How to Succeed in the Last 49 Days of the Year

What to do when you only have seven weeks to meet your year-end goal

As a fundraiser, what you do with your time is never more important than it is during these final weeks of the year. This is when you capitalize on all the work you’ve done during the rest of the year. That makes what you don’t do as important as what you do.

So here’s my best advice for how to work smart and prioritize your tasks for the next 49 days…

  1. Make sure you contact anyone you still want to meet with as soon as possible. If you don’t get a date on the calendar for the first or second week of December, you’ll be SOL until January.
  2. Send holiday cards as early in the month as possible. Things get busier and busier for people as the weeks pass and your card is more likely to be noticed if it arrives in the first or second week of December. When deciding on your list, only send as many cards as your team can personally write, address, and mail. In other words, an impersonal card, untouched by a human being and sent from a mail house is worthless. Better to save your money and send nothing.
  3. Build an email communications strategy. Up to 20% of all online giving happens in the last two days of the year. If your development team isn’t the same as your marketing team, get together and talk about how to coordinate efforts. Make the case for why fundraising must take center stage in December, especially on the 30th and 31st. I recommend 3-5 emails over the course of the month, reinforcing your direct mail efforts and reminding supporters of any other special benefits to giving (matching gifts, etc).
  4. Call donors who haven’t given yet in 2018 and/or who usually give at year-end. Run a LYBNT (last year but not this) list of supporters who gave in 2017 but have not yet donated in 2018. Call to thank them for their past support, remind them that their gift makes a difference, and ask them to renew their donation (or maybe increase!). Start with folks who usually give at year-end as a reminder and continue from there.
  5. Remind donors about the option to give stock. Year-end is a popular time for making this kind of donation. Make sure your supporters are aware they can support your cause and take advantage of the potential tax benefits.
  6. Turn around those “thank you” letters. Don’t wait until your year-end push is over to acknowledge the donations coming in. Your recognition system needs to be a well-oiled machine, getting notes of gratitude out as quickly as possible—and definitely within 72 hours of gift receipt.
  7. Don’t take off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Someone needs to hold down the fort in your development office. You can split it up amongst people so it doesn’t all fall to one person. They don’t even all need to be development staff. Just experienced, knowledgeable folks you’d trust to respond to urgent emails and talk to donors who call with questions, problems, or requests related to donating.
  8. Schedule a treat for yourself in January. Get something you enjoy on your calendar now for early next year. Whether it’s a massage, tickets to a concert, or dinner at a fancy restaurant, you deserve a reward for all your hard work!
Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
November 13, 2018

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