End of the Year....So Soon

It’s been a weird few weeks.  If you are anything like me, your focus keeps getting pulled to the circus in Washington and away from the circus closer to home.  You should be thinking end of year campaign (should be DONE with that, but hey….I’m all in with reality). Or the potential major donors you haven’t reached out to.  Or how you are going to remind all those who are 70-1/2 or older that they can make a charitable gift to your organization directly from their IRA.  

So much to consider.  So little time.

End of the year giving, of course, is where most of your thoughts should be around now.  If you haven’t already done your plan, you should be considering:

·      How much do I need to raise by the end of the calendar year?

·      How much of an increase is this over last year’s actuals?

·      What are ways I will soliciting prospective donors?

·      Will I participate in Giving Tuesday?

·      How will I stand out from the crowd? 

Once you know your goal—write a plan.  Think about what your end of the year campaign will look like.  Indeed, first decide if you are going to do a campaign.  I think you should do a year end campaign—after all, over 30% of all money raised by US charities comes in at the end of the year—but a campaign takes a lot more effort than simply sending out direct mail appeal.

A campaign in fundraising is a time limited activity using a variety of fundraising techniques.  And if you scratched your head at the end of the prior paragraph wondering why I mentioned direct mail—I mean, does anyone do that anymore?—know that it is still the most popular medium for end of the year asks.  And oh, it’s not just us Boomers who respond to direct mail.  According to several studies—and yes, these were done by groups like USPS and Pitney Bowes, so those with an interest in keeping direct mail alive and well-- millennials are far more likely than non-Millennials to read and engage with direct mail.  Moreover:

·       50 percent of people pay more attention to direct mail than any other marketing channel

·       Depending on the nonprofit organization, the direct mail channel often delivers between 60 and 80 percent of total revenue. The email channel provides between 5 and 15 percent

So direct mail, yes!  But to whom?  And what will your message say?

Your message of course should match your donors.  That means segmenting the pool of donors who will receive this direct mail.

Take a look at your database—and if you don’t have a donor tracking system, shame on you (or your board for not approving the funds)!  In today’s world there is no excuse.  To raise money, you must be able to understand how and why (and when) your donors give.  At the end of the year you want to ask:

·      How many donors responded to last year’s appeal?

·      What has the average gift been? 

·       Who—specifically—gave more than the average?  

·      Of those, how many are loyal donors?

·      Of the ones who gave at or less than the average, how many of those are loyal?

·      Who gave to you two years ago but not last year? 

·      Who once gave but hasn’t in the last 5 years? 

·      Who is on your list who has never given?

Each of these groups should get a slightly different letter.

If you only send out a letter, however, even to a warm list, your response rate will be dismal—around 4% of those you mail will make a gift.  And that presupposes all your addresses are good ones.  So consider how else you are reaching out to these potential end of year givers.

If you have email addresses, e-blasts and e-appeals are terrific.  And if you have cell phone numbers, do text. Social media; postcards; phone calls.  All can boost your response rate.

But in fundraising, the closer you get to your donors, the more likely they are to say yes—and the larger the gift they give is likely to be.

As you segment, pull out those you have good reason to believe can and would make a larger end of the year gift.  Larger than what?  You decide.  These people should get personal attention.  Think small house parties.  Think one on one meetings.

However you solicit your prospects and donors, make a compelling—and concise—case. It is one thing to ask for money and quite another to invite people to join you in making a real difference.

Janet Levine