A Procrastinator’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising.

Just getting started with your year-end fundraising?

Here’s a quick list – my best tips – for what to do with your remaining weeks before the end of the year.

Make a Plan to Start Earlier Next year

First, the hard news: if you’re just starting now, you’ve left money on the table. You could have raised more.

That is a harsh truth. Many people won’t like to hear it. But it’s true. And for the moment, don’t worry about it. But right now, go set a calendar reminder to start earlier next year.

Seriously, set a reminder.

I’ll wait.

It’s that important.

The organizations that start their year-end fundraising earlier tend to raise more money.

What to Do Now

Do as many of the following things if you can. And here’s the order I’d prioritize them in:

Identify and contact your major donors who have not yet given a gift this year.

Don’t do what most nonprofits do, which is hope that their majors give a gift before the end of the year.

If you haven’t already, identify exactly which of your major donors have not given gifts. Then reach out to each of them to ask for a special year-end gift to help your beneficiaries (not to help your organization). Do it in person if you can; phone is the next best way. Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference!

Write and send your year-end letter.

Send out a direct letter that powerfully asks donors to give a special gift before the end of the year. Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference!

If you use a mail house and it’s going to take too long to get a letter produced, here’s what to do:

    1. Figure out how many letters you could print and send using your in-house process.
    2. Start sending those letters to your top donors, starting at the top of your file and working down.

Write and prep your year-end emails.

Be sure to have at least three emails prepped for the last three days of the year. Remember that you do not have to reinvent the wheel: the emails should be VERY similar to your letter, and the emails should be very similar to each other. Repetition is the most effective tool you didn’t know you have!

Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference!

Update your website to ask for a year-end gift.

Make an update so that the first thing users see on your home page is a clear call-to-action and a large “donate” button.

And … wait for it … tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference. You will raise more money than you expect.

That’s it! Do as many of those as you can, starting from the top of the list.

Do a great job on each one before doing anything else.

And if you can only do three things, do the top three. If you can only do two, do the top two. You get it.

Remember: year-end is the easiest time of the year to raise more money than you expect!

Work Less, Raise More

Work Less, Raise More.

The Holy Grail

It’s the mythical Holy Grail of fundraising: working less while raising more.

For a nonprofit, that’s almost “playing against type.” It’s off-brand for the whole sector.  We HAVE to work more to raise more, right?

We even take pride in it sometimes.

But smart fundraisers are always looking for ways to work less while raising more.

Here’s how to think about it: what you want to do is create fundraising assets that you can use again and again with minimal effort.

A Partial List

Just to give you a taste, here’s a partial list of fundraising assets that organizations can use again and again with minimal effort:

  • Specific campaign appeals (Back To School, Grateful Patient, etc.)
  • Monthly donor recruitment letters/emails
  • Campaign Web Banners and homepage sliders
  • A fundraising offer
  • Donor acquisition mailings (or radio scripts, or telemarketing scripts)
  • Creative Briefs
  • Year-end emails
  • Social Media series

Fundraising Assets

What you’re trying to do is create fundraising assets:

  • Something you only have to create once
  • That you can use again with minimal effort
  • And when you need to use it again, you do so while spending the minimum amount of minutes and money to update it

Most nonprofits, in my experience, act as if it is a value to do everything new each year.  The first question the Event Committee asks itself is, “What should our theme be this year?”  When an ED writes her year-end letter, she asks, “What should I write about this year?”  The team asks, “What should our year-end campaign feature this year?”

I submit to you that those questions are not the best question to be asking.

The best question is almost always, “How did last year’s do and could I use it again with a little updating?”

I cannot tell you how many thousands of hours, and millions of dollars, I have saved clients with this approach.

Examples

Before I give you a couple of examples, go read this post on why “repeating” is such a good idea.

Here are three hand-picked examples for you for how something is an asset – and can be reused to raise more with less effort:

  1. You have a good fundraising offer. Say you have an email that gives donors a chance to ‘provide art supplies for a local child for $17.’  You can use that offer again next year at the same time, and try it at other times during the year.
    • We once had a client that had a very successful offer that they used once a year. I convinced them to try it twice and it worked great both times.  Four years later they were using that offer between 6 and 8 times per year and it was consistently their best performing mailed and emailed piece.  That offer was absolutely an asset; we refined it a bit each time to where it was a proven money-raiser with very little effort.  Talk about an asset for that organization!
    • We all know organizations that do this, from “$1.97 feeds a hungry person” to “$37 a month sponsors a child.” Even if those organizations get tired of saying those messages, they work so well that they keep using them.
  2. You have a successful event that goes really well. Next year, you can repeat the same call to action, the exact same program (with new speakers), talking about the same thing.  The only people who will notice the similarity are your staff and a couple of board members.  To everyone else, it will look like you are really good at events and you really have your act together.
  3. You have a successful letter, say your year-end letter. When it comes time for this year’s year-end letter, here’s what to do: take out last year’s letter, dust it off, change only what you need to, and send it again.  Don’t change the formatting, don’t change the call to action, just send it again.  Just as no one complains to Ford when they see the same truck commercial five times in one week; no donor will complain that your letter last year was awfully similar to this year’s letter!

Here’s the thing: anytime you do something that works in fundraising, you’ve just created an asset.

Recognize it.  Keep it around.  Get comfortable reusing it.  Your donors will love you for it.  Because if something works well, it’s almost certain that it will work again.

Pretty soon you’ll be raising more money while working less!

Assets For Sale

Our year-end products are for sale right now (the “bundle” is over half-off!).

Use them to create a ‘year-end campaign asset’ for your organization!  Pick up our Digital Toolkit, or our packet of super successful fundraising letters, and upgrade your year-end fundraising.

You’ll raise more money this year.  Then treat it like an asset: in 2019 you’ll work less and raise more!

What Small-Shop Fundraisers Should Do at Year-End

What Small-Shop Fundraisers Should Do at Year-End

You Don’t Have Time to Do Everything

Those silly consultants. They give you a list of fifty-four things to do, but you only have time to do four of them.

I get it. (And I am guilty of it at times.)

But if you only have time to do four things … do you know which four are the most important?

My List for Small-Shop Fundraisers

If I were doing the fundraising for a small organization with limited resources (and time!) here’s what I’d do, and the order I’d do them in:

  1. Manage your major donors. Don’t just hope that they give a gift before the end of the year, manage them toward doing it! Know who your top donors are. Be in touch with them. Know exactly who hasn’t given a gift yet this year. Ask them to give a gift to help your beneficiaries or your cause (not to give a gift to your organization). Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference.
  2. Write and send your year-end letter. Make sure you send out a great year-end letter that powerfully asks donors to give a special gift before the end of the year.
  3. Write and prep your year-end emails. Be sure to have at least three emails prepped for the last three days of the year. Remember that they can be very similar; you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.
  4. Update your website to ask for a year-end gift. It’s been true of every organization I’ve ever worked with: a LOT of people will go to your website in December with the express purpose of making a gift. If the first thing they see on your home page is a clear call-to-action and a large button, you will raise more money than you expect.

That’s it! If you can only do four things, do those four.

Make sure you do a great job on each of those before doing anything else.

If you can only do three things, do the top three.

And so on.

Just remember that year-end is the easiest time of the year to raise more money than you expect. And your donors are wonderful but busy people! So communicate to them as much as you can. You’ll love how much money you raise!

Resources for You

We’re having a sale on our year-end fundraising products. Check out our store to see how you can raise more money while working less this year-end!