Warning: Minimal Stress Involved
Yes, it’s true! Prime giving season is here. Everybody is on high alert. Printers are buzzing. Letter shops are stuffing appeals in overtime. Email drafts for #GivingTuesday and December are flying left and right.
You’re pushing board members to commit to calling at least a few donors to say “thank you.” Some have said they’d be willing to come in and write personal notes on some of your appeal letters. And it all has to drop by Thanksgiving!
Some of you may even have some galas or events to organize on top of all of the above.
Argh, the stress involved is humungous!
So, I’m here to tell you that there are ways to minimize this stress.
First, I’m actually going to tell you to stop worrying about bringing in monthly donors until January.
Keep doing the monthly giving option on your donation form, so donors will find it when they go there to check you out, but let’s not worry about anything else… for now.
It’s the donations you want and as many of them as possible. We’ll worry about converting these donors to give monthly in the new year.
Second, now is also not the time to try something totally new. If someone tells you something like: “Let’s try a self mailer or a post card this year instead of our ‘boring’ annual appeal. Wouldn’t that be a lot cheaper, and it would stand out in the mail more?” Simply tell them NOT RIGHT NOW! (Note that you’re not saying no, but please hold off till the spring).
(And feel free to tell these wonderful people that all your trusted direct-marketing advisors, like Tom Ahern, Jeff Brooks, yours truly and so many others totally support you on this.)
To use a Thanksgiving analogy, it would be like telling your family that you’ll be serving a tofu turkey this year, if you know they’re avid turkey eaters… Your thanksgiving feast is probably not going to be very busy.
Rather, go with the menu that seems to work every year. It will make your life a lot less stressful.
And I mentioned direct-mail consultants or agencies earlier, do consider them as an option to make your life easier, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of the day-to-day details. They will sweat the details, so you don’t have to and you can focus on something else.
You probably know that I wasn’t born and raised in this country, so I didn’t get introduced to Thanksgiving until I was 32. And it always pained me to see how my mother-in-law was stressing for days on end on the Thanksgiving feast, which was gobbled down in half an hour.
When it came my turn to organize Thanksgiving for the family, I discovered the turkey kit. It’s wonderful! You can buy it at virtually every grocery store, and it consists of a pre-cooked turkey, the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, a pie, the rolls and typically some vegetable.
You just have to put the turkey in the oven for 2 ½ hours and heat up everything else. Then add some of the things your family might want for extras (I make a mean Dutch apple pie) and time according to the instructions in the box… et voila!
I know the turkey will taste delicious; everything will be ready when I want it to be ready; and I can actually enjoy the holiday with everybody else. Nobody is stressing out! Isn’t Thanksgiving all about enjoying the family?
Now, what does this have to do with the stress of giving season?
1. You don’t have to do everything yourself! Find help with trusted advisors, and let them sweat the small stuff. This is what they do best.
2. Say “not now” when somebody throws something unexpected at you.
3. Go with what you know works, and take it from there.
4. Stop worrying about website revisions, tax receipts and monthly donor appeals until January.
5. Enjoy this time leading up to the holidays!
And, of course, if you have any military or veteran’s connections, thank you and them for your service! Wishing you a wonderful Veterans Day!
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.