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Five Must-Do's for Your Year-End Giving Success

Untitled (Neon Quotation) by    Laurel Woodcock   , 2007. Art Gallery of Toronto.

Untitled (Neon Quotation) by Laurel Woodcock, 2007. Art Gallery of Toronto.

Your end of year solicitation letters have been mailed. Your email and social media plans are in place. As a nonprofit leader, you know that about a third of annual giving to nonprofits happens in December. And no one is really sure how changes in the tax law will affect end of year giving.

So, what can you do to make the most of this special time of year for your nonprofit?

1. Call to say thank you.

Review your donor list daily and divide thank you calls among the executive director, senior staff, and the board. A central responsibility of your board is to assure the financial stability of your organization. An easy way for them to do so is to call donors simply to say thank you. Provide a simple script. Give them up to 5 names and a deadline. Ask them to send you a note about their conversation and any follow up action needed.

2. Tell a great story of need.

Support your campaign with stories about a single person or family’s need to show what a donor’s gift to your organization will do. Statistics about enormous need or frightening trends are useful for your internal audiences (program staff and the board, for example) but the way to reach a donor is through stories they can relate to. Research shows that human brains are deeply activated by one person’s situation, but we shut down and move on when we encounter overwhelming needs.

3. Explain what you’re doing with the donor’s gift.

Be as specific as you can in your communication about what you did with the donor’s last gift and what you will do with the next one. This seems obvious. If you gifted your nephew with cash you’d want to know what he did with it. (If you feel like he blew it on something useless you might get him a gift card next time.) If your largest expense is professional staff and the office and equipment they need to manage resources, coordinate with partners, and market services, then say that.

4. Don’t forget volunteers.

Volunteers are twice as likely to give as non-volunteers—but don’t assume volunteers are reading your email blasts. They may consider themselves “special” and already in the know. Instead, send a special letter or postcard thanking them for the gift of their time and expertise—and reminding them that volunteering makes financial gifts go further.

5. Reminders matter.

The last three days of the year are when 12% of annual giving occurs. While this may shift with changes in tax law, the fact is donors are used to making charitable donations as part of their end-of-year gratitude or religious observance. So send reminders. Keep it short. Use powerful images, especially human faces.

Finally, I know you may not have gotten into the business of doing social good because you love to fundraise. However, securing resources for your cause is a central part of your organization’s mission and something to be proud of. So, in this season of giving, I offer you this blessing from a wise artist, leader and author:

“My wish for you is that you continue.  Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” – Maya Angelou

Robin Bradford