Running Into the New Year — How to Win With Year-End Fundraising
In these columns I address real-life obstacles and challenges that nonprofits face in creating sustainable funding to deliver their missions and achieve their goals. Readers write via email to receive a quick consultation and perhaps have their particular problem addressed in a future article.
The development director of a regional animal shelter contacted me with the query, "How do I make the most of year-end giving?" By "most," he meant he wanted to not only make his "totals," but to strengthen his base as much as possible for the coming year. He spoke of "running into the new year" rather than simply letting it overtake him. Smart guy.
He understood whereas bringing in cash gifts for the bottom line at year-end is certainly a key goal, he also wanted to position the shelter to build upon that success. He wants to grow his fundraising program to even higher levels of giving in the coming year.
My response to this energetic development director was to remind him the last three months of the calendar are, indeed, the most productive for the entire year. By productive, I mean the most cash received. Some organizations' cash receipts for the last quarter are as much as 60 percent of their year's total.
Principle 7 of The Eight Principles is "Renew & Refresh." Whereas both renewing donors and acquiring new ones are critical activities, maximizing cash received will require him to focus on renewing and upgrading existing donors. Acquiring new donors, if done correctly, takes time and is expensive — not an activity that will add much (if anything) to the immediate bottom line. Leave acquisition efforts for spring or perhaps early fall.
I advised him to identify those donors to the shelter who are already giving at a minimum of $1,000 level and those whom he feels could give at that level by their histories.
For those four-figure donors who have already given during the year, he should take the opportunity to thank them once more (assuming he's already thanked them) and remind them of the coming year-end.
Suggest — and I do mean suggest — that if they have additional capacity for the year and the inclination to exercise that, such additional generosity could realize their desired outcomes with his organization. Note that I said the donors' desired outcomes, not a pet project of the shelter. This strategy assumes that he already knows what the interests of his donors are. If he doesn't, he can still recover by drawing these donors out through face-to-face interviews.
For those four-figure donors who have not yet given this year, arrange for personal face-to-face visits to ask for their gift renewals and suggest an upgrade. Such an invitation can be especially welcome at year-end, a time associated with giving and generosity. Note that I haven't mentioned the "tax" incentive. If that is a motive — and it is rarely a primary one — the donor already has that in mind.
For those donors who are not currently giving at the four-figure level but who, in his opinion, could give at that level, arrange personal face-to-face visits to ask these supporters to either step up to the $1,000 level or add sufficient funds to their current year's gifts to reach that benchmark.
Focusing on high-cash giving not only maximizes actual year-end returns, but more importantly, builds motivation and commitment in the segment of his donor base with the greatest inclination to give.
Although every gift is important and all gifts count, developing a sustainable revenue stream from philanthropy requires a focus on high-cash giving. The giving season — traditionally the last quarter of the calendar year — is the time to be focused on building commitment among your most committed and able supporters.
Thanks to the energetic fundraiser, who has his eye on the long-term financial health of the worthy organization he serves, for reaching out.
Please let me hear from you concerning your particular situation and the difficulties you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me, and I'll give you a quick response. I'll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Whether your organization is small or large, well-heeled or struggling from day to day, you'll benefit immeasurably from taking a good, hard look at whether it spends more of its time in the fundraising emergency room or makes planned visits to the wellness clinic. You'll learn what sends you to the emergency room and how not to go there — any more than you absolutely must.