Over-Communicate and Don’t Be Late!

A white, analog alarm clock sits on a white table with a white background

A couple of years ago we were part of a fundraising disaster for one of our clients:

  • Their Thanksgiving appeal letter raised only $31,000. It had raised $47,000 the previous year.
  • Then their Christmas letter raised just $17,000. It had raised $41,000 the previous year.


The reason why they raised so much less was really simple: both letters mailed late. Really late.

Through an unholy combination of a new working relationship, a project management snafu and unanswered emails, the Thanksgiving letter mailed 6 days before Thanksgiving. The Christmas letter mailed just 4 days before Christmas.

The effect on fundraising was devastating. (The effect on our relationship with the organization was also devastating. But I’m happy to say that they are still a client today; everyone fails sooner or later, but it’s often how you respond after failure that builds or breaks relationships.)

Why am I telling you this? Because the whole incident reminded me of a core principle for successful fundraising during the last few weeks of the year:

— Over communicate and don’t be late —

Your donors are so busy. And they support so many worthy causes. They love giving to you, but your chances of getting a year-end gift plummet if you don’t communicate with them often enough during the last few weeks of the year.

All your work — all year long — comes to fruition during the last few weeks of the year. Make sure you have a plan that gets your year-end Ask in front of your donors in time (and often enough) — and a production schedule to make sure you aren’t late and miss important days during the most important time of the year!

P.S. – Year-end fundraising is the easiest time to raise more money than you expect. We’re about to launch a set of products expressly created to help you raise more money in November and December. Ever wanted samples of really successful year-end letters and online fundraising? Or a calendar that tells you exactly when to send your letters, your emails, and update your website at year-end? Watch this space in the next couple of weeks!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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