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Year-End Fundraising: Give Donors What They Want

Year-End Fundraising: Give Donors What They WantPresident Harry Truman once famously said:

The secret of raising children is to find out what they want to do and then encourage them to do it.”

I think that’s great advice—and so did my kids!

Note to self (and to you, too): Apply the same advice in your outreach to donors.

Give Your Donors What They Want

As you know, we are right in the middle of the fundraising season. Every organization will be asking their donors for gifts between now and the end of the year. Some nonprofits will ask multiple times in multiple ways.

As a result, fundraisers are really, really busy right now.

It’s easy to keep doing the basics—send your letters and emails, make phone calls, meet with donors, pump up your social media presence, etc. You work the standard plan, and you hope the money will match your budget projections.

Sounds smart, right? But here’s the thing.

If you do the basics—and sit back and wait—you’ll miss your opportunity to stand out. Why not step up and exceed your fundraising goal?

The Secret of a Successful Year-End Campaign

What’s the secret of launching a successful year-end campaign? Give people what they want. (And no, I’m not just talking about T-shirts and tote bags.)

What do your donors want? From my experience, here’s the top-6 list.

Your donors want:

  • Short-term, tangible goals with clear deadlines
  • Personal communication
  • Clear impact
  • A super-easy and quick way to give
  • To be part of a winning team
  • To be thanked in a way that feels good

I’m often surprised by how many sophisticated organizations and seasoned fundraisers miss some of these motivational hooks.

Applying the Model—A Real-World Example

My top-six list would apply to any form of fundraising communications, from face-to-face donor meetings to your annual appeal letter.

But, I’m most excited by how we used these principles to animate a recent Kickstarter campaign for the musician Carla Kihlstedt, who—full disclosure—happens to be my daughter.

Using crowdfunding, augmented by a lot of email and a few phone calls, we raised more than $43,500 in 30 days to support her latest project.

Here are the lessons I learned (and re-learned):

  • Start with the people who know you best and love you most. These are your most likely donors, some of whom will give the biggest gifts.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask repeatedly. I sent multiple, individualized email reminders to a LOT of people—and it paid off. None have disowned me. Some even thanked me.
  • Customize your ask for each donor.
  • Ask people to consider giving a specific amount.
  • Email can be super personal as well as quick and easy
  • Let your donors know how the campaign is progressing—many will give again.

Keep these characteristics in mind as you design your quick-blitz year-end fundraising campaign—and you’ll see a nice bump in your revenue.

Year-End Fundraising: Give Donors What They Want

Andrea Kihlstedt is one of the foremost writers and speakers on capital campaign fundraising. Her book Capital Campaigns, Strategies That Work, now in its fourth edition, is one of the primary texts in the field. Her firm, Capital Campaign Masters, helps organizations in the very early stages of planning capital campaigns through online materials and virtual coaching.

Topics: Fundraising end of year fundraising Donor Communications