What if year-end
was every month?

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Like most donors, I experienced a lot of love in December.

I received friendly calls from staff members and volunteers thanking me for being a contributor.

Letters, reports and countless emails informed me of the impact the nonprofits had and how my support made a difference.

The mail brought in handwritten notes of thankfulness and even a couple of small gifts.

In short, December was great! I felt valued, appreciated and informed.

Now compare that to the eleven preceding months. In some instances, I hadn’t heard from the nonprofit all year—except to receive a fundraising appeal. I wasn’t told how the organization was making a difference and I received few personal expressions of gratitude.

There may be good reasons nonprofits behave this way:

  • It’s human nature. We tend to put in more energy when there is a timebound deadline, such as reaching our year-end fundraising goal.
  • It’s a bandwidth problem. We don’t always have the staffing or resources we need to sustain ongoing stewardship throughout the year.
  • It’s cost effective. Most nonprofits receive their largest contributions in the last quarter of the year, so we see a greater return on investment during this time.

But what if year-end was every month? What I mean is, what if we could put more energy into ensuring donors feel valued, appreciated and informed year-round? The result would be stronger relationships, higher retention rates and larger gifts.

It may seem like a pipe dream, but I know it’s possible. Here are some ideas on how to make this a reality:

  • Start the year off right. Kick off the year with a note of thanks to donors and a brief report on what you’ve achieved together in the past twelve months.
  • Build a communications calendar. Start in December and work your way backwards. Make sure that donors are receiving regular updates and expressions of gratitude, in addition to fundraising appeals.
  • Recruit volunteers now to make thank you calls. Do these quarterly, or at least twice a year to connect with donors and listen to their concerns.
  • Keep a stack of note cards handy. Handwritten notes—a rarity in today’s world—are still appreciated and read. Commit to writing several notes a week to donors or top prospects.
  • Make new donors feel welcome. Most first-time donors to nonprofits never make a second gift. Review your welcome emails and letters and look for ways to better engage new supporters.
  • Personalize as much as possible. Whether the medium is digital or print, personalize the experience with donors as much as possible. We all want to feel known, not like we’re just another entry in the database.

In short, find ways to extend the “holiday spirit” throughout the entire year. Your donors—and your bottom line—will benefit.

Happy New Year – let’s make it a great one!

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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