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Looking Through the Rearview Mirror



August begins the onslaught of blogs and articles regarding Giving Tuesday and Year-End Giving. Both are very important to most nonprofits. We know that a huge portion of charitable dollars are given in the last 60 days of the year and especially the last 3 days. I have railed against putting the financial security of an organization into end of year fundraising. However, because year-end giving continues to be critical, how can organizations make it successful.


Because this year has been slow in regard to individual fundraising, the cornerstone of year-end giving, a few suggestions have surfaced. These ideas need to be implemented prior to November; that means in the next 60 days. The goal of all these activities is to let donors know that their past gifts were appreciated and have made a difference.


Expressing gratitude tops the list of activities. Gratitude can take many forms. Even if your organization has already sent a thank you, send another one. The second one could be a postcard written by a board member; or a pre-printed message, hand-signed by a board member. If donors feel appreciated, they are more likely to make a second gift when asked at year-end. It is important to remember that only 1 in 5 first-time donors will make a second gift to an organization. Your organization needs to set a goal to beat those odds and develop a strategy to make it happen.


Send a letter acknowledging their previous gift, thank them again, tell a story about a client whose life was changed, and invite them to become a recurring/monthly donor. Explain the impact of monthly donors to the organization. This is a wonderful way to not only express gratitude, but also to build a cadre of monthly donors.


Donors could also be invited to a donor appreciation event. It can be as simple as coffee and bagels with a speaker who discusses the impact of their giving. Perhaps a client could speak regarding the personal impact of the services and programs offered by the organization. Although this is a non-solicitation event, organizations will be amazed by how many donors will make gifts at or immediately following such an event.


Invite donors to attend a volunteer event. This provides an opportunity for donors to become engaged in the work of the organization. Just by being invited helps provide donors with a reminder of what their gifts do to support the organization’s mission. Having volunteers and donors, who are not necessarily the same people, attend an event together can create a lot of synergy. You have brought together a cohort of likeminded individuals who care about your organization’s mission.


Organizations could also ask a major donor to consider making a gift to be matched by other donors. Creating an attitude of “let’s do this together” or “join with me” enables donors to have a sense of community. As individuals, we want to be part of a group that has the same values and interests.


A board member thank-you phonathon is a great way to engage board members in the process of thanking donors. It also provides an opportunity for board members to learn why donors support the organization. Having a brief conversation can leave both the donor and board member with a sense of fulfillment.


The point is you cannot say thank you enough to individual donors and there are a multitude of ways to say thank you. Individual donors represent the majority of dollars raised across all nonprofit organizations.


Corporations and foundations combined (not including family foundations) represent approximately 20% of charitable dollars and need to be cultivated and thanked throughout the year. They are not ATMs; they are people just like your individual donors.


If the corporation sponsored the golf tournament, what was the impact of the dollars raised? If a foundation funded a program or service, beyond the required reporting, let the foundation know how grateful the organization is. Invite both corporate and foundation supports to visit the program they helped support. It is important to keep in front of corporations and foundations by expressing on-going gratitude and reminding them of the value their gifts make to the community.


Small acts of appreciation and kindness are especially important now, more than ever. Organizations need to remind donors how important they are to the organization and how important the organization is to the community.

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