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My Tips on Last Minute Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. Take a listen below!

The year has almost come to a close! As fundraisers, this is crunch time. It’s time to review who has given, remind those who haven’t, and mobilize your board. There is precious little time left: so we’re talking today about how you can organize your time and not get overwhelmed.

Pull some key lists

As it’s crunch time, you’ll want to be spending your time reaching out to the lowest hanging fruit – the best prospects. To get to this list:

  • Pull a LYBUNT list – LYBUNT stands for Last Year But Unfortunately Not This. This will include donors who gave last year but haven’t given yet this year, so they still need to renew. Maybe they need a reminder to give – so you’ll want to give one.
  • If this list is super long – prioritize it by gift size. Major donors who gave last year will especially notice when they get individual outreach. Ideally you’ve been in touch with them throughout the year to steward their giving, so this is not the first time they have heard from you: but this is the time to remind them about your organization.
  • If you need to prioritize even one step further: prioritize donors who have a relationship with one or some of your board or staff members. Again, these are the donors who are most apt to notice your personal outreach and make a donation in response.

Once you know who you need to reach out to: get some help with outreach.

Mobilize your board & volunteers

Put a call out to your board members to help you with personal outreach. Once you have that list, split up some of these high priority prospects amongst this group.

  • Prepare lists for each board member. On the list, include name, phone, email, and last gift date & amount – that should just be for the board member’s reference.
  • Prepare scripts for the board members to use if they’d like – both an email version and a phone script.
  • Give them a specific deadline to make initial outreach to, but enough time for it to be feasible – perhaps around a week.
  • As donations come in, notify board members if individuals on their lists responded. This is great for morale in showing board members that their time is worth it, because they see the money coming in.

These are the steps to take for major donors: but what about the communication out to the larger list, to remind them?

Make sure to send final reminders (& thank yous)

Now that you’ve taken care of major donors: put together some communications to all other donors and prospects on your list.

  • Send email reminders: It’s always good practice to send an email on the last day or second to last day of the year. In addition to that, you’ll want to send a few others in December. Quantity depends on the organization and its communication habits throughout the year, but can range from 2-6 in December.
  • Make sure those emails are short and sweet and get to the point. They should be compelling, but not confusing about what you are asking for. Depending on your organization, in general, I recommend staying away from “holidays” language. The holidays can be a complicated time, and you never know where your donors are coming from or even if they celebrate them, so focus on the organization and “happy new year” language.
  • As much as you can – suppress recent donors from these ask emails at the end of the year. I hate emails that say “ignore this if you’ve recently donated!” Why didn’t you just take me off the list before you sent it? It feels sloppy.
  • Of course, include some gratitude language in some of your messaging, too!

Try to have fun and celebrate your wins along the way! You are doing important work for your organization. And get some relaxing time in as much as you can – and if you can’t during the end of the year, make sure you do in January.

-N.C.

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