It’s the last month of the year. There’s just one month to go to bring in that last bit of money and increase those 2019 fundraising results. What are the things that you can still do to improve your fundraising performance? What can you do now that will improve 2019 results and put you on the path for fundraising success in 2020?
Increasing Individual Donations
Hopefully your year-end individual appeals are out. If they’re not, get them out quickly. Most giving in the U.S. takes place the last month of the year. Make sure the mailing addresses and salutations are correct. If your donors don’t mean enough to you for you to know the most basic information about them, why should they get to know you and your organization? And, after all, if you can’t to get the donor’s names or addresses right, how in the world will they think that you can successfully manage their donations? As we discussed in Building Donor Relationships: Individuals, when you get your appeal responses, keep up the record keeping. Good record keeping with help you personalize your future communications with donors, resulting in higher response rates and donor retention rates. Which means improving your 2020 fundraising performance.
When the donations are received, are you thanking your donors quickly and promptly? Like within 24-48 hours? Are you personalizing the thank you in the same way you do your appeals? Are you emphasizing how the donor is fulfilling mission as opposed to meeting financial need? Does your thank you letter include themes about resourcefulness, independence, improving the human condition and contributing to the social good so that your thank you appeals to as many of the age cohorts as possible? As we discussed in Bringing in the Money: The Importance of Thanking Your Donors in Achieving Fundraising Success, thanking donors promptly in ways that are meaningful to them can increase your donor retention rate, improving your 2020 fundraising performance.
Are you following up on that initial appeal with donors that haven’t given? How are you reaching donors of different age cohorts – the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Generation Z? Are you using phone follow up’s for your oldest donors, email for near retirement and middle-aged donors and texting for your youngest donors? Are you designing your follow-up messages so that donors are more likely to receive your messages? Are you making it easy for donors to hear you and say yes to you? If you’re keeping good donor records, you know their preferences. Keep up the record keeping.
Are you sending out follow up communiques to your original donor list? If you are not, then do. Following a send and third time will improve your fundraising results. Are you removing names of those who have given from your 2019 appeal follow up list when their donations come in? Make sure you do. The last thing you want to do come across that you cannot manage the campaign and, in the process, annoy donors who have already given, lessening the chances they will give in the future.
Increasing Foundation Donations
Hopefully, most of your 2019 foundation grants have been written and submitted by now. There are, however, some foundations with year-end deadlines. During my career, I have applied to foundations with year-end requests. However, it’s not that year’s funding I’m applying for. It’s for the next calendar year funding. Which meant the organization had a plan for the next year. I learned early in my career that strong proposal writing comes from strong program planning. One of the best things you can do to strengthen those year-end 2019 grant requests is to be familiar with your agency’s 2020 program and financial plans.
Many foundations pay out awards during the last month of the year. Like individual donors, people who represent foundations need to be acknowledged and validated. If you were granted an award, thank your program officer or foundation representative. It’s people who answer the phone, read the proposal, make the decisions and report back to their board. Treat your foundation representatives as you do your individual donors. Foundation donors, are usually, in fact, major donors. Treat them as such. You want to make sure you stand out positively in their minds if ever you ask for future funding.
If you are mid-cycle in a grant and a report is due, make sure you submit it. And, if you have a change in the scope of your funded grant, let them know. As we discussed in Building Donor Relationships: Foundations, communicate progress, including delays and failures. Address any changes in circumstance. Let the foundation know what’s going on before the end of the grant. No one likes surprises.
In addition, spend the relatively quiet time strengthening your case for support for each program area you write grants for. Or do your grants research for 2020 and make a calendar of when each request is due. As I shared in The Executive Director’s Role in Fundraising When EVERYTHING Demands Your Attention, my formula was 70 percent of my time on today’s tasks and 30 percent preparing for the future. I know, easier said than done. I’ve been there.
Increasing Corporate Donations
Corporate appeals generally follow a different timeline than individual or foundation appeals. In my experience, the fall is the best time to ask to be put in the corporate budget for the next year. Business representatives may not know until early 2020 if they can get you in and for how much, but by approaching them during budget development time they at least know to be aware of your request. This is not true of corporate foundation funding. Asking for corporate foundation funding is like approaching any other type of foundation. Except, as we discussed in Building Donor Relationships: Corporations corporate foundations are generally company instruments used to increase customer and/or employee loyalty. So, if you are looking for corporate funding beyond a corporate foundation, if you haven’t yet, get your request on the business’ radar.
If you are already on the business radar, make sure you follow up. Chances are that it will take a number of months for the company to figure out what they can afford to give away. Unless it’s leftover inventory or they are replacing their computers or refurnishing their facilities. If you can use some of what businesses don’t need anymore, then ask for it, no matter what time of year. The company will be happy for the year-end write off.
To keep yourself on track, make a schedule of when and how often you will follow up. For a clue as to how often you should follow up, ask the company representative what the next steps are when they will back to you about them. Then confirm that you will follow up with them within a few days after that date if you haven’t heard by then. When the first step is completed, ask when you can expect to hear about the second step. And so on. Keep up this cycle until a final decision is made about funding. Remember, it may take several months to get the final decision. Make sure you stay on their radar during that time.
A pleasant way to stay on their radar and leave a positive impression is to thank the company again and again. As we saw in Bringing in the Money: The Importance of Thanking Your Donors in Achieving Fundraising Success, for the best results thank the company each time they respond to a request. Businesses are, after all, operated and run by people. Business people need to be acknowledged and validated just like any other donor. Constantly thank them for their contribution to your mission. And how wonderful the partnership is you both meeting your respective corporate goals.
If they are a current donor, ask them if there is anything they would like to see improved in the way your agency helps them meet their goals. If they are a prospective donor, ask them what they are most hoping to get out of the partnership. Mention things like company visibility and corporate messaging and employee volunteer and leadership opportunities. Let this be an opportunity for you to fine tune your corporate sponsorship opportunities and/or agency communications calendar. Let them help you strengthen your future asks. And retain the relationship by following up with and thanking them.
Wrapping it All Up
So, what can you do to improve 2019 year-end fundraising income and lay the foundation for successful 2020 fundraising results? If haven’t done it already, get your year-end individual, foundation and corporate requests out. Follow up with your individual donors in ways they can best hear and respond to you. Get the reports out that need to go out. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Thank your donors again an again. Remember to focus some of your efforts on meeting long-term goals. And watch you fundraising performance improve.
How easy is planning ahead for you? What is your greatest challenge in realizing your goals? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.