December is a time of madness. Between the holidays, the weather, the shopping, and the nonstop Christmas soundtrack, we can all get a little overwhelmed.
But if you work at a nonprofit, you get an extra dose of excitement and stress because the end of the year is so important for fundraising. You may feel like you can barely keep up with everything now. You may feel like you couldn’t possibly start thinking about next year.
But you should.
The fact is that what your organization does in December will impact what happens in January, and what you’re able to accomplish at the beginning of 2015 will make a difference for the rest of the year.
In this blog post, we’ll highlight what you can do now to start next year strong and how you should use January and the following months to fortify and grow your base of donors. Finally, we’ll cover how planning for later campaigns should direct your communications in early 2015.
Let’s start with the present, though.
Dig into December
According to data from Network for Good, 30% of annual giving occurs in December. That’s right, nearly a third of donations will come in this month. No nonprofit can afford to ignore end-of-year giving.
You’ve probably already planned (or are currently implementing) some kind of holiday giving campaign, but make sure that you continue your appeals until the very end of the year. The week after Christmas may seem like a good time to take it easy, but Network for Good also found that 22% of online gifts are made in the last two days of the year. That’s why you should definitely send at least one email to potential donors in the final days of 2014.
Another point to consider in December is the visibility of monthly giving programs. With so many people making their giving decisions this month, it can be a huge opportunity to boost recurring revenue. Make sure you have calls-to-action for monthly giving.
Tip: In the final week of the year, you can even pose monthly giving as a New Year’s resolution.
“This year, I resolve to stand up for threatened species.”
“This year, I resolve to help those less fortunate.”
“This year, I’m going to make a difference.”
It helps to explain the need for monthly donations and have reasonable suggested giving levels. Monthly giving is also a good option to promote in January, so keep the option visible.
Hit the Ground Running in 2015
Okay, you made it through December. Now what?
I probably don’t need to tell you, but I’m going to say it anyway: say “Thank You.” Not only to those who gave to your end of year campaign but to all the people who have supported you over the past year. January may the beginning of 2015, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about 2014.
Beyond saying thank you, another priority for the beginning of the year is to show donors the results of your end of year campaign. You can share the cumulative amount you raised or the number of new donors you gained or whatever good news you like. Show donors that their gift last month is making a difference.
Another important part of following up your end of year campaign is to reach out to your most successful fundraisers and big donors. It’s always good to show these supporters a little extra attention, but strengthening those relationships will be helpful when you launch your next fundraising campaign.
If you can, send a personal email or handwritten note to these all-star supporters. Or you can call them on the phone. The point is to show you took special notice of their contribution and want to stay in touch. You can then call on your best fundraisers when you want to do a soft launch.
Looking to the Future
As you can probably tell, the first months after the New Year are an important time to thank donors and strengthen relationships. Once your big end of year campaign is over, January is a chance to step back from the appeals and spend a little time giving back to donors. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about your next campaign.
The fact that the first quarter of the year tends to be a slow one for fundraising makes it the perfect time to plan and prepare for your next big push. Whether that’s a peer-to-peer campaign or a spring 5K, get a jump on your next campaign. The sooner you iron out details like dates, goals, and theme, the sooner you can get collateral like emails and campaign-specific donation pages.
During the off-season an athlete doesn’t quit exercising and practicing entirely, they use it as an opportunity to prepare for the next season and come back stronger. So fundraisers should use the first months of 2015 to consolidate the gains they’ve made (in terms of donor base) and build a strong foundation for the next cycle of fundraising.
A Quick Recap
• Continue campaigning through the entire month of December
• Emphasize monthly giving in the new year
In Early 2015
• Say thank you to all your 2014 donors
• Share results and impact from your end of year campaign
• Reach out to big donors, donors who significantly upgraded their gifts, and standout fundraisers
• Set the date for your next big campaign and plan for the launch
And one last thing.
You’ve made it through 2014 and you’re going into 2015 one year smarter and more experienced. So congratulate yourself!