This post was submitted by our friends at Averill Solutions.
Many nonprofits plan for year-end fundraising months in advance, and with the season quickly approaching, it’s time to make sure your organization’s strategy is perfected.
During the final months of the year, your organization can experience increased engagement and with that, incoming gifts. Further, the foundation you lay during the year-end season can provide benefits long after the few months end. However, all of this is only possible with thoughtful planning.
We’ve outlined four strategies your organization can use to make the most of the year-end giving season:
- Don’t skip key planning steps.
- Research your supporters in advance.
- Place a focus on relationship building.
- Look beyond year-end fundraising.
The season is quickly approaching, but there’s still time to implement these strategies if you haven’t already. Let’s get started!
Don’t skip key planning steps.
Year-end fundraising is a huge undertaking, from the intensified supporter stewardship to the increased incoming gifts in response. Many organizations use this as an opportunity to raise the majority of their organization’s total gifts for the year, and the season shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Don’t be hasty when planning for this massive event. Just as you probably completed a nonprofit strategic planning process (learn more here) to outline the goals for your organization’s next three to five years, you’ve hopefully dedicated considerable time to planning this smaller-scale but equally important year-end initiative.
Re-check your plans as the season approaches, making sure you have processes to handle the following:
- Marketing and outreach.
- Major gifts solicitation.
- Supporter data management.
- Acknowledging gifts.
- Process evaluation.
Make sure you have a timeline for your campaign and assign ownership of each task. Outlining your year-end campaign in advance prevents costly confusion going forward, and it’s worth it to spend significant time doing so in advance.
Research your supporters in advance.
While you do need to dedicate adequate time to outreach during the year-end fundraising season, you shouldn’t waste time contacting potential supporters that might be unlikely to actually give. Your team should take a much more focused approach in order to maximize results during this crucial season.
To do this, incorporate prospect research in your year-end strategy. This is the process of evaluating a potential supporter’s capacity and affinity to give to your organization.
Examine a supporter’s philanthropic indicators, such as previous nonprofit involvement, as well as their wealth indicators, such as real estate ownership and business affiliations. These factors summed together give you insight into a supporter’s likelihood to give, so you can choose who to contact accordingly.
For more information, check out this Double the Donation guide to prospect research.
After that, segment your prospective givers and tailor your communications to each group. Consider the following segments for your supporters:
- Past major givers. Focus on maintaining and deepening this relationship to build a relationship for life.
- First-time givers. Follow-up with these supporters to ensure they have a positive giving experience and are encouraged to return.
- Lapsed supporters. Craft your communications to regain this giver’s support and gain insight regarding why they lapsed in the first place.
Choose segments that best reflect your organization’s goals. Maintain these segments as living groupings and revisit them with updates frequently.
Place a focus on relationship building.
As of late, digital fundraising methods such as peer-to-peer fundraising, crowdfunding, and text-to-give are all trending as ways to raise gifts from a lot of supporters in a short period of time. It’s understandable to incorporate some of these methods in your strategy— but take caution to not rely on them too much.
While these methods are quick and easy, we know that the majority (at times up to 80%) of your total gifts will come from major supporters. Consider placing a concentrated focus on stewarding major supporters this year-end season.
If you feel overwhelmed with major gifts stewardship, consider consulting with a nonprofit fundraising advisor. This consultant will likely suggest your organization do a few major gifts-focused activities, such as:
- Holding one-on-one meetings between supporters and your nonprofit’s leadership.
- Offering educational meetings, such as a tour of your nonprofit’s headquarters.
- Hosting a major supporter appreciation event.
Further, after the giving season ends, go well beyond the thank-you email in acknowledging support. From public acknowledgments to thank-you luncheons, ensure your major supporters feel your gratitude.
These relationship-building practices will grow your organization’s fundraising capacity, meaning the ability of your nonprofit to raise funds with the resources you currently have access to. This is a practice of getting and retaining new supporters year after year, growing your total supporter base over time.
Look beyond year-end fundraising.
Some organizations tie their year-end fundraising push to one initiative, reaching one goal to outdo all of the work in the year preceding it (ex: “Help us reach our biggest goal yet— providing X meals to under-served populations in our community.”)
This year, consider using your year-end fundraiser to fuel your operations through the next year by tying it to your annual fund. Instead of declaring one specific initiative and therefore restricting those funds, collect year-end gifts toward an unrestricted or annual fund that your organization can live off throughout the next year.
It’s easier to attract supporters to a specific goal, with which they can observe their gifts going to good use. It’s harder to attract supporters to your organization’s annual fund, as they might not understand the necessity of nonprofit overhead costs. Lack of supporter interest doesn’t diminish the importance of your annual fund, however, and you’ll be well-off if you can get the majority of it covered through one big year-end push.
Annual fundraising is often most effective when it focuses on engaging past supporters and drawing on the strong relationships you’ve built throughout the year. It should tap into people’s emotional connection with your nonprofit, so past accomplishments and your organization’s history can be great elements to promote. Bringing on an annual fund consultant might help your organization navigate the process.
The year-end fundraising season is quickly approaching, and with it comes opportunities for your organization to build your fundraising capacity and bolster your annual fund. These opportunities aren’t guaranteed, however, and your organization needs to enter the season fully prepared to make the most of it.
Revisit your year-end fundraising strategy, checking it against the above points, to make sure it’s up to par as the giving season hits full swing.
Author: Bob Happy of Averill Solutions
Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.