Are you out of ideas? Panicking? Waited too long again? Don't panic.
What have you been doing to build relationships with donors and prospects for the other 364 days of the year?
October through December is the giving season. As nonprofits plan year-end giving campaigns and appeals, it seems to be the most appropriate time for any meaningful cause to look for donations and funding to advance their mission.
Historically an increase in donations occurs during October through December. This may lead you to assume that this is the best time of year to launch your annual appeal or to count on a donor’s generosity.
How many appeals will you receive in the mail or via email? How many appeals do you think your donors or prospects will receive? How many of those individuals are familiar with or have an affinity with your cause?
The simple fact is this: If you’ve waited until now to plan an appeal, it’s not too late, but you will most likely be disappointed in the results.
If you’ve been nurturing affinity and loyalty with potential donors over the last year — you have been doing this, haven’t you? — then it’s possible that an email campaign or a direct mail campaign may yield some positive results.
If you’re planning to conduct a campaign by purchasing a list of prospective donors who are not familiar with you or your organization, and who may have no affinity for your cause, it would be best to start planning for next year’s campaign.
Fundraising can no longer be a once a year activity. You must continue to nurture and build relationships with individuals and businesses whose values and desire for generosity align with the cause your donor cares about. How can you do this?
- Begin by building a list of prospective donors through calls to action on your website, and from individuals who may have contributed to your organization over the past year.
- Enhance your list by conducting donor prospect research, through a resource such as donorsearch.net.
- Consider a year-long series of acquisition mailings. These are expensive, and yield low returns—but may help you build your list of caring donors over time.
- Know the trends: According to Blackbaud's 2013 charitable giving report, 33% of giving occurs during the last three months of the year. While this may seem encouraging, this also indicates that there could be severe donor fatigue.
- Know your donors: The Fidelity Charitable Giving Report has key insights based on 119,000 donors and how they practice their personal philanthropy.
“More than one-third of all charitable giving happens in the last three months of the year, and this trend has remained consistent for several years now. We did see a decrease in December giving, from 18% in 2012 to 17.5% in 2013.” —Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report, 2013
When you’re asking for a donation, you are asking an individual who has a desire for generosity to align their intent with the opportunity you present for impact. At this point, you are asking the donor to trust you, to engage with you, and to allow you to become the steward of their gift.
What you are asking your donors and your prospects for is their trust. The financial gift they make is simply proof of the exchange. Trust is built over time; it can’t be bought. Trust must be earned.
So now what? Don’t panic. If you have to launch an appeal, be aware it’s going to arrive at the busiest time of year for everyone. You’ll have to consider that it may be a combination of annual appeal and acquisition. It may not yield the results you’re looking for.
But if you consider that you’re beginning to build relationships with donors who care about your cause, then it will be successful.
Perhaps this is a year to try a different approach... begin by saying thank you, and let the results unfold from there.