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Have Fundraisers Conditioned Donors to Give in December?

Let’s look ahead. It is January 1, 2023. The fundraising year has started. You have a case for support, a fundraising plan, goals, and great expectations. You have a lot of time – 12 months. Then why does over 70% of all charitable giving come in during the last 30 days of the year. What happened during the other eleven months?

Let’s consider the age-old concept of human time. When you are young, time seems to move very slowly. When you are much older, time quickly flies by. The explanation given is that when you are young, you have a sense of a lot of time in front of you. However, when you are older, you realize how precious few years are still to be enjoyed.

There is a parallel in fundraising. When a new fiscal year starts, you have twelve months to execute your fundraising plan and raise the dollars needed to support the organization’s services and programs. Then before you know it, it is August. Articles are starting to appear regarding year-end giving strategies.

How much have you raised to date – 30%, 50%, or 70%? Are you hoping for a great event in October, a record-breaking Giving Tuesday, and enough year-end gifts to take you to goal?

Let’s consider a different approach. What if you asked donors to give in the first or second quarter of the year? To do this in 2023, you would need to start planning now, as well as complete the usual year-end activities for 2022. You would be turning your fundraising upside down. Shake-up the status quo.

The old story has been that year-end giving was tied to individuals making charitable gifts for tax-deductions. Today, a lot of people do not itemize. Also, a gift made in March is still tax-deductible, just like one made in December. As fundraisers, we actually have encouraged year-end fundraising. A lot of what has been adhered to is habit.

If an organization is more donor-centered and having conversations with donors about the donors’ interests, most donors will give when asked. They will not look at the calendar and say “it’s not December yet.” Will some? Absolutely. But not most. Remember, most donors give because they are asked. If you wait to December to ask, they will give in December.

I would like to make a few suggestions:

1) In January 2023, clean up your database and run data analytics on 2022. Understand your numbers. Also send ALL donors a letter thanking them again for their gifts in 2022. You will be providing them with a receipt for tax purposes should they want it. This letter is also a good time to remind them of the impact of their giving.

2) In February, based upon your donor analytics and strategic planning, confirm that your numbers align with your goals. Tweak your goals and planning as needed. Prepare to launch your annual campaign.

3) March – Launch your annual campaign starting with your large and major donors. These should be face-to-face solicitations.

4) April – Implement fundraising activities to solicit mid-level donors.

5) March – November – Implement the remainder of your fundraising strategies

6) December – Plan for 2024

In the first three to four months of the year, you will have accomplished:

1) Clarity regarding the prior year’s fundraising numbers

2) Created robust strategies based upon your numbers

3) Expressed gratitude to 2022 donors

4) Raised up to 70% of your fundraising goal

The concept of turning the process around is to secure your fundraising goal by November and spend the last 45 days expressing gratitude and planning for 2024. It will not be easy to flip your fundraising calendar. In fact, it might take a couple of years to change the organization’s “fundraising habit.”

Imagine though how nice it would be to have time in front of you and not be stressed about year-end giving. You will have time to plan and write a resounding 2024 case for support. Let December be the month you celebrate the organization’s accomplishments – the mission served.

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