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Ten Tips for Staying Sane While Fundraising This Holiday Season

Reprinted from Benevon

Dreading the holidays? You are not alone. Rather than falling prey to the slippery slope of holiday overwhelm and busy-work, follow these top 10 tips for mastering the season while developing long-term relationships with your donors.

  1. Remember that people are especially generous around the holidays. Take the time to make a list of donors you have been cultivating all year. Plan to see each of them over the holidays, either individually or in small groups, to thank them for their past giving, tell them what their gifts have allowed you to do, and—if appropriate—ask them to give again this year. Think of every one of these meetings as a cultivation contact.
  2. Keep a list of all the cultivation contacts you are having. You will quickly see that you can give yourself credit for many phone calls, e-mails, and events you were going to be having anyway. Knowing you will be adding names to your list will remind you to slow down and listen to people, rather than just pushing through your agenda. You might even hear how they'd like to help you more!
  3. Play a game this holiday season to see how many new friends you can make for your organization. Keep a list of the new people who come your way and get excited about your work. Tell them you would like to follow up with them in January to have them come in for a tour.
  4. Missionize everything! Figure out how you can insert your mission into each occasion. Have the annual holiday card include a story or letter from a client or family member, have an alumni speaker at the open house, and have a volunteer at every event tell why they are personally involved with you. Wherever possible, capture people's names (with their permission) and invite them to upcoming events.
  5. Remember that people are more sentimental at the holidays. You can be a little sappier, and they will respond to the emotion. Let yourself get caught up in the spirit of the season. Ask your program staff to provide you with some new client stories you can be telling over the holidays. Odds are, just hearing the stories will reconnect you to the mission. While you're at it, remember to use this as an occasion to thank your program staff for all they have done to support you all year.
  6. Saying thank you "counts" as a cultivation contact, as long as you do it personally and genuinely. Make a list of all the people you want to thank—donors, volunteers, staff—and figure out the most personal way to do that. For some, it will be a handwritten note on the holiday card, for others it will be homemade cookies with a note from a client dropped off at their door, and for others it will be a nice holiday lunch with the person on your team who would mean the most to them.
  7. Capture everything in your database. Things can get moving pretty fast, and before you know it, a week has gone by and you haven't tracked that great conversation you had with a donor last Monday. Allow an hour at the end of each day just to regroup, enter your notes into your tracking system, and plan for tomorrow.
  8. Take care of yourself. Make a list of the five people in your work who make you feel great when you're around them—donors, staff, volunteers—and be sure to schedule in time with each of them over the holidays.
  9. During the last week of the year, if you're lucky enough to have it off, enjoy! Take a well-deserved break and recharge your battery for next year. If you will be in the office, use the time to catch up on the stacks of work that may have landed in the corner or on the floor, to be tackled "later." Clear the decks so you are set to start the year refreshed. Treat yourself to a special lunch or coffee meeting with one of your favorite colleagues or donors each day that week.
  10. On December 21, stop and take stock. Close your door and put on the "do not disturb" sign. Make lists of your proudest accomplishments and greatest regrets of the year. Share that list at a year-end celebration with your team. Toast to their commitment and dedication—and yours!

Terry Axelrod, Benevon
© 2012, Benevon. Reprinted with permission.

10-tips-for-staying-sane-while-holiday-fundraising_Terry-Axelrod.jpgTerry Axelrod is the founder and CEO of Benevon,, a Seattle-based organization that has trained and coached more than 4,000 nonprofits to build sustainable funding from individual donors.



Topics: Fundraising