Is your fundraising program ready for year-end?

November 12, 2014

Is your fundraising program ready for year-end?

by CNM fundraising expert, Jennifer Chalos

The year-end is usually a mad dash for most nonprofits.

From mid-November through Dec. 31, many nonprofits will raise up to 40 percent of their total annual campaign goal. Needless to say, this is an important time of year for any nonprofit.

While racing to the finish line, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are we building relationships with our donors?
  • Are we sharing our stories of both success and need?
  • Are we making the right ask?
  • Are we recognizing and effectively thanking our donors?

These are guiding questions for maintaining the basics of a solid and successful fundraising program:

Relationships matter when raising money.

Like any friendship, communication is important to deepening a relationship. Relationships deepen as you have shared experiences, learn each other’s habits and interests, make connections to others, and are responsive when special occasions or situations arise. One would not propose marriage on the first date. So why do nonprofits ask a prospective donor for a major gift on the first approach?

To retain your donors from year to year, consider developing a communications plan that includes a variety of points of contact—some interactive and some one-way sharing of information. Include your major and long-time donors in your announcements of program milestones and other news. Most of all, think about the before and the after or ask, “what have I done for you lately?” when planning to request money from your donors.

Story-telling is one of the most compelling ways to raise money.

Sharing client success stories, ways that your program impacted an audience, your personal reason for serving the nonprofit, or why another made their gift will help personalize your outreach to donors. It makes your organization and your work real and memorable. It ignites a passion from within. This will ultimately raise more money for your nonprofit. Nonprofits can tell stories through newsletters, letters, website posts, social media, and face to face interactions. Arm yourself with a story and encourage others serving as ambassadors to find and share their own.

Make the right ask.

Making the “right” ask makes a world of difference in fundraising. Determining the best ask for your donors starts with a good donor management system. Databases store contact information and can reveal past giving patterns like last donation date, amount, number of years of support, event attendance, etc. This can help guide your next ask so you don't ask for too little or too much.

Something to note: if you are planning to save money this year by emailing your year-end request, make certain you have your donors’ email addresses.

And remember: of utmost importance, don’t forget to make an explicit request for support or you likely receive nothing.

Fundraising is everyone’s job. 

Successful fundraising does not rest on the back of a development director. In an article titled, Development Directors are Not Miracle Workers, Rick Moyers makes the case, “Assuming that the organization has a compelling mission and does good work, the real keys to effective fundraising are the leadership, vision, and skill of the executive director; an engaged, committed, and high-functioning board; and a strong working partnership between the board and the executive. If those things are in place, a development director can be successful. And if those things are not in place, even the most talented development director will struggle.”

Fund development involves identifying, introducing, engaging, asking, and thanking donors not just in November, but throughout the year.  An executive director, board members, other leadership, staff and key volunteers can be extremely helpful in any of these steps; have everyone pitch in and your donors will notice and your development director will definitely thank you!

Last but not least, thank your donors.

Thanking your donors is by far one of the most critical steps to successful fundraising. The IRS requires that nonprofits issue a receipt or tax letter for donations of $250 or more, but you should also take a more personal route. Thank you notes, calls and emails are great vehicles for sharing stories of impact and for showing your donors how their gift made a difference.

Penelope Burk, originator of Donor-Centered Fundraising, takes this a step further with her research which shows the impact your board can have in increasing your fundraising simply by saying thanks:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39 percent more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42 percent more.

If you don’t have your thank you plan in place for year-end—or anytime during the year—don’t delay.

This is a busy but important time of year and it’s crucial to not forget about the basics. While you are sending out your year-end letters and messages, consider any additional measures that will help your organization to build relationships with your donors and make life-long friends.  

Learn more about how CNM can help you with your fundraising! From capital campaigns to fundraising audits, we offer customized solutions for your needs. Learn more here.

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