The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Year-End Fundraising Through the Lens of Donor Engagement

Fall is a busy time of year. Whether it’s getting the kids back to school or the quick transitions between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, there are many reminders that the dog days of summer are long behind us. On top of all that, we are looking squarely in the face of the year-end fundraising push. Whether or not your fiscal year ends on December 31, donors and nonprofits alike know this is prime giving season. Consider these stats from Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index:

  • 30% of all giving occurs in December.
  • 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.

Many terrific blog posts and webinars offer words of advice about how to end the year on a strong note. If we know we’ll have donors’ growing attention over the next two and a half months, I suggest looking at the end-of-year blitz as one part of a longer engagement plan for your donors. Sustainable fundraising embodies a year-round dialogue with your donors and isn’t limited to these last two to three months of the year. This is especially important to keep in mind since we know organizations have been facing a negative growth in donors: For every 100 new and recovered donors, 103 were lost through attrition. Your focus over these next few months should be on engaging the donors you have so they continue to give.

Share, Celebrate, and Don’t Oversolicit

Penelope Burk, the guru of donor-centered fundraising, found in her research that the number one reason donors stop supporting an organization is because they feel they are being “oversolicited.” With tight deadlines and multichannel communications, it’s easy to get swept up in the transactional part of fundraising—getting those gifts in by December 31. Are your communications—e-newsletters, mailed and electronic solicitations, tweets, Facebook posts, and so on—bringing donors closer to your work and inspiring them to commit more deeply to your mission without always asking for money?

Before you begin asking for year-end gifts, use a variety of multi-channel fundraising to bring your work and beneficiaries before your donors:

  • Share with your donors examples of impact and stories of transformation that their gift made possible.
  • Highlight what you were able to do because of the gifts you received from your donors.
  • Celebrate your donors and make them feel that their support made a difference in some way.

Now your solicitations will be natural extensions of the dialogue you’ve created around the results donors have helped you achieve, resulting in donors being more open to investing in you again.

Engage Your Middle to Major Gift Donors and Prospects

Middle to major donors generally have higher loyalty rates and consider their gifts to you as investments. Show these donors how much you valued them:

  • Schedule staff or volunteer leadership calls to these larger donors just to thank them for their continued support and to share a few highlights of your year.
  • Send this group of donors and prospects a personal letter, a link to a video, or simple thank you card from one of your beneficiaries.
  • Give these donors and prospects an up-close and in-person view of your work. Can they meet any of your staff and/or beneficiaries or participate in a one-off volunteer opportunity?

Mind you, these are all stewardship activities that should not be isolated to year-end. But in the spirit of the seasons of thanking and giving, they can complement the inundation of solicitations these donors will be receiving from you and other organizations.

Assess and Grow in 2016

We all know that feeling of relief when December 31 has come and gone. How will you build off that year-end fundraising momentum in 2016? In addition to making sure all gifts are promptly processed and acknowledged (another key ingredient in Penelope Burk’s donor-centered fundraising), this is a good time to assess and adjust your plans for 2016 in two ways.

First, determine which messages or communication format resonated most with your audience. Make necessary adjustments in your 2016 plans to ensure you’re speaking to your donors in the way that resonates best.

Second, take stock of who gave to your organization:

  • Did you have new donors (either first-time or lapsed donors who returned) and donors who upgraded their support? Call or visit your new and upgraded donors to thank them and find out what motivated their new or increased gifts.
  • You might also conduct wealth-capacity screening to identify which of these donors has potential for a larger commitment, and then tailor a personalized cultivation strategy to bring them closer to your organization.
  • Did any of your LYBUNTs not make a gift? Focus on finding out why your larger and longstanding LYBUNTs didn’t include you in their philanthropic plans. Understanding what drove their decision is important for you to find out and could lead to renewed support down the road. It shows your donors that you care about their motivations and don’t just view them as a walking ATM.

The “noise” of appeals and communications from organizations competing for limited philanthropic dollars will grow louder over the next couple of months. Use the themes of gratitude and generosity (of spirit, interest, and information) to drive thoughtful connection with your donors.


 

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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