How to Do Year-End Fundraising the Right Way (Part I)

by Joe Garecht

Year-End-Fundraising

We all know how important the final 4-6 weeks of the calendar year are for non-profit fundraising.  According to Charity Navigator, mid-sized non-profits may see up to 40% of their total yearly contributions come in between the Thanksgiving Holiday (in the US) and the New Year!

You may have seen my post about #GivingTuesday, where I outline why a single-day strategy for year-end giving is a mistake. Today, we start a three-part series on how to do year-end giving the right way.

In this post, we’ll talk about the theory behind year-end giving.  It’s important to know why people make donations at the end of the year, so that you can effectively target your communications.  In our 2nd post, we’ll talk about the strategy you will want to employ to raise as much as possible during the year-end giving season.  Then, in the final post in this series, we’ll look at a step-by-step plan you can implement for your donors.  Let’s get started!

Remember Why Donors Give in the First Place

Understanding your donor’s mindset is always extremely important.  If you understand your donor’s motivation for the gift, and the circumstances surrounding the donation, it will help you make a far better ask that fits in to your overall cultivation strategy.

Thus, it is important to remember the two primary reasons why your donors give to your organization in the first place:

1. They Care about Your Mission

First and foremost, donors give to your non-profit because they care about your mission and the work that you do.  You have casted a vision, and your donors believe in it.  They want to help the people you are helping, or work towards the cause you are championing, and so they get involved and help fund your programs and team.

For this reason, it is important to always keep your communications mission-centered, including during the year-end giving season.

2. You Have Built a Relationship with Them

The second main reason why your donors give is because you have built a strong relationship with them.  Relationships are built on trust, communication and transparency.  Donors give because they feel like they are part of your team (they are part of your team) and financial support is a logical part of being on the team.

For this reason, you never want to word a solicitation or ask in such a way that the donor feels like you are violating the relationship they have with you.

Why Donors Give During the Year-End Giving Season

Ok, now that we’ve looked at why donors give to your organization in the first place, let’s take a look at the reasons why so many donors make donations to non-profits during the year-end giving season:

1. The Holidays Inspire People to Give

The holiday season (including Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Year) inspires people to want to help those less fortunate than themselves.  This naturally motivates donors to give to charity during the holiday period.

2. Donors Seek Last – Minute Tax Deductions

In countries where donors can claim tax deductions for their charitable gifts, many donors make year-end gifts to get immediate tax benefits, without having to wait until the next year.  Similarly, many high-net worth individuals employ tax advisors to help them minimize their tax burden, and charitable giving is often a key part of that strategy.

The final 4-6 weeks of the year is a natural time for donors to make gifts in accordance with their financial planning strategies.

3. Donors Have Money Left in their Philanthropic Budget

A third important reason why donors give at the year-end is because they have money left over in their charitable giving budget.  This is certainly true for businesses, many of which have “use it or lose it” budgetary rules, but it is also true for many individuals and families who “reset” their budgets on January 1st.

Similarly, some donors will have money “left over” at the end of the year.  They’ve paid their self-employment taxes, bought their holiday presents, spent 5% less on that home renovation they did over the summer, and junior didn’t spend as much at college this fall as they thought he would.  So… they have some money left over… and charities often get a piece of that left over cash.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series, where we’ll look at the strategy you can employ to increase year-end giving at your organization.

Photo Credit: Kelly Schott

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Mark Brooks December 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Joe,
This is great stuff! One thing I tell my clients is that their donors are getting multiple requests from non-profits about end of year giving so they might as well get their lure in the water! Part of the struggle is simply the awareness of the impact year end giving can make and you have done a great job of laying that out here. So, thanks for the post!

Joe Garecht December 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Thanks Mark! I agree – I think if your message is consistent and you’ve been cultivating year-round (AND you have a multi-channel, multi-week year-end strategy) then your year-end fundraising campaign can be a natural part of your yearly fundraising efforts.

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