I get it, you face many challenges in raising year-end funds despite making your best efforts. Several factors contribute to this problem and understanding them will help you forge a profitable path forward.
The year-end giving season is highly competitive, with virtually every nonprofit vying for donors’ attention. This can make it difficult for any single organization to stand out. But there’s no good reason to be discouraged because your actions right now will speak louder than any words or lamentations can. (My inspiration here: I recently saw an online billboard that read, “Titles don’t make leaders. Actions do.”)
Underlying issues to avoid when raising year-end funds
In the meantime, I’d like to share with you some underlying issues that sabotage implementing the tactics described in those comprehensive posts.
1. Avoid feeling like it’s too late and start from where you are right now
Time has a way of slipping through our fingers. Before you know it, it’s time to run those year-end fundraising campaigns. And while last-minute or poorly coordinated year-end fundraising campaigns may not be as effective as well-planned, multi-channel efforts—you only miss the shots you don’t take. If you’re already behind the eight-ball, challenge that idea and start from where you are now. Therein lies your power.
2. Avoid fatiguing your donors by learning their preferences
Let’s address donor fatigue. Whether it exists is up for debate. But donors may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of year-end fundraising appeals and become fatigued or annoyed, making it harder for you to capture their attention. That’s why it’s important to survey your donors and learn how they want you to approach them. If you’ve never surveyed your donors, commit to doing that now, or soon. I like to include a paper survey with my donor thank you letter, with a first-class stamp affixed to the reply envelope. That gets a great return, and I learn a lot.
3. Avoid broad appeals by sending tailored ones
Poorly targeted appeals without tailored fundraising messages to specific donor segments will result in lower donor engagement. It’s essential to meet donors where they are and personalize your year-end appeal to steward them to the next level of giving. Educate potential donors about your mission, and how their donation will be used to support your programs and initiatives.
Thank first-time donors for their first gift, highlight the impact of that gift, and ask them to consider making a second gift to make a bigger difference. Thank lapsed donors for their past support and share updates about your organization’s work and the impact of their previous gifts.
4. Avoid limiting your results by diversifying the fundraising communication mix
Not diversifying your fundraising communication channels so you’re relying solely on one or two, such as email campaigns or direct mail, will limit your reach. Offer multiple ways for donors to give during your year-end appeals to meet donors where they are, using mobile-friendly giving forms, text donation options, and more. And to uplevel your game—offer payment methods like Apple Pay or PayPal—so you never lose a donor before they give.
5. Avoid ineffective communication by inspiring your donors with powerful storytelling
Weak storytelling hurts your returns. Storytelling is a powerful tool in fundraising, and if you fail to effectively communicate your impact, mission, and vision for the future, you’ll struggle to inspire donors. A good way to proceed is to identify a person you trust who is a novelist or narrative writer and ask them to give you feedback on your draft. I do that regularly, and it helps deepen my storytelling.
6. Avoid word-labored communication by using videos
7. Avoid ineffective follow-up with timely thank-you letters and messages
Ineffective follow-up really harms your efforts. Failing to follow up with donors or acknowledge their contributions will discourage them from future giving. But actually calling donors to thank them increases the likelihood of their not only giving again—but giving more.
8. Avoid losing donors as your first step to building your donor community
Letting donors lapse by focusing solely on acquiring new donors will hurt your fundraising efforts. So be sure to invest in donor retention by re-engaging donors before they lapse.
9. Avoid scandals by following a code of conduct, and if they occur deal with them directly
Nonprofits that have faced controversies or scandals may have difficulty gaining and maintaining donor trust. If scandal is part of your organizational landscape, get help from a communications expert about how to address it. Ignoring the issues can cost your organization.
10. Avoid burnout by proactively having a plan to preserve your health
Fundraiser burnout is real. Overly aggressive or persistent fundraising efforts can lead to a very tired fundraiser. That’s not good. Be gentle with yourself. You probably know about the donor bill of rights, but do you know about the Fundraisers Bill of Rights? Educate yourself about healthy work dynamics.
Your nonprofit is unique, so it’s important to assess your organization’s specific challenges and tailor strategies accordingly. Experimenting with different approaches and analyzing results will help identify what works best for your particular nonprofit’s year-end fundraising efforts.
What tactics have you employed in raising year-end funds?