Prepare for a Prosperous End-of-Year (Part 1)
Not to send you blood pressure skyrocketing, but it's only 116 days until 2013. While that gives you plenty of time to make your plans for your holiday celebrations, time is wasting for making sure your nonprofit takes advantage of this wonderful time of year for receiving donations.
The end of the year is, for many of us, a time of reassessing our lives. Part of that reassessment often involves giving donations to charities that we believe in. While some of this giving is spontaneous, much of it is the "harvest" that results from the hard work of cultivation done throughout the year by fundraisers like you and me.
Here's the first half of my list of things to take a look at now to make sure you're on your donors' radar come Dec. 31 (or the few weeks before). Watch this newsletter for more suggestions in a week.
"Stress test" your website
Is your website easy for a first-time visitor to use? Is the "Donate Now" button prominent, or does it get lost among the other competing messages? When a donor clicks the donation button, will he or she immediately get to an easy-to-complete form that makes giving simple?
I just looked at the websites of five large nonprofits, chosen randomly from the stack of mail I've received lately. The first dollar amount offered in the ask string on one site was $1,000. I know we like to encourage upgrading, but that amount seems pretty aggressive to me. Is your ask string appropriate for your donor base?
Another site had a prominent "Donate Now" button, but that took me to a page where I had to again click "Donate Now." Wasn't telling you once enough?
A third had several paragraphs of copy before I got to the donation form, and a fourth decided to hide the words "Donate Now" in the midst of a lot of other copy. Making a potential donor work too hard may not be the best strategy for getting that last-minute 2012 gift.
I know it's always easy to complain, so for balance take a look at Paralyzed Veterans of America's website (www.pva.org) — I love its "Donate Now" button!
Bottom line — what are potential donors seeing when they go on your website to donate? Is it logical to them (not just to you or to your tech staff)? Ask a few non-staff members to test-drive it for you and give you honest feedback. A few tweaks now can help ensure donors find it easy to give to you online this year-end.
Review your receipting process
Are you prepared to handle a large increase in donations at year-end? Will you be able to send out a timely "thank you" that refers to the project designated by the donor? Do you have enough forms and envelopes on hand? I've seen the same donor send a gift in in early December, and then use the return envelope in the receipt to send a second gift before year-end. Does your system encourage that kind of generosity?
Now is the time to cross-train staff or recruit volunteers to help in donation processing when the workload soars. Don't wait until everyone is stressed and there's no time for training. Identify a few people now who can be called on as needed, and invest the time to prepare them so they can truly be a help at year-end.
Surprise some of your faithful mid-level donors with a thank you call
Now is a good time to call donors who have been faithfully giving throughout the year or for the past several years at year-end and say "thank you." That's all — just "thank you." These can be fun calls to make because the donor is clearly waiting for the "ask" and you get to surprise him or her by never asking.
Try to make a few calls each evening if you can't reach donors during the day. Sitting and trying to call 100 people in one day may be much too stressful, but a few calls after dinner is easy to do and makes the donor feel great. And don't be surprised if you hang up feeling pretty good, too. Connecting with the men and women who make our work possible is more enjoyable than much of what's on TV these days!
The donors you call will appreciate being thanked, and this may make your organization stand out in their minds when they are making their year-end giving plans.
Next week I'll suggest a few other ways to get everything in place for a strong outpouring of donations at year-end. Having everything lined up and ready to go can give your organization a terrific year-end — and help you enjoy some well-deserved time-off at the same time.
Pamela Barden is the creative juice and the copywriting machine behind PJBarden Inc. Pamela also serves on the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. You can follow Pamela on Twitter @pjbarden.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.