Where Your Nonprofit Should Focus Its Attention Before December
“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Are you feeling like Dr. Seuss this month? Year-end is looming, next year’s events need to have details nailed down, and donor visits need to be scheduled. It’s a crazy busy time of the year, and you’re sandwiched in between the last of 2022 and the first of 2023.
It’s easy to feel so overwhelmed that everything seems like it has to be the priority, but when you boil fundraising down to the bare bones, our jobs are simple: Give donors a reason to give to our organization again and again. So, for the next several weeks, here are things to work on to impact your income positively before Dec. 31.
Build up your arsenal of stories and have a few that you can tell on demand. In recent years, storytelling has been elevated to something that is a really tough skill to master. The truth is it’s a critical skill, but not that difficult if you have some natural curiosity and a willingness to talk.
Develop Fresh Stories
Finding new stories may involve site visits, telephone calls, a brief questionnaire emailed to colleagues or other methodologies — often coupled with begging and cajoling. Select the strongest few and then weave them into your own words.
The key is to eliminate the unnecessary details. For example, “a worn T-shirt” may be a great visual for your story, but “a worn, red T-shirt with a Chiefs logo” could take the reader or listener down a rabbit trail that isn’t helpful.
Once you have a few stories in mind, work on owning them. Program staff has repeatedly seen the same tragic thing and often strip out emotion, so be sure to add it back into the story. Get to know your main character (person, animal, endangered tree or whatever) and feel the need that can drive your fundraising.
Remember, when you are talking to donors, you want to talk to them like you would a friend. Be open and honest; don’t resort to rote memory. I have a hard time believing that a bored donor is a generous donor.
Deliver the Message
Next, get the message out. You need donations this year, so don’t miss opportunities to ask. You don’t have to beat your prospects and donors over their heads, but you do need to remind them of the need and give them chances to respond.
I recently received two mailings in the same week about a nonprofit event:
- The first was a postcard invitation with a website for my RSVP.
- The second was a personal letter referencing my relationship with the organization and also included the postcard.
- The third — arriving a week later — was a personal letter, the infamous postcard and a multipage brochure. There was no request or means for me to give. In fact, the RSVP website was for “yes” replies only; there wasn’t an opportunity to say “no” but to make a donation.
This may seem basic to you, but the reality is: Too often nonprofit leadership miss opportunities to ask for a gift — and that opportunity may not come again. Donors aren’t omniscient; they need to be reminded there is a need that only they can fill.
Thank Your Donors
Yes, I harp on this. But it’s becoming a dying art — and donor loyalty is becoming a shrinking commodity. Saying “thank you” is a sign of respect and can make you feel more positive, too. (Double win!)
Your written thank you doesn’t need to be long. Basically, “Thank you. Here’s how your gift makes a difference. Thank you again.” — just 10 or 12 sincere lines paves the way for another gift. An emailed thank you can follow a similar structure but be shorter, and a thank you phone call should be conversational and sincere. Be sure to have a message prepared if you get the donor’s voicemail.
Focus on the basics over these final weeks of 2022. Or, as Dr. Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Related story: The NonProfit Voice Ep 70: Maximize Fundraising With the Right Messaging Mindset
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.