[The strategic development firm that brought you “Eight Burning Questions for Eight Nights of Hanukkah” is back by popular demand with “The Four Fundraising Questions You Should Be Asking this Spring,” providing vital help for your fiscal campaign close.
RAISE Nonprofit Advisors utilizes its deep development and consulting experience to guide nonprofits through tough fundraising challenges, strengthening them and enabling them to achieve success. Before you sit down to the seder this year, tune in these next four days for a new question released each day. We hope these questions (and answers) will help guide you to a successful campaign close this summer, enabling your organization to better fulfill its mission.
The RAISE Nonprofit Advisors Team]
Question #1: What’s the Best Plan of Attack for A Successful Campaign Close?
By Rachel Cyrulnik, MPA
With freezing temperatures and snow storms still popping up on the weather reports in many parts of the country, it is hard to believe that spring is beginning this week! Soon enough though, Passover will end and we’ll be racing through one of the busiest times of the year.
Development officers working for organizations running on fiscal calendars often lament the long hours and pressure that accompany the otherwise pleasant months of May and June. It doesn’t have to be so painful! With a little advanced planning, you can end the campaign year on a strong note, and without too much angst. Now is the time to begin warming up for your organization’s fiscal year-end push. (Just what you wanted to hear the week before Passover).
Send Holiday Greetings.
It is always busy before holidays, but it is very worthwhile to clear the time to wish your donors a Chag Sameach before Passover. Many organizations will send a postcard or an e-blast with holiday wishes, a recipe or even a small keepsake. Even if you have not been working on a more involved gesture, a simple call or email sending warm wishes this week or next will do the trick. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – no one wants to feel like an ATM machine, with whom you check in for money when you need it. Holidays are a terrific opportunity to strengthen donor relationships without so much as a mention of money.
After the holiday, it is time to get down to business!
Start with Data.
You need to have an accurate picture of where your organization stands before you dive in. Where is your fundraising revenue relative to your June 30th goal? Where is it compared to this time last year? Which constituencies need the most attention? How many higher level gifts are outstanding, and at which levels? How many and which donors gave by this point last year that have not yet given this year? Whose gift took longer to close last year? Who are new prospects that might need more time to decide on whether they’ll give and at what level? This data may take time for you to run, so now is the time to begin setting up and generating reports.
Use this information to map out your priorities and create goals and a corresponding timeline for the coming weeks. For example, while focusing on larger gifts first will of course help you cover more of the gap between where you are and your goal, while starting with new prospects and gifts that take longer to close will best position their fulfillment by June 30. Give your organization ample time to balance these competing considerations.
Setting goals for each month and even each week will help keep you on track to close as much inventory as possible. Set aggressive but realistic goals for number of gifts closed, dollar amount, and number of meetings.
Get Some Facetime.
Face-to-face meetings are the most effective method of closing gifts. Start scheduling them now for after Passover so you can accomplish more once the holiday ends. Toward the end of the campaign, you may have too much volume for face-to-face meetings and will be forced to rely on calls and email, so make sure your early meetings are strategic – large gifts and those with a likelihood of sizeable increases.
Utilize Lay Committees.
I often find that lay leaders with limited time will make a special effort to close gifts if they know they’re working on a short-term project with an end date in sight. Gather your committee together to rev them up and assign solicitations, and then check in with them regularly to keep on top of progress. Depending on your organizational culture, creating internal contests for a fun prize can keep up the motivation and morale.
A few years ago, I wrote a piece for this publication called “Can’t A Fundraiser Catch a Break?” which provides tips for weathering the pressures of a demanding development post, where exceeding last year’s goals is the expectation each year. Reserve time for your family and your health. Take strength from your team, your organization’s missions and of course, the clients whose lives your work is improving. Maybe even go on a site visit to visit recipients to remind you why you chose this line of work in the first place…