Fundraising 101

Start Planning for Your Year-End Campaign, Now!

This blog post was originally published by Giving Tree Associates.

Let’s be honest. You are avoiding it.

Planning for your year-end campaign always seems so overwhelming. 

So you don’t do it at all and then you scramble to pull something together that is lackluster and gets mediocre results and you promise yourself you’ll never do that again.

Am I right?

It’s time to put an end to this madness and give yourself the time you need to do a great job this year.  

Still need convincing? 

Let me remind you why you need to start NOW!

  • Building a compelling story takes time and input from others.

You’ve got a compelling mission, an amazing board of directors and rock-star staff members. Your programs win awards and you receive great press for your work. You just need to get the word out and donations will come pouring in.

WRONG.

You need to think carefully about what stories you can tell that will make your cause stand out from the rest. This means you will need to talk to your volunteers, colleagues and board members to find out what is the best story you can use for this campaign. 

While I have your attention, you might as well start thinking about how to outline that story in a way that compels people to give. This is one of my favorite blogs (Future Fundraising Now) and this post does a great job showing you how to approach your story in a way that is proven to raise more money.

  • Your mailing list always needs more clean-up than you think.

Can we all stop pretending that it will only take an hour or two to clean up the mailing list?

I do it—my colleagues do it—my clients do it.  We are all guilty.

Unless you are lucky enough to have a data coordinator or a development operations team, you will likely be on the front line of cleaning up your mailing list.

So, make a point to create the criteria for this year’s appeal, export it out of your database, and get to work cleaning it up. Nothing makes me throw away an appeal letter faster than a letter that is addressed incorrectly or seeing my name misspelled. 

It’s ideal if every year you spend the time (and the relatively small amount of money) to run your list through what is known in the direct mail business as NCOA. Here’s a quick blog post that explains what you need to know. Typically, either the database that you use will offer this service, but you can also outsource this to a number of online service providers who will make sure that you know the most current address for all names on your list. 

At the same time, don’t fall victim to being afraid to send out a mailing because you know there will be mistakes on the list. Just do your best. 

  • You need to build in time for mistakes or schedule disruptions

This may seem intuitive, but it’s easy to put together a very rushed schedule and then wind up in a spot with a mailing or e-blast going out late. And, timing matters when it comes to year-end appeals. 

You’re perfect and never make mistakes? Good for you. I’ve made so many, it’s hard to remember them all, but here is a sampling for your reading pleasure.

  • A reply card that was printed without a line for credit card numbers.
  • An e-blast from Mailchimp that didn’t include a link to the donate page.
  • A dedicated office volunteer coming down with the flu the week she’d promised to spend stuffing and sealing 1,500 envelopes—the same week that our whole team was trying to pull of a 2,200-person event.

The bottom line is that if you expect mistakes and build them into your timeline, you will still be able to hit your year-end fundraising targets and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Speaking of timelines, I thought you’d appreciate a sample one from a client we worked with last year. It may seem a bit too detailed, but you know the Giving Tree team is all about planning. Click HERE to get the sample timeline or on the button below.

If you have any questions about year-end campaigns or anything else, please reach out to me: jamie@evolvegg.com

In the meantime, stop avoiding and get started!