The End of the Year Ask

The 2010 calendar year is coming to a close and this may be an opportune time to talk with potential donors and present donors about making a contribution to your organization. Although we are still in the midst of an economically challenging time individuals and business are continuing to make contributions to non-profit organizations. Often the timing of a solicitation is an important aspect of the process when seeking support for your agency.

If you have been in contact with prospective donors over the last several months and you have been cultivating their interest in your organization, this is an appropriate time to seek to close the gift. The end of the calendar year is a time when many people review their financial situation. Often philanthropically minded people will examine what they have supported during the course of the year and if they have funds available to distribute to non-profit organizations.

There are a variety of motivations and some of them focus on the tax deduction or tax credits that are given by the appropriate government office that seeks to encourage contribution to organizations in the voluntary sector. In addition, the end of the year signifies the closing of a cycle and the beginning of a new year. The rhythm of the timing may encourage some people to close the year by assisting organizations that provide services to those in need and in a variety of areas including health, education and social welfare.

Of course “cold calling”, reaching out to someone you have not had a relationship with, may not yield the desired result at the end of the calendar year. However, if there are people that you have spoken with and they have considered making a contribution this is the perfect time to reach out to them. It is possible to engage them in a conversation and find out if they have thought more about supporting your organization.

You can begin the conversation by saying you are following up your previous meeting or discussion and you would like to speak to them for a few minutes or, if appropriate, arrange a meeting. You might begin by asking if the person has any questions or would like additional information about your organization. You could say that as the end of the year approaches you are reaching out to supporters and potential supporters.

A face-to-face meeting always is more effective than a telephone conversation, however, you may not have the time to meet with everyone and the people you approach may not have time to see you. You need to be flexible and ready to go either with arranging for a meeting or trying to secure the contribution during the phone conversation. In preparing for the exchange you might want to have some new information about the services provided or about the clients that benefit from the organization.

This new information or additional perspective may have a positive impact on the potential donor and it may be just what the person has to hear to encourage them to make the contribution. Of course, you can also go “overboard” with making the case and it may not have the desired impact. During the last two weeks we have seen a plethora of non-profit organizations raising funds on the basis of the tragic fire on the slopes of the Carmel Mountain range in Israel.

Organizations have used the internet, direct mailings, advertising campaigns, public speakers, etc. to approach donors and to let them know how they are responding to the crisis caused by the fire and its aftermath. This kind of approach is effective until “saturation” is reached and donors have a sense they have heard enough from too many organizations. Questions of credibility are raised when too many non-profits all claim to be providing services in response to the fire.

In approaching donors during these last few weeks of 2010, the agency’s needs have to be accurately represented and should be related to the primary mission and purpose for which it was created. It is often very tempting to frame the organization’s needs to meet the donors’ desires to be helpful. When this is understood by the donors not only will they not contribute but they will have questions about the agency’s credibility. It will not only be difficult to secure a gift now but it will also have an impact on future solicitations.

The end of the year is an opportune time to reach out to donors and it should build on the agency’s strengths and its contact with supporters and those who have been engaged in discussions with staff and volunteer leaders. It should follow the following guidelines:

  1. Approach those who have had some contact with the organization’s representatives.
  2. Try to arrange a face-to-face meeting and if not this is not possible then arrange for a convenient time for a telephone conversation.
  3. Present new or additional information that strengthens the case for giving.
  4. Do not go overboard and misrepresent the purpose of the organization.
  5. Use the dynamic of the end of the year to strengthen the reason for the present approach.
  6. If there are tax benefits in the country where your organization is situated you should inquire as to whether this important to the donor.

Creatively using the next two weeks to engage donors and potential donors can be of mutual benefit both to the donors and your organization.

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program and has a consulting firm focused on strengthening non-profit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.