18 Steps to Maximize Year-End Giving

Make the most of your Q4 fundraising efforts!

Holiday 2017

Over the next three months nonprofits will raise over 30% of their annual revenue. Some of you might even raise as much as 50% of your budget between now and year-end.

With that kind of opportunity in front of you, it’s essential that you’re focused on the activities that will get you the most leverage — and the most impact.

Here’s my list of 18 steps you can take starting today to maximize your year-end giving opportunities.

1. Focus on the top 15 – 30 donors who haven’t made a gift yet this year.
Get your Executive Director, Board Chair and senior development staff out to meet with these key donors personally. Find out what’s going on in their lives and what’s still important to them about the work you’re doing. Then ask them to make a year-end commitment to ensure that your important work can continue.

CRITICAL TIP: If you can’t get a face-to-face meeting with these people, you’ve got to get your most effective year-end direct mail package(s) in their hands. These are the donors that most often get suppressed from mailings because everyone in the organization intends to give them a “better” donor experience. But if they can’t or won’t meet with you, the only other way you can solicit a gift is to put something in their hands that they can respond to. Make your year-end segmentation flexible enough to support this.

2. Identify your top 150 donors (after those above) and visit them. Share with them what you expect next year to bring for your organization and the clients you serve, and the wonderful opportunities they have to make an impact. Then ask them to make a year-end commitment. I know of one organization that did this in a few years ago and added $1 million to their bottom line in just the last four months of the year.

CRITICAL TIP: If you can’t get a face-to-face meeting with these people, you’ve got to get your most effective year-end direct mail package(s) in their hands. These are the donors that most often get suppressed from mailings because everyone in the organization intends to give them a “better” donor experience. But if they can’t or won’t meet with you, the only other way you can solicit a gift is to put something in their hands that they can respond to. Make your year-end segmentation flexible enough to support this.

3. Deploy a matching challenge. There are few things donors love more than leverage. Especially middle and major donors. Take the next 30 days to secure a meaningful matching gift from a donor or group of donors, and the promote the match in every available marketing channel. Some organizations have increased year-end results by as much as 30% – 50% with the use of a matching challenge between September and December.

4. Find a way to fit an extra direct mail appeal into your year-end fundraising 
calendar. Many organizations mail mid-month appeals throughout the 4th Quarter of the year (these are in addition to a monthly appeal). These extra appeals will increase your income and keep even more donors active going into the new year.

CRITICAL TIP: You don’t have to do this for ALL of your donors. However, this is a key opportunity for you to be in front of your best donors — your high frequency donors, your mid-level and major donors, and even your monthly givers once more in the year. It sounds frightening to some — and depending on your mail frequency it might not make sense (i.e., if you’re already mailing 18-24 solicitations), but for most organizations this is a smart way to add revenue.

5. Call your donors.
In fact, compile a list of all your middle donors and any major donors you aren’t able to visit with personally, and start calling them in October. Work this list all the way through December 31 if you have to. Make sure everyone on the list is reached personally over the phone and asked to make a year-end gift. Time these calls to follow your direct mail in-home dates throughout the 4th Quarter and you’ll see even stronger results!

6. Make clean-up calls during the final week of the year.
This might seem counter intuitive, but this is the time of year when every other company and many nonprofits shut down. No one else is making calls this week, so you’ll have a much better chance of getting through.

7. Invest in acquisition.
This is absolutely the best time of year to acquire new donors. You’ll get more new donors at a lower cost per donor in the 4th Quarter than any other time of year. This investment will pay dividends for years to come.

8. Be intentional about integration.
Coordinate the messaging and timing of your direct mail, e-mail campaigns, online display/drive to site, telemarketing and face-to-face efforts. Consistency in message and coordinated timing of your appeals will deliver increased results.

9. Engage your board.
Ask board members to make thank you calls to middle, major and planned gift donors, as well as key foundation and corporate supporters who have already given this year. Often, a timely and meaningful thank you from volunteer leaders can result in extra year-end gifts.

CRITICAL TIP: In recent research and testing I’ve seen thank you calls like this increase future response by as much as 30% for people who received thank you calls. It’s a cheap, easy way to engage donors, and has the potential to make a huge impact. It’s also a great way to engage volunteers and board members.

10. Invest in Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
SEM campaigns will help you reach high-value online donors that are looking for worthy causes to support during the holidays. These donors are typically younger and tend to give significantly higher average gifts than direct mail acquired donors. Donors acquired through SEM campaigns can frequently be brought on at a positive ROI (or at least break-even) at the very point of acquisition.

CRITICAL TIP: If you’re going to do this, consider adding a display ad (banners) campaign as well. Banner campaigns build volume more quickly, while coordinated SEM campaigns help you convert more visitors. This 1-2 punch will make a big difference in your online giving.

11. Develop a special year-end e-mail series.
Send a series of three e-mail solicitations throughout the month of December, each building on the momentum and urgency of the last. Time the final e-mail to be delivered on the morning of December 31, with a subject line of something like, “Last Chance to Give in 2017.”

12. Don’t forget your volunteers, GIK donors and event attendees. These supporters might not make cash contributions throughout the rest of the year, but the holiday season is a special time. People who support you in other ways throughout the year can be inspired to go the extra mile and make cash gifts at year-end. If you ask. At the very least, include these supporters in your year-end direct mail, e-mail and telemarketing efforts.

13. Include a special year-end cover letter in your 4th Quarter newsletter. Use this opportunity to celebrate your donors’ faithful giving throughout the year and ask for the special extra gift at year-end. Personalize the letter and reply device to make it extra special (and to increase response).

14. Create a special ask for monthly donors. These highly committed donors will give generously to an extra year-end appeal if done right. Don’t just dump them into your standard year-end appeal though. Make sure you have custom letter and e-mail versions for these donors that speak to the incredible impact their monthly gifts make. Then offer them an opportunity to do something extra special in the final month of the year.

15. Remind donors about corporate matching gift opportunities. Include inserts in your direct mail and newsletters. Put a special paragraph in your e-mail appeals, and remind donors by phone and in person that their gifts can do even more if matching by their employer.

16. Don’t neglect stewardship. Gift transaction volumes will be much higher in the final three months of the year than any other time. Make sure your staff and volunteers are trained and equipped to handle the increase in contributions, receipts, phone calls and online inquiries. Make sure everyone involved in the gift processing and stewardship process (including the finance department) knows how critical accurate and timely gift processing is to donor retention.

17. Prepare to capitalize on your acquisition efforts. If you don’t already have one, start now on a new donor welcome series that includes a special new donor thank you receipt, welcome package and other materials that can be sent to first time donors. The minimal investment of time and resources you’ll need to do this will pay huge dividends in 2nd gift conversion and future income for your organization.

18. Stay open through the holidays. Have at least a few gift officers in the office who can be making clean-up calls to donors that haven’t given yet this year and thank you calls to donors who make large year-end contributions. They’ll also be available for those last minute calls from donors who want to make gifts of stock or other assets before year-end.

CRITICAL TIP: I know of one well known national organization that missed out on a $1 Million gift simply because they didn’t have a development officer or senior staff member in the office the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It is in your organization’s interest to have at least some development staff coverage that week — unless you just don’t want more revenue.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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