[Year-End Tips for Donors]
The year-end giving season is coming fast, and there’s a lot to get done if you’re a fundraiser. After all, at least half of all nonprofits receive the majority of their annual donations during the holiday season. And according to studies by Network for Good, 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year!
But that doesn’t mean you should wait any longer to send out end-of-year appeals. In fact, savvy fundraisers start planning their year-end giving campaigns way back in August: They create a comprehensive, multi-channel marketing plan; write appeal letters, thank-you letters, emails, and blog posts so there’s plenty of time to get them approved; and have any direct-mail components at the printer early enough so they can be in the mail in time to beat the holiday rush. They’re researching their target audience and working on segmenting their donor list to properly route appeals. They’re doing everything in their power to ensure that by the time Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday arrive, their nonprofit’s end-of-year campaign is in full swing.
First Things First – Start Year-End Giving Early
Most industry experts talk about kicking off your end-of-year campaign on Giving Tuesday, but we think that’s missing an opportunity. Instead, start it off with a blitz of thank-you letters set to arrive before Thanksgiving day. Then schedule your next round of marketing materials for Giving Tuesday.
This accomplishes two things. First, the thank-you letters keep your organization top-of-mind on a day that’s synonymous with gratitude, family, and warm and fuzzy feelings. Secondly, it breaks the ice before Giving Tuesday—making it more likely that your year-end giving campaign will get off to a strong start. Sometimes those initial donations are slow to come in, so a few extra days (and touchpoints) could make all the difference.
Year-End Giving: a Multi-Channel Mentality
Use all the resources at your disposal: Letters, postcards, e-blasts, videos, social media, and website content. Consider running ads on your local radio or TV station.
And remember that repetition is your friend. If you’re planning on a once-and-done letter, email, or post, forget it—you’re wasting your time. An effective marketing campaign is a product of multiple touch points.
Don’t Forget Planned Giving
Giving Tuesday is traditionally focused on annual and one-time gifts. But that’s no reason to forget about planned and major gifts in your year-end giving efforts. Push those Donor Advised Funds, CGAs, beneficiary designations, and gifts of life insurance. Promote bequests and gifts of real estate. And advise your donors to create a will using LegacyPlanner to protect their family (and leave a bequest to their favorite nonprofit).
Hold An Event
Many organizations have holiday-related, mission-focused events that make great cultivation activities (and help prime the pump for other year-end giving opportunities). If you have a legacy society or even just a list of those people who have you in their will, invite them along!
For schools, this could mean a year-end theater production. For an animal shelter, an adoption event. Or you could just throw a year-end “grateful for you!” party that shines the spotlight on your donors. Being part of the mission strengthens their relationship with your organization and provides memories for years to come (including when they’re with their lawyer, writing their will).
Update Your Gift Acceptance Policies
Of course, you have gift acceptance policies in place, right? This may seem odd, but in preparation for year-end work, I would update your gift acceptance policies to state that outside of marketable securities, cash and credit cards, all gift income needs to be approved by your Board of Trustees if donated after December 15. Why? Because charities get themselves in the most trouble when dealing with high-pressure, last-minute financial deals — especially those dealing with non-liquid assets, like privately held stock, real estate and gifts-in-kind. Don’t be that nonprofit who took the beautiful meadow on December 29 only to find out in January that it was a toxic waste dump. Being able to point to an approval process is healthier for your charity and your career, regardless of whether you’re missing the “deal of a lifetime.”
Whatever your year-end giving plans, don’t delay any longer. If you haven’t started yet, hop to it (and plan to do better next year). We have a number of free and paid (free for clients) year-end marketing materials that you can adapt to your mission—just click here to access them.
Here’s to anticipating a busy, fruitful year-end giving season, and a nice relaxing vacation in January!