November 10, 2016
The end of the year approaches and like clockwork, so many organizations and fundraisers throw out the strategic, thoughtful approach they embrace the rest of the year. In its place arrives a hurried pace, an overflowing calendar, and worst of all… a feeling of guilt.
The pride in being a fundraiser seems to dissipate as we launch a mountain of appeals into the mail and leave an inordinate number of apologetic voicemails and emails.
“I am so sorry to leave you another message, but…”
As fundraisers and non-profit leaders, we know that our job is to match philanthropically inclined individuals with a worthy cause.
We are raising money for a mission in which we believe and are giving donors the opportunity to make a difference.
We are not begging; we are not coercing. We are not pleading; we are not pressuring. We can recite all of these adages in our sleep. Yet as the fourth quarter of the calendar year nears, there always seems to be a shift in mindset, and along with that shift comes a feeling of guilt.
Surely most of us can acknowledge this shift, whether it happens in our own offices or not. The shift from strategic outreach and appeals that make us proud of our work, to last-minute additions to the calendar, a different tone in our voice, and outreach that is more about us than about donors.
But how do we change it? How do we approach the end of the year with the same optimistic and inspired mindset we have in January?
1) Take time to reflect and remind yourself and your team why you do what you do.
You are the one entrusted with raising money that will allow your organization to continue fulfilling its worthy mission. You are the one giving donors the opportunity to invest in that mission. Go into this giving season with a renewed sense of pride and excitement about what this revenue means for your organization.
2) Look at your year-end calendar to determine the true purpose of each mailing, event, or initiative.
Do they all absolutely need to happen before year-end? If not, pare it down. You will feel better come December 31 and so will your supporters.
3) View your year-end plans from the prospect’s perspective.
Is the quantity or quality of your outreach something that needs to be apologized for? If so, adjust your approach or timing. If not, proceed without apology.
4) When it comes to individual outreach, prioritize and schedule.
Use the systems you have to create achievable goals based on your prospect list and timeline (five calls per day? per week?). Whether you use the functions of your database to create tasks and send reminders or simply block out time on your calendar each day or week, you will feel more productive and less overwhelmed.
5) Remember that while you look at renewals and lapsed giving, donors do not.
This is not a gym membership where they must renew on a certain date or risk losing access. It is up to you to give them a compelling reason to invest in your mission.
6) Make it about the donor, not about you, especially in your personal outreach.
“I know you usually think about your family’s giving around this time, and we are so grateful for your loyal support. As the year-end approaches, I want to touch base about your giving so that we can recognize and celebrate you as a 2016 donor.”
7) Make it easy for individuals to give.
The more obstacles they encounter, the less likely they are to give, and the more likely you are to get the disgruntled calls and emails. Online giving was up 9% last year. Does your technology and messaging allow you to take advantage of this?
8) Hop on the #GivingTuesday bandwagon–
–which already focuses on the positives of philanthropy and continues to grow each year.
9) Whether you are an office of one or 100, fundraising is rewarding yet hard work.
So when a mailing goes out, a big gift comes in, or an event wraps up… celebrate your success! Ring a bell, send out an email, or reward yourself and others. No matter how you do it, that energy is contagious and energizing.
10) Remember that a strong thank you is the first step to the next gift.
And the only thing better than being thanked is being able to thank someone else.
Of course, there is a reason we focus so much on this time of year. Last year’s Charitable Giving Report shows that more than 33% of annual giving happened between October through December.
But that is no reason to lose sight of who we are as an organization or as fundraisers. And it is certainly no reason to throw strategy and thoughtfulness out the window.
So as December quickly approaches, and you’re scurrying about adding ambitious initiatives to your growing to-do list, I challenge you to take a step back.
Scrap the guilt, embrace the mission, and review the strategy.
Remember: your mission is as worthy of donor support as it was in the first quarter of the year. And you are the same inspired and focused fundraiser.
— Allison White, Vice President