Planning for Success: Key Elements for End of Year

By Avrum Lapin

Whether it is the personal reflection that may accompany the end of year inspired by the holidays or the ending of the fiscal cycle that drives donations, December is the month for charitable giving. According to Network for Good, 31% of annual giving occurs in the month of December and 12% of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year.

With December nearly here, nonprofits seek impactful and unique ways to maximize giving. Indeed, we have written about some creative ways to get increase end-of-year donations by focusing on renewals and retention. However, even the most creative of strategies will fail if there is no plan in place. And if the plan is not followed, success will be limited. So here are some practical suggestions:

Make a Plan: Planning takes time and energy, and strong plans involve input from multiple sources. This plan should include the message, its frequency and the delivery method. Don’t forget that aside from the marketing and development, your IT professionals and your technology must be capable of handling whatever is coming down the pipe.

Have Specific Goals: Though it might be easier to announce that “raising money” is the goal, research has shown that fundraising and donor engagement campaigns with specific goals consistently outperform those that have open-ended or less defined objectives. Goals should be tied to your organization’s mission, and specific plans and programs. A clear-cut focus will often make it that much easier to meet your targets. Specific goals might be to bring in 20 new donors or to increase current donor’s gifts by 5%.

Create a Timeline: Calendar the activities that are planned for the next six weeks. Be it a paper planner on a desk or an electronic calendar that is shared organization-wide, fundraising plans need to be written out with clear, actionable steps. Optimally, these tasks will also have next to them who is responsible and what is needed to advance the effort. “Janet is responsible for tweeting out the latest impact story on Thursday with a donation link” is always preferable to “social media should be part of our year-end ask.”

Vary Communications: A multi-channel communication approach is always best. This is true for several reasons. One is that by using different communication methods, the message will be seen by a wide range of potential donors. Older donors might miss the Facebook posts, but will see a letter sent to their homes. More tech-savvy donors may not pick up the phone but may respond to a text or email. Though in person meetings are usually preferable, they are not always possible.

In addition, combining methods works better than one alone. According to MobileCause, direct mail alone elicits a 6% response rate, versus combined direct mail, web and email, with a 37% response rate to the same message. There are numerous ways to reach potential donors these days, between phone calls, direct mail, email, texting and social media.

Communicate Often: According to NonProfit Hub, nearly 60% of nonprofits make between 1-3 donor “touches” for their annual campaign for end-of-year giving. The flipside of this is that a staggering 27.6% of nonprofits surveyed make zero “touches” for their year-end campaign. People do not give if they aren’t asked. Donor communications need to be spaced and varied. Emailing prospective donors three times in the space of three days is clearly not as effective as once per week for three weeks. Of course not emailing at all is even less effective!

Be Agile and Adjust: It is also important to remember that successful plans are flexible. If Facebook donation pages suddenly bring an unusually high response rate, it would be wise to continue to use Facebook, regardless of the initial plan.

The best plans are not created in a vacuum nor do they occur in one. Every good plan needs buy-in and support not only from the organization’s professionals, but also board members and hopefully major supporters, opinion leaders and volunteers. The ambassadors for your organization can have a high degree of impact on year-end success, so any good fundraising plan should include connecting with these supporters.

Though there are less than two months left until the end of the year, there is still time to develop a solid strategy for maximizing year-end giving. It is important to keep in mind the unique contribution that your organization makes to the community. Showing impact and compelling storytelling are critical elements to create a message that will resonate with donors. A strong message is the key to any fundraising effort. With every nonprofit counting on these year-end dollars, ensuring that your organization is meeting deadlines, and moving forward with thoughtful intention, can be the difference between reaching goals and missing the mark.

My colleagues and I are interested in your experiences. Let us know what you are thinking.

Avrum Lapin is President at The Lapin Group, LLC, based in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, a full-service fundraising and management consulting firm for nonprofits. The Lapin Group inspires and leads US-based and international nonprofits seeking fund, organizational, leadership, and business development solutions, offering contemporary and leading-edge approaches and strategies. A Board member of the Giving Institute and a member of the Editorial Review Board of Giving USA, Avrum is a frequent contributor to and speaker in the US and in Israel on opportunities and challenges in today’s nonprofit marketplace.

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