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10 Year-End Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid

It’s time to plan for the most productive season of the year – Fundraising Season!

Yep, kids are back in school, pumpkin spice is EVERYWHERE, and some folks are already thinking about the holidays.

Those of us in fundraising are starting to think about how to best leverage the next four months.

Here’s why.

From a recent report at Charity Navigator, we see that

  • Online giving increased 23% in 2017, after 15% growth in 2016.
  • 31% of annual giving occurred in the month of December.
  • 12% of annual giving occurs on the last 3 days of the year.

That means if you’re not asking for a donation during December, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity.

And if you’re not reminding your donors and followers about a last-minute gift December 29, 30, and 31, you’re missing the boat.

So, what does it take to make this your best fundraising season ever?

It takes carving out the time to think so you can create a strategy and a plan.

Because no one has record-breaking success by winging it.

Being purposeful about the stories you share and the way you ask can make all the difference in the world to your year-end campaign.

Getting it right isn’t easy. That’s why I’m sharing my list of the 10 most common mistakes that derail year-end fundraising.

10 common mistakes in year-end fundraising

1. Waiting too late. It takes time to plan a successful year-end campaign. Don’t put it off. You need plenty of time to get everything planned out for October, November, and December. You’ll never get the results you’re looking for if you wait until the last minute to figure out what you’re going to do.

2. Asking too much. Fundraising is a game of balance. Actually, it’s all about giving your donor what she wants. That means lots of updates, stories, and warm touches so she doesn’t feel like you’re always showing up with your hand out begging for money. Include plenty of non-ask activities in your plan to balance out the Asks.

3. Underestimating donors’ motivations.  It’s easy to think that people will give at the end of the year to get the tax benefit. That isn’t exactly accurate. You see, you only get the tax deduction if you itemize, and most of your donors don’t. So, stop thinking that people will give just to get the tax receipt and start trying to understand WHY your donors truly care about your nonprofit’s work. Hint: it probably has something to do with changing lives and making a difference.

4. No goal. What’s your goal for year-end fundraising? It’s a big mistake to go into fundraising season without a goal. Think about the exact amount of money you want to raise and anything else you want to accomplish, like bringing on new donors, finding new monthly givers, and renewing donors from last year who haven’t yet given this year. Also, if your year-end fundraising goal has something to do with the amount of service you want to provide in 2018, even better. A goal of “$10,000 so we can make budget” won’t be nearly as successful as “$11,000 so we can double the number of dogs we save in 2019.” See the difference?

5. No cohesive message. One message, consistently shared throughout fundraising season, will get you way more bang for the buck than changing it up every time you communicate with your tribe. Consistency will help people remember the message and your cause, which will increase your response rate and your revenue. Spend the time to carefully craft what you want to say, then consistently use that language. A message like “Hunger knows no holiday” used consistently will motivate people to give, especially after they see it a couple of times.

6. No special thanks. Remember earlier I mentioned balance? My 3:1 ratio tells us that we should be communicating with people 3 times as often as we Ask. Thanksgiving is a WONDERFUL time for that. You can hold a thankathon to call all your donors to personally say ‘thanks’. You can shoot and share a thank-you video. Or you can come up with another awesome idea. The point is to leverage this holiday to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. It’s the right thing to do, plus it sets up your next Ask.

7. Limping through #GivingTuesday.#GivingTuesday is a HUGE opportunity to raise awareness and money for your small nonprofit. But you can’t wait until the last minute and drop a couple of weak posts on your Facebook page. It takes a well-thought-out plan to get the most from Giving Tuesday. You need a specific goal to raise money for something with a specific outcome. And if you have a matching gift, all the better. Our clients who raised the most last year on #GivingTuesday had exactly that – a plan, a specific goal, and a matching gift.

8. Closing the office early.  I get it – you want to take time off, so you close your office the last 2 weeks of the year. BIG mistake! You will have people with questions about donations and if you’re not there to answer their questions, guess what? They may give that donation somewhere else! You need to be there to open the mail, get donations processed, and get thank-you letters out. You need to answer the phone when donors call or greet them if they drop a check off in person. Closing the office sends the wrong message – that your time off is more important than their donation.

9. Asking without connection. Don’t ask people to give to help you reach your goal. That’s boring. Ask people to give to save a dog, tutor a child, or feed a homeless person. Ask people to make a difference with their donation, not help you reach an arbitrary goal. There’s way more emotional connection when you ask people to help change a life and you’ll be more likely to get the response you want.

10. Not enough emails for last-minute donations.Remember from the opening of this article that 12% of annual giving occurs the last 3 days of the year? That means you need to email your list several times during the last week of the year to stay on your donor’s and prospect’s radar. It may feel like a lot to email 3 or 4 times that week, but if you don’t, you’ll miss out. I guarantee you the other nonprofits your donor supports are in her inbox. And if your messages are about the lives you’ll change in 2019 with year-end dollars, donors won’t unsubscribe.

Year-end fundraising can be amazing if you do it right. It was always my favorite time of the year when I was a Development Director because of all the donations flooding in and because I could see all my hard work paying off.

Make a plan and work it, avoid these mistakes, and you’ll have a great fundraising season this year, too!

By | 2018-09-17T17:56:24+00:00 September 4th, 2018|Featured, Year-End Fundraising|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandy shows Founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to mastering donor-based fundraising, inspiring their donors to give often and give big. Find out how ready YOU are to fully fund your nonprofit by taking our Quiz.

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