Don’t Panic, but Get into
Action for Year-End Fundraising

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Tomorrow is the first day of November. In the blink of an eye, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, the Christmas holidays and the New Year.

This is when some fundraisers start to panic. That’s because many nonprofits expect to receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their annual revenue in the last months of the year.

If you haven’t prepared a year-end fundraising plan, there’s no time to delay. With a little effort, you can maximize contributions over the next few weeks.

And we have reason for optimism in 2011: according to Fidelity Charitable poll, reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, three of four Americans say they plan to give the same amount as last year, possibly more.

Here are some tips to improve your year-end results:

  • Set goals to track your progress daily for everything from revenue to donors called to letters mailed. Communicate progress regularly to your development team, entire staff and to your Board.
  • Focus on high-value activity. This is not the time to reorganize your desk drawers! Segment lists and devote your limited time and energy to high-dollar donors. Review past giving to see who has not made a gift this year and who might upgrade their support. Communicate with all supporters, but put in extra time with your top donors.
  • Create and execute a work planto keep you on track. It should include:
    • Donor list: donors you need to focus on
    • Communication vehicle: email, letter, call, visit, etc.
    • Deadlines: for letters mailed, emails sent, calls made
    • Ownership: who is responsible for each action?
  • Articulate a strong case for support. Why should a donor give to you? (Hint: it’s not because it’s the end of the year or you need money.) Create urgency in your appeals, but make your “case” compelling and focused on the donor’s interests.
  • Express appreciation. Show the spirit of the season by increasing “thank-you” calls and sending thank-you letters quickly.
  • Create a multi-channel strategy. Use email or social media to complement your mail appeals. Convio reports that as much as 42 percent of all online giving occurs in November and December. This is a good time to double-check that it is easy to make donations through your website.
  • Remind donors about QCD. No, this is not a shopping channel. It stands for Qualified Charitable Distributions. Last December, President Obama extended QCDs from IRAs up to $100,000. An IRA gift to a nonprofit is tax-free and excluded from the donor’s federal adjusted gross income.
  • Prepare a 26-31 plan. Many donors make their final gifts of the year between Dec. 26 and Dec. 31. Create a staffing plan to ensure calls are returned, mail is opened, online giving remains functional and donors are thanked.

Ending the year on a successful note is always challenging, but it can be accomplished with a well-executed plan.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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