Top 10 year-end fundraising strategies

Gail Perry
Gail Perry

Gail Perry

The fall fundraising rush is upon us. You are probably deep in your year-end fundraising campaign. And this December should be a big one.

The fundraising outlook for year-end is looking more positive. Donors who were reluctant to give earlier this year seem to be feeling more generous right now.

This year your year-end campaign needs to be the best ever. Here are my Top 10 Strategies that will help you zoom past your year-end goals.

1. Identify the 10-15 major donors who have yet to give in ’09. Go see them personally, find out what is on their minds, and ask them for another commitment this year. This could be the one single thing that catapults your fundraising for the year.

2. Identify 50-100 donors and make face-to-face calls on them to ask them for their year-end gifts. If you can’t do 50 personal visits, then do 40, or 30. Enlist your volunteers to help. But you must include personal one-on-one “asks” in your year-end fundraising strategy if you want to zoom past your goal.

3. Don’t let reluctant volunteers hold you back. Some volunteers are saying, “Let’s just ease off the personal visit because of the recession.” Here’s what you say back: “When is it ever a great time to ask for money? There’s too much at stake. We have to ask now.”

4. Warm up your donors before the ask. Send your donors an e-mail saying, “I want you to be the first to know that we will launch our year-end campaign next week. Our goal is X. The theme is Y. The deadline is December 31…You will receive a letter describing the campaign, and I hope you will pay close attention and respond.”

5. Don’t forget to add to your prospect list. Include your suppliers and vendors, your volunteers, past board members, capital campaign donors, and even your clients themselves.

6. Use a visual and emotional hook in your appeal letter. Use a visual metaphor such as a lunch box (food for the hungry) or a diploma (for scholarships). Don’t begin your letter with “For 20 years the xxx organization has lovingly served xxxx people in our community.” (Yawn!) Instead start like this: “Little Johnny Smith woke up Monday morning, hungry again.” Makes you want to keep reading, doesn’t it?

7. Make your appeal letter attractive and easy to read. Use white space. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Action verbs. Pictures. Boldface headings. Wide margins. Make it readable by someone who is just skimming. Use the pronoun “you” liberally.

8. Make your solicitation obvious and easy to find. Place it in the very front of the third or fourth paragraph. And in the first few words of a sentence. By all means, don’t bury it at the end of a paragraph deep at the end of a sentence. Then most readers will totally miss your “ask” because they only skim the first part of any paragraph. And, of course, always ask for a specific amount.

9. Follow up the appeal letter with a phone call. A call can double your response. If you only send out one appeal letter, you can expect your return to be only about 15 percent. Keep communicating with non-responders until December 31.

10. Plan one or two e-mail follow-ups the very last two days of December. Studies show that 40 percent of online donors make their gifts in December, and another 40-60 percent of those donations are made December 30 and 31. That means your Web site needs to be updated and snappy, with a great big “donate now” button.

Gail Perry is the author of “Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Actionand founder of Gail Perry Associates, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based consulting and training firm. She has just spent the last month interviewing nine of the country’s top fundraising pundits and creating the  09 Year-End Fundraising Strategy Telesummit,  She thanks Kim Klein, Laura Fredricks, Mal Warwick, and Simone Joyaux for sharing these and many other year-end fundraising strategies.

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