All of a sudden, the calendar is screaming back at you, “It’s December!” You look around and realize that you haven’t had a spare minute to plan for year-end appeals. You half-heartedly put out an ask for GivingTuesday, in between writing grants, responding to donor questions, and taking out the trash.
You can still pull off a successful appeal. I’m not going to sugar-coat this, though. You’re gonna have to hustle.
Know the Facts
First, remember that traditionally about 25% of all giving in the US has happened in the last week of December. At least, it used to. Tax-deductibility isn’t the incentive that it used to be, so it will take time to see if this trend holds. Still, we are creatures of habit and a lot of us are comforted by our year-end giving routines that go right along with year-end holiday generosity.
Next, look at your own data. How and when do your donors give? What trends do you notice? I would bet a paycheck that 60-75% of your gifts come in within ten days of your appeal going out. Then there are the stragglers who wait until the last minute. Maybe your appeal has a matching gift challenge with a deadline. You can bet that a lot of folks will wait until the day of the deadline to make their gifts.
For the Love of All Things Year-End, Please Clean Up Your Data
There’s no substitute for the human touch for this task. Ask your Board members and key staff members to review your mailing list. Revise the list to the best of your ability. Please stop mailing things to deceased people. You’re not going to pick up a donation from the deceased person’s family, you’re only going to annoy them. Update donor information after moves, marriages, divorces, etc. Watch the newspaper for obituaries, marriages, birth announcements and other life events. Find volunteers who read the paper from cover to cover every day and ask them to send you updates on your donors and prospects.
Next, pull reports on PYBUNT and LYBUNT (Past/Last Year But Unfortunately Not This) donors. There will be people on these lists who usually give in October, but have not yet given this year. Have you been in touch? Are they seeing your appeals, or are your emails going to their spam folders? Better figure it out if you want to keep them from lapsing.
When in doubt, call or email your donors directly. There’s no harm in asking for an email or snail mail update. It shows that you care enough to keep your facts straight. Sometimes you’ll get even more information than you’ve asked for. Maybe your donor’s family is dealing with an illness, a big move, a lay-off, or other life event that will affect their giving this year. That doesn’t mean you need to dump them. It just means that you need to lay off for the time being. Put a note in your calendar to send a “thinking of you” card in a few months. If you genuinely care about donors as the people they are, these small touches will set you apart from the competition. And, let’s face it, there is more competition for donor dollars and attention than ever before.
Make it Easy for People to Give
This may be the biggest mistake that we fundraisers make. We put together gorgeous campaigns with graphics, stories, pictures and all the feels. And we don’t include an actual ask.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need! Your organization is trying to solve a big problem and help lots of people. Ask your donor to save the day by donating.
Tell People How You Want Them to Give
Do you have a killer online giving platform? Drive your donors to it with email and social media asks.
Are you a small but mighty organization that needs to keep things easy? Consider using social media platforms as your online giving portal and ask people to give, like, comment and share.
Does your accounting department prefer receiving checks? That’s ok, too. Hard copy appeals and checks are not dead. Only around 7% of all US giving happens online, so it’s more than ok to ask for checks. Plus, you won’t have to pay credit card fees.
Have you landed a generous matching gift? Get the word out as fast as you can, give people a deadline, and watch the gifts pour in.
Are your donors looking for more options to give? Make sure you’re set up to receive gifts of stock, planned gifts, insurance policies, and all sorts of things.
Bottom line: If you don’t already have one, draw up a gift acceptance policy as soon as humanly possible. It will save you from the time when a donor wants to give you a collection of antique spittoons.
Ask for Help
Give me a call, and we’ll figure this out together. I’m offering free 30 minute phone consultations during the month of December. Sign up for yours here.
You can do this, and you are not alone!