A typical nonprofit organization’s calendar is always full. Meetings, campaigns and other important dates. But which should take the highest priority?
Here are 14 important dates that you should consider circling on your nonprofit’s calendar. They will help you strategically plan throughout the year.
1. Fiscal year-end
When is your fiscal year-end? For most, it’s June 30.
2. New board member and officer term start-dates
When do your new board members and officers start their terms?
3. Annual meeting
Do you have an annual meeting prior to the start of the board year?
Is it a membership event, or something where members/donors vote? Set the mailing date for the invitation to about four weeks prior.
4. Meeting with incoming board president
Prior to the start of your board year, meet with incoming president to plan committee assignments (particularly the development committee).
5. Board meetings
Set all your board meetings for the year. Make sure your incoming board chair knows how often you meet.
Don’t yet have a written calendar? Download our sample development plan template
6. Budget approval
When is your budget approved? Be sure to block out some time to work on your budget – possibly two-to-four weeks (including approval/revisions).
7. United Way blackout period
Are you a United Way agency? If so, mark the beginning and end of the United Way blackout period in your community. If not, still find out the end of that period and mark that. In many places, it is around November 15.
If you are a UW agency, you can’t start your year-end appeal before this date. If you aren’t, you want to schedule your year-end appeal to hit before then!
8. Signature fundraising event(s)
Mark these on your calendar next. Gala, golf tournament, fun run — placing these on your calendar should drive your communications schedule. In the communication column, mark the dates for the invitations for these events to go out 3-4 weeks in advance; and one week earlier than that, under development column mark major sponsor solicitation deadline.
Do you do a quarterly, bi-monthly or monthly print newsletter? If you do, this is a good spot to look at how your calendar is filling out, in order to schedule these to reach your public in a timely manner to reinforce your fund-raising, while also not having to go to press in the middle of your busiest month.
For many organizations, a publication that reaches audiences on the first of December (year end giving), March (spring appeal and special event), June (summer events), and September (can include an annual report as an insert) works well.
(Please never send these out without a response envelope tucked inside!) This usually means blocking out a week for putting it together early in November, February, May, and August. But this can be entirely driven by your own calendar.
10. Major appeals
Highlight the date ranges for your major appeals – likely a spring and year-end appeal. Some of you might not be satisfied with only doing two major appeals a year.
For a smaller organization with a smaller staff, doing two direct-mail appeals, in addition to a special event or two, is plenty of effective asking-and-thanking of your entire database (remembering, of course, that face-to-face cultivation of major donors is a year-round process).
However, if you’re interested in maintaining a more frequent social media communication program with your donors, and especially if you do only one (or fewer) special events, or don’t do a quarterly print communication, then this would be a good time to put monthly or at least bi-monthly e-blasts into both your communication calendar, and also your development calendar.
Tip: Make the appeal in your periodic e-blasts more specific, even for “temporarily-restricted” purposes. Unless you specify otherwise, it is implied that a year-end and a spring appeal are for the “area of greatest need.”
If you are also going to do a spring appeal for general unrestricted support, this would be a good time to look at an open space in your calendar for doing your list segmentation and preparing the mailing. Spring appeals can come out any time from March through June. The biggest concern is to not cannibalize your own special event registrations that might be occurring in the spring.
If you want to beat the United Way agencies to market who are doing a first-class mailing of their year-end appeal, you can mail yours the first week of November. If you are doing a bulk-rate mailing, you will want to mail it at least one week earlier than that. Either way, give yourself two weeks before the mailing to work on your list segmentation, and enter that task on the calendar.
If you aren’t worried about competing with United Way agencies and want to send your appeal closer to Christmas, that’s fine – just make sure to put the dates for segmenting the lists and preparing the mailing either three and one, or four and two, weeks ahead of the date you want it in your donors’ mailboxes.
PS: board members love to know the dates of your appeals.
Imagine you are recruiting a new board member. He or she will want to know the financial expectations. Being able to respond with a menu that lets them know in advance what and when all of your appeals are going to be lets them know what to expect.
Which ones are “expectations?” (Membership, a gift to the annual fund, attendance at or sponsorship of a special event, participation in a capital campaign if you in the midst of one?)
Which ones are optional add-ons? (Responding to bi-monthy social media campaigns, or making a gift to the year-end appeal on top of joining a gift club.)
Tailoring this list to your operations right now is a good way to prepare your new board members, and also to start thinking about next year’s development plan.
11. “Slow” periods
Identify some slow periods for plugging in some database maintenance tasks (duplicate checks, identifying and merging households, etc.).
#GivingTuesday whether you are focusing on it or not, is always the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It’s quite a large day of online giving, but not quite the largest. That’s…
13. New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is typically the largest single day of online giving, so be sure to keep this in mind as you send out your end-of-year appeals and/or #GivingTuesday appeals. At the very least, be sure to test your online donation forms and follow-up processes to make sure everything is working the way you want it to.
14. Year-End tax receipt deadline
Regardless of your fiscal year-end, you should try to send calendar-year tax receipts to all your donors by about the third or fourth week of January. They’ll appreciate it come tax time.
Framing your nonprofit’s calendar around these 14 dates will keep you focused on the most important tasks while at the same time preventing any internal and external conflicts.
If your development team doesn’t have a written calendar, you can download this free template that will help you keep track of everything.
Did I miss any important dates? Let me know in the comments below!