In these last fleeting moments of summer, many of us are turning an eye to the 4th quarter. For most nonprofits, November and December are the busiest fundraising months. For some, it’s also the time of year that they receive the bulk of their charitable contributions. And, for all of us (me included), it’s a chance to finish the year on a high note by meeting or exceeding goals.
With that in mind, planning for year-end activities should be underway at this point so that you can start implementing in October. Here are five things to consider as you start planning.
- Put the Plan in Writing – What exactly do you need to accomplish in the 4th quarter to ensure that you meet your annual goals? Knowing the answer to this important (yet often overlooked) factor will be critical in developing your strategy for reaching revenue goals as well as identifying the tactics that you’ll need to implement. For instance, is there a bigger than projected gap in funding that requires you to double down on your major gift efforts? Or are your donor retention rates not what they should be, and you need to course-correct on the ways you are keeping donors engaged and invested in your mission?
While knowing where you stand will drive what your plan entails, the critical element here is that you have a well thought out plan that you’ve captured in writing. The plan should include not only how you’ll finish the year strong but should also have measurable goals and benchmarks along with a timeline and an identified team member responsible. Success will not merely fall in your lap, so take the time to implement this important step.
- Clean Up Your Lists – Who do you need to mail to? Who do you need to see in person? Who needs a personalized proposal? What contacts does your board have? Who’s moved, changed their last name, switched jobs? These are all things to take into consideration so that once you are ready to execute your plan and its revenue generating tactics, you know exactly who needs what touchpoint and how to reach out to them. Using the month of September to get your database and segmented lists in order is a huge tip for hitting the ground running in the 4th
- Get Out of the (Home) Office – Whether you’ve returned to the office or are ‘officing’ from your home, getting out to see donors in-person is important for setting your organization up for fundraising success. While zoom has certainly been a valuable tool the last few years and continues to be an excellent, easy way to conduct work, there is still nothing more important to building and maintaining donor relationships than meeting with them in-person. The value of sitting across from them and being able to engage in simple small talk is immense and should not be overlooked. As we learned during the pandemic, there simply is no replacement for human connection. Get your calendar out and start scheduling!
Note: You can certainly find socially-distanced ways to do this if needed – for example: meeting at a park for coffee, sitting outside at a restaurant, going for a walk together, wearing a mask indoors, etc. Just be sure that when setting up the appointment, you and your donor will be comfortable with what you’ve chosen.
- Tell Your Story – As you get ready to start soliciting donors during the peak year-end season, you’ll want to first lay the groundwork as to why their support is critical. Therefore, using September and October to double down on your storytelling is a great idea. Most of us here in Michigan ‘check out’ quite a bit during the summer months. With schedules full of up north travel, boating days, golf, family fun days - you name it – we simply aren’t connected as much. So, it’s likely they’ve missed your social media posts and email blasts. Don’t be afraid to reshare that information in both mass format and certainly be sure to share it one-on-one.
Did your organization have a big announcement this summer? Are you a youth program welcoming students back for your fall activities? Have escalating prices put further economic strain on your clients? Whether you’re sharing a story of need or success, it’s all part of your journey and important for donors to hear. Meaningful stewardship to (re)engage your donors in your mission goes a long way. And, you’ll reap the benefits when it comes time to give at year-end.
- Track Your Progress – As I mentioned in Tip #1, it’s important that your plan have measurable goals and benchmarks. To gauge your success and course-correct if needed, it’s important that these goals be tracked and regularly reviewed. Given that we are essentially talking about a 90-day plan, I would suggest checking on your goals ever 1-2 weeks. Setting up a Fundraising Dashboard is a great way to do this and it can include both basic figures as well as visuals (charts, graphs, thermometers, etc.). I would also suggest that the dashboard be shared across the organization, not just with the fundraising staff. Keeping other administrative and programmatic staff appraised of progress furthers an organization-wide culture of philanthropy. It’s also helpful to keep the board regularly updated so that they can (as they should) assist with meeting goals.
While I know each organization has their own set of circumstances and needs, these are tried and true steps to finish the year strong and set you up for continued success in 2023. I hope you find them useful and we would love to hear from you if this blog helps to spur your planning process.
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About Rachel M. Decker
Having spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector as an effective and strategic fundraising and foundation executive, Detroit Philanthropy Founder and President, Rachel Decker is passionate about helping others, making meaningful connections, solving problems and, most importantly, creating impact in our community. With the founding of Detroit Philanthropy, she turned that passion into a commitment to champion philanthropy throughout metro Detroit as a philanthropic advisor, fundraising consultant and speaker.