September Is Critical to Year-End Fundraising Success
Every year-end fundraising season, there's always at least one thing we, as fundraisers, vow to do differently next year. And when I say, "one thing," I really mean more like 10.
When you finally see all the parts of your year-end fundraising campaign come together, there's so much to be proud of. But there's always that one glaring thing you somehow missed, and you wonder why it didn't occur to you to do it a little bit differently.
One year long before TikTok, I remember wishing my organization had emailed a video in our last message of the calendar year. Another year, I vowed to never again approach Giving Tuesday with the same theme or, conversely, to not reinvent the wheel and to just resend a really well-written appeal to all who hadn't yet opened the message that holiday season.
Much like my list for Santa Claus as a kid, some years I have lots of wants listed. And, like that year I asked Santa for a pony that he never did come through on, there’s usually one big and bold breakthrough I hope we'll successfully craft for next year's holiday fundraising campaign.
Something happens though between the end-of-the-year fundraising season and the next time you kick off your next holiday drive. That thing I vowed to do for too many years only slightly came together how I imagined for the next year’s campaign. While I will obsess over it through midnight on Dec. 31, somehow by the time it’s sweater weather again, it doesn’t seem like a big priority, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
That’s why September is the perfect month to stop and remember all of those wants and wishes you realized would benefit your fundraising and to figure out how to apply them. As summer fades, it can start to feel like a full-throttle sprint to the holidays. This is the perfect time to block off a few days in September to really focus and make sure you are fully on track to amp up your fundraising success in the upcoming holiday season.
Even with a seasoned team well into executing our year-end plan, by the time Labor Day rolls around, I still block days off across the month of September to focus additionally on year-end. During these days I affectionately call my “Santa September Stop,” I take extra care to make sure those big or little things that can be game-changers for driving more revenue in December will be fully realized this year. It’s not that I’m trying to blow up our year-end fundraising plan. My aim is to serve as quality control on our progress thus far.
So many times, we convince ourselves we don’t really need that thing from last holiday season, or we opt to focus on some new channel or tactic that we think is more important. Still, it’s worth a double check. At the same time, it’s important to remember this isn’t necessarily the time to augment your whole fundraising plan. The whole point is to give yourself permission to augment what you already have underway so you’ll see even more revenue than you otherwise would.
So, give yourself an early holiday gift right now in September and block off some time to look critically at how the execution and implementation of your year-end plan is coming along. Make the change now before you do it, rather than obsess about it afterward.
It can be hard to do while your creative, digital and tech teams are working hard like elves at the North Pole to ready you for December, but everyone will be celebrating together at the beginning of the new year when they can see how their hard work paid off. Taking the time in September has been a game-changer more years than not. And if you’re reading this and don’t have a year-end plan yet, well there’s still time to do that, too.
Sue Citro is the chief experience officer at Best Friends Animal Society and is responsible for how the development, digital, marketing communications and brand experience teams collaborate and work in new ways to bring more people into Best Friends’ lifesaving work. Before joining Best Friends, Sue led new digital expansions for The Nature Conservancy in Asia and Latin America. She started her career working at Peace Corps headquarters, followed by time at a direct mail agency and then consulting in the digital fundraising space with nonprofits large and small.
Sue holds a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Jeremy, and 103 lb. rescued dog, "Little" Luca.