an opportunity to:1) remind all of your guests what a great time they had; and 2) ask them to consider an end-of-year donation to your cause. At a time when they are probably considering charitable giving options, it is a great way to be sure to put your agency’s work in front of them for their philanthropic consideration.

2. Re-engage Lapsed Funders
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With the approaching holiday season, people are full of good cheer. It is an ideal time to leverage this goodwill and re-approach lapsed donors with a very personalized and strategic solicitation. Meetings are certainly the best approach, but you may not get that opportunity with a lapsed donor. A phone call might also be difficult. The next best thing would be a highly personalized solicitation letter. Mention their last gift, and what it helped accomplish. Mention their years of continuous giving, if applicable. Share a recent success and plans for the coming year. Tell them they are missed, and invite them to re-join your efforts as part of your family of funders. Follow up on each letter with a phone call, and try to determine the reasons for the funder’s lapse. It may not be anything related to the organization (economy, loss of job, illness), but there may be something there in need of repair. Listen closely, respond empathetically, and ask for another chance.

3. Engage and Re-Engage Board and Former Board
This is a great time to check-in with all board members on their giving to-date, and report on their progress toward the board giving expectation or commitment (give/get). At this time of year, they may be reviewing their charitable giving choices, and may consider it a helpful reminder to make their donation by December 31 in order to get a tax-receipt for the gift in the current year. This is also an effective time to approach former board members who may have lapsed as donors, and the approach above for lapsed donors should be effective. The only caveat is that the approach/solicitation should be made by a board member (either a current member, or a member from their period of board service, which is often even more effective). Again, shoot for an in person meeting first, second choice by phone, and third by highly personalized letter or note (followed by a personal call, of course).

4. Corporate Funders Engagement
More often than not, a corporation’s fiscal year is the calendar year. In addition to reaching out to individual donors, it is an ideal time to reach out to Corporate Funders. I always recommend meeting with corporate funders 1015 corp smallat year-end to thank them, and to talk about your work and plans for the approaching fiscal year. At end-of-year, they are putting together their charitable giving budgets for the coming year, making it an ideal time to share your agency’s future plans. If they are interested in continuing to support your work, they will build your needs into their budgets. At this time of year, many corporations may have charitable funds remaining in their current-year giving budgets, which could make you the recipient of year-end bonus: an additional and unexpected year-end gift. Timing is everything with fundraising, and now is the time to roundup your corporate supporters.

5. Giving Tuesday & Year-End Appeals
With the advent of this novel philanthropic day of giving (the Tuesday following Thanksgiving each year), organizations are now investing in one-day electronic appeals that are bringing in record gifts. Giving Tuesday is largely a social-media phenomenon, so it is important to have your appeals “twitter-and Facebook-ready” with bold and interesting images that will make recipients more likely to “share” within their online social communities. You may still do hard-copy appeals, but this Giving Tuesday effort is exclusively electronic.

1015-Its-Time-for-Giving smallAlthough Giving Tuesday is a one-day event, be sure to have a comprehensive follow-up plan. For example, a week after the first e-mail appeal, send another to those who have not donated reminding them of your original request. I have seen these follow-ups work effectively as “forwarded” reminders from another sender with a subject line of, “did you read this important message from [original sender name]?” If you also send hard-copy appeals, be sure the messaging and branding are aligned with your electronic appeals. You can follow-up on all of these by phone. Coincidentally, it is a great time of year for a phone-bank which can involve all kinds of constituents (staff, board, donors, and volunteers). It involves planning, scheduling, scripting, training, and incentives, so get started!

Timing is everything. What’s important is that you get started preparing for the busiest time in the fundraising year! Putting a request out to your current and lapsed donors makes sense in that it reminds them of your organization’s work, and ensures you don’t get lost in holiday shuffle.

Call us to discuss your needs.

Because even the best organizations
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Finlay Consulting Services is a New York City-based fundraising and philanthropy practice that specializes in Strategic Planning, Grantmaking Impact Assessment, Revenue Diversification, Board Engagement and Governance, Leadership Performance Assessment, Executive Coaching, Corporate & Foundation Relations, Major Donor Stewardship, Planned Giving, Capacity Building Forums, Retreats, and Interim Leadership.
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