The Last Nine Days of 2019: If you Haven’t Yet, Start Now to Improve Your Annual Fundraising Results
It’s December 23, 2019. It’s probably slow at your office, with many of your co-workers or employees off for the holidays. I always liked being in the office during this time. I liked the fact that I had more time than usual to concentrate on improving my year-end fundraising results and looking toward increasing my upcoming year’s fundraising performance. In The Year End Push: What You Can Still Do to Increase Your Individual, Foundation and Corporate Donations, we looked at ways to increase individual, foundation and corporate donations with just a month to go until the year’s end. Even if you’ve been busy with office meetings, holiday parties or planning retreats, there is still time to increase your 2019 giving results. And it is never too late to start planning for the upcoming year.
To improve your year-end appeal financial results, have you crafted your follow-up email and social media year-end giving messages? Are they scheduled to go out this week and on the last three days of the year? Do it if you haven’t already. A large percentage of giving in December takes place the last three days of the year.
To help make sure those 2019 donors give again in 2020, are you current with writing and sending thank you letters for those year-end donations? Are you getting thank you letters out within 48 hours of receiving gifts? Have you created a new donor packet to send out to new donors? As we saw in Bringing in the Money: The Importance of Thanking Your Donors in Achieving Fundraising Success, acknowledging your donors’ responses to your appeal with a personalized thank you letter that shows them the impact their contribution is making in the community goes a long way to retaining them.
What about your relationships with the foundations that have given to your nonprofit? The number one complaint foundation officers have about their grantees is that the grantees don’t stay in touch. Do you owe any grant reports to any foundations? Have you thanked them and told them how their donation made on impact on your community? Have you been honest about both the good and the bad results, what worked and what didn’t? Did you contact the foundation as soon as you knew the outcomes or scope of your grant project was going to be different than what they funded you for? Remember, grants are legal contracts and you need to abide by them or get permission to make changes in writing.
How is your 2020 grants research going? Now, assuming things are quiet, may be a good time to get your foundation research done. Are you looking at foundations with missions or goals similar to your agency’s? Have you gotten a chart of accounts from your finance people so that you include ask for enough funding to cover all the expenses and you don’t lose money on your grant awards? We talked about how that can happen in my blog 2020 Grants Planning.
Have you thanked your corporate donors for the 2019 contributions? Have you started negotiating the 2020 contribution? If you haven’t, you need to do it as soon as possible in January. The optimal time to get in touch with corporate donors is in the fall, when they are developing the next year’s budget. Have you created a schedule to follow up with potential 2020 corporate donors? As we saw in Building Donor Relationships: Corporations, corporations are not in the business of giving away money; they exist to make money. They may need several follow-ups before they agree to make that donation. Even if they are repeat donors. Businesses are very sensitive to fluctuations in market and economic conditions.
In addition to your client and program data, corporate donors will be keenly interested in your financial and market data. Do you understand your nonprofits financials? If not, plan to get some training. Do you know your nonprofit’s market position? If not, plan to find out. You must be able to talk about and demonstrate your agency’s financial and market strength in order to appeal to a for-profit as a worthy-of-the-top-dollar nonprofit business partner. You must use language that is most understandable and relatable to a business executive in order to negotiate the largest corporate contributions.
Is your recordkeeping up to date? Have you recorded all the change of addresses and donor information coming in from your year-end appeal? Now may be a good time to cull and update your donor list, while you can concentrate without so many interruptions.
Do you have a calendar that includes all the different types fundraising activities you are responsible for – individual, foundation, corporate giving, government contract and/or special events? In Show Me the Money: Creating a Profitable Nonprofit Fundraising Budget and Calendar we talked about creating a development, or fundraising, plan. If you are responsible for the creation of the development plan, have you evaluated your organization’s mix of revenue-generating activities? Have you analyzed your fundraising activities to make sure they are mission oriented, profitable and making a positive impact? Have you chosen fundraising vehicles that will produce a good return on investment, where you can get the most bang for your buck? Have you projected cash flow and calendared your fundraising activities so that your agency doesn’t incur debt?
Have you integrated your fundraising messages into the agency 2020 communications calendar? Do you have a communications plan that engages donors, increasing your donor retention rate? In Creating Donor Communications that Work, we talked about how to craft your communications so that they support your fundraising efforts. Do you know your donors, what interests them and what communication vehicles they prefer? If not, plan how you will find out. Do you have time now to do research? Or are you going to conduct a survey in the future? How are you leveraging your organization’s communications with your donor retention activities? Do you know what calls to action you’re going to make and when? How is your nonprofit going to keep the community involved in supporting your agency, financially and otherwise? Before you get so busy that your head spins, take time now to think about it.
Are you an executive director? What financial performance expectations do you have for your board? Staff? Yourself? Make sure they are realistic, as we talked about in The Executive Director’s Role in Fundraising When EVERYTHING Demands Your Attention. The last thing you want to do is create a high potential for burnout. How much time is really involved in implementing your development plan? How much money can you realistically raise? Don’t plan on miracles. The best predictor of future performance is past history. Don’t set yourself or your staff up for failure. Don’t put your agency at financial risk by projecting revenues that aren’t realistic. If one fundraising activity is losing money or the financial return is not worth the resource investment, make significant changes or don’t do it. You can choose another activity. There are lots to choose from. What makes the most sense for your nonprofit given your agency’s mission, the financial return you are looking for and the impact you want?
Have you read your agency’s strategic plan? If you haven’t, now may be a good time. Does your organization have a strategic plan? Is it updated? If not, 2020 is time for the board to take that on. Schedule time for the strategic planning process sometime in 2020. The strategic plan is the guide for all your agency activities, including your fundraising activities.
And take some time, especially if you are an executive director, for self-care. Do something that will refresh and rejuvenate you. You work hard. You take your responsibilities seriously. You deal with all kinds of financial and deadline pressures. And there is never enough time. Especially if you are an executive director or one-person shop. Particularly if you are an executive director. If you don’t take time for yourself, the job will eat you alive. And you will become ineffective at what you do. Engaging in self-care will actually increase your fundraising results.
Even though it is December 23, there is still time to increase your 2019 fundraising results. You can also start improving your 2020 efforts. Good luck with your year-end efforts!
Drop me a line and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear from you.