If your organization is like most nonprofits, December is the busiest month on the calendar and chock full of reminder emails, thank you notes, and donor calls as you seek to convert months of appeals into gifts before the end of the year. But as we move deeper into January, you may wonder how you can extend December’s momentum into the new year? How can you continue to engage your current donor base and reignite interest in lapsed donors? Taking advantage of this season as one of new resolutions, let me offer three tips to keep your giving moving in the right direction.
1. (Re)Commit to your nonprofit’s mission.
This tip is for you personally, actually. Research has shown that something like 30% of all annual giving occurs in December and that December 31 is, for many non-profit fundraising teams, the busiest day of the year. If that describes what you’ve just been through as a development officer at your organization, take a couple of days to reset and re-commit to the vital work you do.
What does this look like? Schedule some time in your day – maybe 30 minutes a day, several times a week, during these first January weeks – to remind yourself why you do what you do. Review the organization’s mission and vision; identify the reasons you believe in it. Review the components of the case for support. What jumps out at you? What is most compelling? Find stories about the good work your nonprofit does, and internalize these so that you can speak authentically about why supporting the organization is so important. Refreshing your own commitment to your organization will shine through in your interactions with donors.
2. Be curious – learn about your donors.
Take some time to review your giving data over the past quarter, six months, and the year as a whole. Who were your major donors? How many donors have given in consecutive years? How many made multiple gifts in the same calendar year? How many LYBUNTS renewed a gift? When did most gifts arrive, and were they attributable to a particular appeal? There are many ways to make your giving data meaningful to your organization; spend the time to home in on what is essential for your work (a good fundraising software makes this easy).
Be curious about who your donors are and how they behave. Consider your major donors – maybe choose the top 10 to start. Do you know them well? Do you understand their relationship to your organization, how they think, what they are passionate about, and what they value most about the work your organization does? And, in particular, do you understand their giving timetable? If you cannot answer these questions, it’s time to renew your acquaintance with your donors. Pick up the phone* and ask:
“Happy new year, Mrs. Smith! I was just reviewing the history of some of our most loyal donors, and I wanted to reach out to say thank you. I was also hoping you could share with me some of the reasons why you are so loyal since your experiences can help me reach out to new donors in this coming year.”
Suggest a zoom call or a socially distanced cup of coffee if they are willing. Ask the questions: Why us? Are we a charitable giving priority for you? What would we need to do to make this a possibility if we are not? In order to be most respectful of your time, does your charitable giving occur at a specific time of year?
*A phone call is often something we are reluctant to do these days, but there is no substitute for a conversation. If your files contain a phone number, it means that it was provided to you by the donor – so use it! In a worst-case scenario, you may be asked not to call, but isn’t that information good to know?
3. Be consistent in fundraising communications.
Your appeals, and your year-end appeal for sure – are scheduled on a larger plan of action, so consider making your day-to-day touches with your donors part of an official schedule as well. Allot specific time in your calendar every week for outreach to donors: thank you calls, “just to say hello” calls, an email with information that a donor might find interesting, a 60-second video from you or a colleague highlighting a recent success…anything that you can personalize and make relevant to that specific individual. On my calendar, that might look like “Tuesday 9 – 10:30. Outreach to top 5 major donors in Q3: video message and voice mails.”
These action steps to take advantage of December’s year-end giving momentum hinges on three C’s: (re)commit, be curious, and be consistent. Very likely, you have been engaged with these three C’s in one way or another over the past months, but take advantage of January’s re-set to confirm that these important strategies are embedded in the rhythm of your professional day. With focus and dedication, these C’s can lead to G’s – gifts.
Alyson Landers has held many positions around the nonprofit boardroom table and enjoys work that allows her to synthesize best practices into components customized for a particular organization. Identifying strategies to support organized outreach invite creative thinking – something she loves. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
Published: January 6, 2022