Of course, this is what Santa Claus is doing in preparation for his special visits in two weeks. It's also what every nonprofit leader — especially fundraiser — should be doing in preparation for the new year right now.
While I joke with friends in the academic world about their extended holiday vacation, the reality is that for most of us in the nonprofit arena, December is one of the busiest months. It goes by in the blink of an eye. And, if you aren't careful, so do your best opportunities for deepening relationships and giving.
This is your optimal time to have your strategic list of what you need to accomplish in hand and to check it twice — actually at least twice a week — because it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holiday spirit.
- Be sure you reach out to your top donors. Review your list of top donors for the last three years. Call those who have made gifts to express your thanks (you should have already sent a holiday card by e-mail or mail), and find a way to reach out to those whose giving has lapsed to encourage them to invest in your worthy cause.
- Show gratitude for your volunteers — from your board to fundraising volunteers. Be original, and speak from the heart. It can range from a card to holiday decadence to a healthy snack — just let them know you appreciate their commitment.
- Don't forget your team. No matter how large or small your organization, there is a staff team whom you depend on. This token of your appreciation can be a card, a handwritten note or a simple gift. Make it appropriate and sincere.
- Don't close up shop! You need to be sure that someone is checking the mail and voice mail each day through year-end. Be sure you're ready to process year-end gifts and accept transfers of stock. Also, someone should be there to acknowledge them in a timely manner!
- Make an investment in planning and evaluation. From a personal mission statement and goals to your fundraising plan, use some of the "quiet time" to write or benchmark a vision and then set goals with measurable objectives. Studies show the power of setting goals. Begin or continue the discipline of a regular review and benchmarking. This introspection and planning are important to your success and happiness in the new year!
- Be nice and give! Santa finds out who's naughty or nice. So do something unexpected for someone in need or for an organization — and maybe not the one where you work or serve on the board. Give your resources, but also reach out to give your time — investing in someone who needs help or encouragement. You'll connect in different ways with your dollars and your time. Do both!
Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.