10 ways to boost the year-end nonprofit fundraising push is a quick guide created by Jim Eskin to help aid you in your fundraising efforts.
You probably don’t have to be reminded that no matter the size and purpose of your non-profit, we are about to enter fundraising’s richest season. Nearly one quarter of annual giving occurs in December and 10% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.
There’s no denying that philanthropy has suffered hits: Giving USA reported earlier in the year that total giving fell 3.4% in 2022 to $499.3 billion in current dollars, a drop of 10.5% when adjusted for inflation, declining for only the 4th time in 40 years. This was attributed to rising inflation and a volatile stock market. The dip came after two record-setting years for charitable giving, driven by the unprecedented needs of the pandemic. Early projections are that 2023 will end up as another challenging year for fundraisers.
But this is all the more reason to turn up the volume, put your pedal to the metal, and embrace proven principles, strategies and best practices that yield exciting returns as the end of the year approaches. Based on 25 years of experience helping lead advancement programs at three institutions of higher education, and now serving as a consultant/trainer working with a multitude of non-profits across the country, I like to highlight the following 10 actionable steps.
- Be available: It is very common for non-profits to give staff and employees much-deserved time off at the end of the year to enjoy the holiday season with family and loved ones. But it is crucial for non-profits to make sensible arrangements so development officers and gift processing staff may be accessible to donors seeking to bring closure to year-end gifts. These responsibilities can be divided up so no individual staff member is overburdened. I like recommending that development officers make it clear in their e-mail and voice-mail messages how they can be reached during the holiday period. Many gifts are increasingly made online and, understanding that message systems may be challenging to some donors, it is music to the ear to actually speak to a person. This will be well received by donors and reinforce their intentions to make gifts. Remember the last three days of the calendar year are particularly crucial to be available to donors.
- Keep up with IRS Rules: A charitable gift is considered made on the “date of delivery.” The date a charitable gift is “made” can be critical to the timing and valuation of the donor’s charitable contribution deduction. In general, a gift is made when it is delivered to the charity and ownership moves from donor to non-profit. The concept is simple, but there are many complex rules that have developed to deal with special situations. In the “old days” when mailing checks were common, the pivotal marker was when the envelope gets deposited in the mail (not the date on the check). With so many gifts being digital, the date and time of credit card and computer processing is crucial — such as December 31st, 11:59 PM. There are other technicalities to learn, such as in the gift of stocks, DAFs and other assets.
- Think big: One thing that hasn’t changed is the overwhelming importance of major gifts to resource development success. Do you have prospects that have progressed in the cultivation phase? Now is the time to press for closure. Keep that list of most promising prospects literally and virtually in front of you all the time. Emphasize the difference their gifts will make in advancing the mission if given now, not later. Remember, it is perfectly okay to accept written commitment or pledge forms. Typically, the larger the gift, the longer the period the donor will need to fulfill the pledge.
- Talk markets: Savvy donors like to make gifts of stock and other appreciated assets. It can be a win-win for both donor and non-profit. When you donate stock to a non-profit, you’ll generally take a tax deduction for the full fair market value. And because you are donating stock, your contribution and tax deduction may instantly increase over 20% (depending on financial factors). The same rationale applies to gifts of bonds and mutual funds.
- Emphasize conversations on planned or legacy gifts: This can be a strategic factor with major gift asks. Blended gifts of current and deferred components are becoming increasingly popular. The overwhelming share of planned gifts comes from wills and bequests, pension plans and insurance policies.
- Be creative with appreciation gifts: Most donors have enough mugs, tee-shirts, pens and similar stuff. Nothing tops personal or handmade gifts. For example, I know a colleague who makes mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies when left on the doorsteps of donors, even create smiles on the wealthiest of individuals.
- Clean up databases: This remains a thankless, endless but absolutely essential function. Keep in mind that donors who contact you to update their contact information need to be noted to receive special attention.
- Turn up stewardship volume: You can never thank donors too much. New technology is opening doors to new and effective techniques such as e-mailing impact videos showing progress on moving the mission forward. Traditional methods still have a strong impact. Thank-you calls with no other agenda than expressing gratitude, whether they reach the party or result in voice-mail messages being left, is a great example. (By the way, having board members who are reluctant fundraisers make the stewardship calls is a great way to gradually introduce them to resource development.) My personal favorite remains the handwritten note. How many of these do you receive? They are sure to set you apart from others and reinforce the personal nature of your relationship.
- Celebrate victories: While fundraising is an art and science that can and should be taught, learned and improved on over time, it’s never easy. Highlight the roles played by staff, board, volunteers and other friends to advance discovery, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of donor prospects. It takes an entire non-profit village to champion these four phases of resource development.
- Take inventory of your end-of-year campaign: What worked? What fell short? Invariably, most non-profits will wish they had started earlier. With the experience fresh in mind, create a timetable for 2024 that will ensure an earlier start, more productivity, and ultimately stronger results.
There are countless other issues to assess, discuss, and make decisions on. These include revisiting mission, vision and values; staffing structure, technology support and communications programs. If management, board and staff don’t have sufficient time to discuss and act on these issues, then put them and others at the top of the agenda for 2024. The best organizations are always works in progress, relentlessly analyzing the status quo and relentlessly pursuing opportunities for improvement.
Jim Eskin’s consulting practice, Eskin Fundraising Training builds on the success of his more than 200 fundraising workshops and webinars and provides the training, coaching and support services that non-profits need to compete for and secure major gifts. He has authored more than 100 guest columns that have appeared in daily newspapers, business journals and blogs across the country, and publishes Stratagems, a monthly e-newsletter exploring timely issues and trends in philanthropy. Sign up here for a free subscription. He is author of 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, which can be purchased here.
10 Ways to Boost the Year-End Nonprofit Fundraising Push was first posted at Major Gifts Ramp-Up
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