The Giving Season

With Thanksgiving behind us we are now officially in the “end of year” giving season, that time of the year when Americans reach deeply into their pockets to help those who are less fortunate. It is a time of reflection, altruism and also that time of year when donors realize that the December 31st deadline to qualify for a tax deduction in the current year is only weeks away.

December has always been a hectic philanthropic month, especially for professional fundraisers who labor late into the early winter nights to make sure they have reached every potential donor on their lists. This year, as we all know, presents an extraordinary challenge where some past donors have now become non-givers and even recipients of charitable support. People who routinely gave appreciated stock to their favorite charities and took the tax benefit now find this strategy as barren as their stock portfolios.

Yet, according to a recent national survey conducted for online fundraising firm, Convio, lots of people—more than half of the 175.6 million online adults—plan to donate to charities this holiday season. Some 33 per cent though say they will give less this year than before.

So, what are smart charities to do to keep donations up and meet the growing needs for their work? Here are few tips.

  1. Make sure you tell potential donors that your charity will maximize their donation to the fullest. That means, your charity must demonstrate efficiency, effectiveness and transparency. Donors this year are especially cost-conscious and expect your organization to be the same. Take a lesson from the poor behavior of the American automobile honchos who came via their private jets seeking a bailout from the U.S. Congress.
  2. Leverage your web site and email technology to tell powerful stories that help people in real need. If you are an organization that cares for the needy, feeds the hungry, rescues the oppressed, helps people who are down and out, tell your web site visitors and email correspondents about how you are helping. That is called being relevant and in touch with what people want to hear this time of year.
  3. Offer potential donors a way to link their holiday giving with their inclination to give charitably. Because most people will have less to give this year, help them realize the most powerful gift giving experience of giving help to another person. Add on a matching gift opportunity to give your donors an added reason to give to you.
  4. Create online giving circles to encourage community and connect individuals to tangible results. The impact will long outlive this holiday season.
  5. Report out achievements by email and on your web site to build ongoing momentum and support. Set a goal and push for success through your readers.
  6. Give children a mechanism to give and get involved. The Chanukah season is all about children and family, so be sure to include everyone in the effort. A gift from a single child is a gift of a lifetime. You get the whole family involved and you establish a lifelong giving behavior in the child. As MasterCard says, “Priceless.”

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.