As soon as Thanksgiving décor starts making all-too-early appearances in grocery stores, we know the holidays are rushing towards us. In our nonprofit community, this is also the season to review, refresh, and deliver outreach plans for year-end giving. According to Giving USA 2014, Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014 and 72% of that money came from individuals. A strong year-end appeal that engages individual donors can help ring in the New Year on strong financial footing for your important work.
With support from the Meyer Foundation, participants in SPIN Academy DC sat down last month with fundraising experts Emma Kieran, Susan Kelly, and Lynn English to collect tips, strategies, and best practices to get the most out of this giving season. Here’s what they had to say.
Use your board of directors. According to Emma Kieran of Pilot Peak Consulting, board members are misused or underutilized far too often. As organizations prepare to make a fundraising appeal, preparing the board will also be a critical step in engaging donors. She recommends identifying the specific value that each board member offers to the organization and utilizing their time, talent, and treasure (or access to treasure) wisely. Give board members specific tasks that they will enjoy doing. No one likes to make the cold calls, but reaching out to thank donors is a job many board members will love. Emma also reminded participants in the training to be mindful of providing the board with access to the helpful tools—prepared talking points, call scripts, or fact sheets—that make it easy for them to succeed on the organization’s behalf.
Give donors different ways to engage. Lynn English, a strategy and development consultant, recommends looking closely at the range of options you have to connect with donors. While the annual fundraising gala can be an important source of revenue, events can be draining and difficult to do well. Think creatively. Consider using peer-to-peer outreach or third party events that can reach beyond the usual suspects and tap into new revenue streams with limited costs. How about asking existing donors to issue a year-end giving challenge to their personal networks? This could get existing donors more deeply engaged and identifies new donors.
Start right now. It is never too early to get started, according to Susan Kelly of Kelly Strategies. She urges organizations to start the planning process early. Year-end appeals typically go out in November. Once a date for the organization’s appeal is set, back out the timeline for planning, creating and executing the appeal. Don’t forget to include time to prepare the staff and board on the important roles that they will play. And plan now for the follow-up touch points that are critical to making a year-end appeal successful. Finally, she urged the group of participants to reserve time to get thank you calls and notes out in a timely fashion.
Year-end comes but once each year! We hope these three tips will go a long way in making this year-end giving season a big success.
Maegan Scott (@maeganscott) is a program and communications officer at the Meyer Foundation.