Are you prepared to receive your share of the millions (billions) of dollars that will be donated to charities in the next few weeks? The countdown to New Year’s Eve and the end of the 2010 giving season is on. What have you done this year to prepare for your share of the pot?
1. Did you build relationships this year?
Fundraising is about relationships. The better you did at building relationships with new and past supporters, the better your year-end giving will be.
So, how do you know how you did? Quantify it.
How many times did you visit with your current donors? Did you send them programmatic updates and inform them of how their money was being used? How many came on a tour of your organization? How many new, prospective donors were you in touch with? How often? How many new volunteers did your organization use?
These are just some of the ways to measure how you did at building relationships with current and prospective donors this year.
If you successfully built your relationships with donors and supporters, then you will likely benefit at year-end and throughout the year in terms of increased donations.
2. Did you provide your board and staff members with fundraising training?
Did you invest in continuing education for your board and staff members? Did you attend fundraising conferences, workshops or webinars? Did you hold a board retreat with at least some fundraising training aspect?
If you expect your board members and staff members to help with development and improve their skills from year to year, you will need to invest in this important area. The executive director of your organization should also be continuing to improve his/her fundraising skills each year.
3. Did you research new funding opportunities?
Were you active or passive about identifying new prospective donors?
If you were active about your research, then you likely used one or more database for your research. For example, did you use the Foundation Center’s database when looking for new foundations to apply to?
When looking for individual donors, did you utilize your database to identify your largest and most loyal donors? Did you ask board and staff members to introduce you to individuals who might be interested in your cause and your organization?
If you answered yes, then you were active. If not, then you were likely passive in the acquisition of new donors and it’s time to get active for next year!
4. Did you have a diversified funding plan and implement new strategies?
Did you implement any new fundraising activities this year or solicit donors in a new way? Did you solicit donors by email? By mail? By phone? In person? Did you launch an internet campaign for the first time? Invest in tele-fundraising? If not, which strategy did you leave out? Why? Can you add it to your plan for next year?
If you expect to raise more money and not be as vulnerable to changes in the economy, you should always be thinking of new things to try, and have as diversified a funding base as possible.
5. Did you thank your donors and tell them how their money was used?
Acquiring new donors is many times more expensive than keeping your current donors. Why not do everything in your power to keep loyal donors giving to your organization?
Did you thank your donors frequently and in many different ways? By email? In person? By phone? In writing? How quickly after they made their gift did you thank them? How frequently?
I’m not saying to bombard them or be disingenuous, but you should genuinely thank your donors in multiple ways and throughout the year. Be sure to tell them how their money is going to be used (even if the funds aren’t designated) and then tell them how it was used before asking for a subsequent gift.
6. Did you accomplish your mission?
It’s especially difficult to ask for money when you’re not being true to your mission. Did you serve the population you set out to serve? Did you accomplish your goals? If so, shout it from the rooftops! Put it in your appeal letters and email blasts. Tell your donors and supporters!
7. Did you recruit new board members?
Did you add any new members to your board this year? Adding a few new board members to your board each year is one critical way to keep your organization fresh, vibrant, and in touch with the community.
Too many organizations have the same board, year after year after year, and wonder why nothing changes. Are you stuck in a rut with your board?
8. Did you get 100 percent giving from your board?
Did all of your board members make contributions to your annual fund this year? If not, you still have a few weeks to get on the phone with them to make sure this happens.
Having 100 percent participation from your board is a requirement for any organization that I work with. (They must at least be working toward that goal.) You must have 100 percent of your board members making gifts to your organization if you expect others to give.
Why? If your board members, who are closest people to your organization, who know the mission and the programs most intimately, and are the ones with the greatest understanding your financial needs, still won’t make a gift, why should anyone else???
A final note: keep development staff or at least someone who can accept donations, credit cards, checks, gifts of stock, etc. in the office during the week between Christmas and New Years. It always amazes me when organizations completely shut down that week and donors don’t have anyone to contact if they need information or assistance before making a donation. I’m not saying this to be a scrooge, but really, do you want to be unavailable during the busiest fundraising time of the year?
So… are you prepared for year-end giving? If you answered “yes” to a majority of the above questions, then you are probably ready for year-end giving. If not, keep this list handy and make sure you can answer in the affirmative to all questions at this time next year.
Did you answer “yes” to all of these questions? If not, what didn’t you do and why not? I want to hear from you in the comments.