Year End Fundraising Plan—Your Calendar for Success—last in a series

In this blog series, we have described why downtown organizations should undertake year-end fundraising, especially if they can do a multi-channel effort using a variety of online and off line communication media to reach their core constituents. The first blog post described the "why bother with Year End Fundraising."  The second blog post offered ten steps to implement a campaign.  This final post describes deadlines and provides a calendar for both November and December so you can pace yourself. This post will detail three alternate fundraising plans you can use depending on the time you have to devote to fundraising in this busy time of the year for any downtown organization.  We supply a coded calendar of November and December to show you how to organize for these various appeals.  These three appeals are:

  1. Multi-Channel Appeal (Bold, Italics  and CAPS & Italics deadlines )
  2. Online Only Appeal (Italics and CAPS & Italics  deadlines)
  3. Last Week Appeal (CAPS & Italics only deadlines)

You pick which appeal works for you based on timing, your access to volunteers and the costs to implement. However, read about all of them, and then decide what you can do. Timing December 31, traditionally the single biggest day for online giving, falls on a Monday in 2012.  Many people will take New Year’s Eve day off to make a long weekend, especially those who work in government or larger businesses. Therefore, you must send your final emails to these people on Wednesday December 26 and again Friday December 28 in addition to New Year’s Eve, December 31. Network for Good says the peak giving time on that day is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  That is a huge number of donations being given in a short amount of time.  Your office should be open, a volunteer at the computer, another volunteer answering the phone, or opening the mail (and making bank deposits), or you will miss out!  Email gifts will come in at the very last minute, so automating thank you letters helps.  The IRS permits gifts postmarked by December 31 to be considered in that tax year.  Make sure you communicate this to your accountant and date the thank you letter appropriately. See IRS Publication 526 for more information on delivery issues for donations. [1] How to use the calendar The November and December calendars below, are  coded to show dates for direct mail and e-blasts.  Bold are deadlines for direct mail letters.  Italics are dates for e-blasts and social media posts (Facebook, Twitter). CAPs are last week deadlines for sending the final three e-blasts.  Click on the link below to find the November and December calendars with all deadlines. Its even in a Word format so you can change dates to suit your situation. Nov Dec 2012 Year End FR Calendar

Your Year-end Appeal The Multi-Channel Appeal is the most comprehensive as it will use direct mail, e-newsletters, personal solicitation of donors, and reinforce the campaign with traditional public relations.  This effort has the most likelihood to raise the most money because your constituents will hear from you several times in different forms.  This appeal is  the most expensive, and the most labor intensive, because we suggest that two direct mail appeals go out, one the week before Thanksgiving and another  the week of December 10th. This appeal  includes the complete Online Only Appeal, which includes weekly e-blast newsletters for your campaign, and the Last Week Appeal, three e-blasts during the week between Christmas and New Years.  This appeal  makes a direct, personal approach to DONORS,  those who have donated or sponsored activities over $250.00 in the last several years.

If you choose the Multi-Channel Appeal, send direct mail pieces to your stakeholders for this campaign during the second week of November (our calendar shows the mailing going out on November 19).  Start your larger campaign by expressing thanks, but ask for a gift.  Your direct mail piece should have some photos and text to describe how your organization is thankful for the support from donors over the past year.  You will be introducing your campaign here, but do it through a story about a beneficiary of your program, a new merchant, a shopper, a visitor or a group that benefitted from your work.  Thank your donors for their past support and tell them about your end of year campaign and its goal and specific project, include a reply envelope.  Ask for a donation.  Make your ASK very clear.  Please give {insert $ ask} so that {result that gift will produce}.

Once you have received a gift, remove that person’s name from your mailing list.  Send a second letter if you have not heard from them the week of December 10 (we used December 10 on our calendar).  Include a reply envelope (or one with a business reply indicia) in both letters to make it easy for potential donors.  IRS says that postmarked by December 31 counts, but with FED EX and other delivery services, the gift  has to be delivered on December 31 to count for the current tax year.

Starting after Thanksgiving, your Online Only Appeal begins when you send a weekly e-blast newsletter.  Feature  a different story each time from the eight you identified at the start of the campaign. You can reuse some of the material in your direct mail letter, but do not quote word for word.  Send these newsletters early in the day (between 9AM and 11AM) as Convio, a fundraising software company for nonprofits, says that email open rates decline significantly after lunch.[1] Send your e-blasts on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  On our calendar we picked Tuesday, but experiment with yours. Let us know what works best for you.

Send three final emails, on Wednesday December 26, on Friday December 28 and again on Monday December 31 for maximum impact.  Network for Good found that the last two days of the year generated more than one thirds of all online gifts in December.[2]  Keep your Facebook friends up to date on the campaign, too.  Post your e-blasts about your campaign on Facebook and Twitter when you send them out including the link to donate.  Better yet, automate them.  Include a clear call to action—Donate-- and a link to your Donate Now page in each of your messages.  Sending so many emails may sound excessive, but research has shown that more emails result in more donations.  Remember to remove those names who have sent you a gift from your email list.

The Last Week Appeal is for the true procrastinator.  If you do nothing else, consider sending emails to your entire email list asking for support during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  Some nonprofits do a count down every day with another email.  You might want to do less, but at least send three e-blasts, on Wednesday December 26, on Friday December 28, and another on Monday December 31 as a final reminder that you need to reach your goal that day.  In the last few days of the month, there is a true rush to make donations before the end of the tax year.  For December 31 send a “last chance” reminder, tell folks how close you are to your goal.  If you have exceeded it, tell them the additional projects you can undertake with their support.

Showing progress on your appeal

Your web site’s home page is the best place to keep a daily record of your campaign’s progress.  You can use a traditional thermometer or other graphic device to show progress towards your goal for the campaign.  Telling potential donors how well you are doing toward your goal will be especially helpful for the second direct mail letter, as you ask people to help you to get over the top. Make sure you publish your list of all year-end donations soon after the end of the appeal. You can post on your web site, or in the next issue of your newsletter. Organize this list based on the giving levels, not alphabetically.

Tell us how you did

We are excited to know what you decided to do, and your successes in year-end fundraising.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below; they will help other downtown organizations in their own efforts. Good Luck!