year-end fundraising success

Right now, year-end fundraising season probably seems far away. Far away enough that you’ve got other tasks to prioritize. You’ll get around to planning your year-end campaign in the Fall when it’s a higher priority. But here’s the thing – if you want to have a successful campaign – year-end or otherwise – it requires your organization to strategically build relationships year-round. That’s what I call playing the long game.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our campaigns and appeals happen in a vacuum. But the truth is they are part of an ecosystem of interactions donors have with your organization year-round. That ecosystem includes stewardship, donor communications, social media posts, and more. It’s a mindset shift, but it is incredibly helpful to think about and understand our campaigns in the context of this ecosystem.

Unfortunately, many fundraising programs are missing this critical opportunity to understand their communications and stewardship efforts as parts of the ecosystem that aid future success. It’s all too easy to find ourselves checking “newsletter” off our to-do list simply because it’s something we think we should be sending to our community. But getting trapped in creating and sending content for content’s sake, we miss the opportunity to strategically use our content to build relationships.

So, what can you do differently this year to play the long game for year-end fundraising success?

Start by understanding what you are moving donors towards. This is your long game goal. In the case of year-end fundraising success, you are moving donors towards making a year-end gift and for some donors that might mean making their first gift of the calendar year. If that’s the scenario that we’re hoping for, we need to explore what we can do between now and then to increase the likelihood of this outcome.

One of the best ways to do this is through donor stewardship and communications. Build out a plan for engaging, relationship-building content over the coming months that prepares donors for the year-end ask. If you’re in need of some ideas for what to put in your plan here are 5 Elements of a Donor Communications Plan the Builds Loyalty and 3 Ways to Share Stories that Improve Donor Retention. If you need some ideas for how to structure your plan, here’s a tutorial on how to put together a 90-day communications plan.

But beyond creating a plan, you must commit to consistency and execution. That plan will do you no good if it gets lost in your computer archives. As I often share with clients, figuring out how to be consistent and execute a plan is as important as creating the plan. Do you need to block off times in your calendar to ensure the work gets done? Do you need to coordinate with colleagues or freelancers who will help with parts of the plan? Take the time to figure out what you need to do to set yourself up for follow through success.

If you are looking for additional resources to help you evaluate your current relationship building efforts, check out the Stewardship Assessment Tool to get an evaluation of your stewardship and actionable ideas to improve it.

Vanessa Chase
Vanessa Chase is President of and co-founder of Stewardship School. Her goal is to help nonprofits connect in more meaningful ways with donors through stories and stewardship. She works with nonprofits throughout North America—including BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Union Gospel Mission, and Cancer Care Connection—and is an internationally recognized speaker. Vanessa is also the Board Chair of Women Against Violence Against Women.