Year-End Giving 2016
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Craig spoke with me last week on a brief consult asking me to critique his organization’s plans for year-end giving. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of a situation I encountered a long time ago—in college.
Cash gifts at calendar year-end are literally the life-blood of many a nonprofit. Nonprofits often receive north of 40 percent of their annual cash during the last 30 to 60 days of the calendar year. Certainly nothing to treat casually.
And yet—that‘s something that some organizations do. They wouldn’t necessarily think that’s what they’re doing, however.
As with any appeal, it’s important to know what your objectives are. Your goal is to raise money, isn’t it?
Not that money isn’t the ultimate result. The objective of your appeal should be different, however. I like to say money may be the result, but it’s not the goal.
So what is your objective? It is to renew current donors? Is it to upgrade current donors? Is it to reclaim lapsed donors? Is it to acquire new investors? Is it something else? The “over the finish line” for a capital campaign?
Each of these has elements that are mutually exclusive from each other. Not that they don’t all raise cash—they do.
When Craig and I spoke, his goal for his organization’s year-end appeal was simple—raise the most money. They need the cash. Period. When I inquired as to how he planned to do this, his answer was a common one: ask as many people as possible. He even added “for the maximum gift.”
To me, that’s akin to throwing everything up against the wall and seeing what sticks.
You see, year-end appeals, which build and expand your fundraising programs, are the result of deliberate and careful integration with an overarching strategy.
The year-end appeals which work—those that deliver funds in a way that expand your program, not merely shift the month in which you receive them—are the result of planning that began in the first month of the calendar year, or at least in the first month of the fiscal year. The appeals that work are those that support the strategic goals of your fundraising program—whatever they are.
Notice I didn’t say support your service or program needs. Ahem.
This brings me back to the beginning. Remember how my conversation with Craig brought back the memory of a situation I encountered in college?
In that little drama, I happened to be leaving the faculty member’s office after a conference when a young woman bounded down the hallway.
She saw the faculty member and I standing in the doorway to his office and stopped.
As soon as there was a break in our conversation she asked the professor for an appointment early in the following week to discuss the subject of her term paper: the paper, which would account for half of her course grade.
The professor laughed out loud. The other student didn’t get it.
He explained he would gladly grade any paper she submitted, but declined to meet her regarding the subject of that paper.
The paper in question was her term paper. You see this was Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.
In much the same way, year-end giving is our term effort. If we’ve not established the parameters and objectives of that effort early, it very likely won’t succeed in doing what it’s supposed to do: contribute to our long-term strategic fundraising goals.
And they aren’t simply to “raise cash.”
During my brief conversation with Craig, I didn’t laugh out loud. I could provide only minimal guidance, however. A few tweaks around the edges. I gave him some thinking points for year giving in 2016, however.
Craig agreed to check back with me early next year. I’ll gladly take the time to work with him on year-end giving in January. You see, that’s Principle 8 of The Eight Principles™, “Invest, Integrate & Evaluate”™.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to Craig for reaching out and being vulnerable.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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