In this guest post, Carl Diesing, Managing Director of Omni Media speaks volumes to the importance of Principle 8 of The Eight Principles®: Invest, Integrate & Evaluate™. Positioning yourself to improve takes serious reflection and coordination. Tools are only as good as the skill of the user.
Fundraising, by design, is episodic. There are busier seasons and seasons when you focus on other aspects of your operations, whether advocacy, outreach, or ongoing stewardship. This inconsistency is intentional; the best example of why is the year-end giving season.
Giving Tuesday has passed, and you’re moving toward the final three days of the year— which are the biggest days for giving out of the entire calendar year. If you were to operate at year-end giving levels throughout the entire year, your nonprofit’s staff and its supporters would experience burnout.
However, just because fundraising ebbs and flows doesn’t mean that your nonprofit’s efforts should. Admittedly, there is little that you can do to change the trajectory of the final three weeks of the year at this point— if you haven’t created a strong fundraising strategy, a last-minute campaign won’t make a major difference.
But, there are two essential steps you can take to set your organization up for success as year-end giving winds down and you head into the new year.
1. Refresh your nonprofit’s data hygiene procedures.
Your nonprofit is likely currently accepting a higher volume of donations from a higher number of supporters than at any other point in the year. Significant amounts of data are generated from each of these transactions, from donors’ names and contact details to their giving preferences and interest in future campaigns.
This data can be used to learn about both new and long-time supporters, helping guide your fundraising efforts and better engage donors in the new year.
Principle 8 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising®: Invest, Integrate & Evaluate™ tells us that Sustainable fundraising programs require a consistent and strategic investment in time and resources.
With regards to your data, this means dedicating time and resources to ongoing data hygiene efforts. This is the process of cleaning your data and ensuring its continued accuracy. It’s essential in order to use your data effectively in the new year.
Take time now to outline data hygiene procedures. This includes:
- Standardizing data entry, such as how to format addresses, phone numbers, and common abbreviations.
- Creating rules for how to handle inaccurate, duplicate, and incomplete records and designating a point person to manage this reconciliation.
- Updating online fundraising forms to only require the input of mission-necessary information.
Communicate new guidelines to staff members to ensure holistic adoption across your organization. This will prevent the need for a major data clean-up in January and allow you to immediately get started with using your data to elevate new year campaign planning.
2. Begin preparing your gratitude campaign for the new year.
It’s largely accepted that expressing gratitude for every donation is crucial for nonprofit success. Many nonprofits automatically send quick acknowledgments of donations immediately after they’re made— often in the form of an emailed receipt with a brief thank-you note.
Don’t allow that to be the only expression of gratitude that your year-end supporters receive. Begin strategizing now to send more comprehensive thank-you notes after the year-end giving season is complete, whether via direct mail, email, or even personalized phone calls.
The benefit of waiting until the year-end season is complete to send these thank-you messages is that you can create a narrative around what was accomplished during the campaign. For example, you can include direct statistics around how much was donated and what those donations accomplished.
DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit storytelling offers a few tips for building a narrative around your organization’s work:
- Focus on the donors’ impacts rather than your nonprofit’s. There’s a significant difference between “Our nonprofit raised X amount in 2020” and “Because of you, X amount was raised for [Mission].”
- Highlight direct actions that resulted from the season. Avoid simply sending statistics about how much money was raised. Focus on what those funds led to, whether it was meals purchased for hungry children, clean water provided, or even homes built. Stories are powerful— use them in your gratitude campaign.
- Segment your supporters to personalize your messaging. Tailor your thank-you notes based on gift amount and gift type to reflect each donor’s interaction with your nonprofit.
In addition to telling the story of year-end giving, consider asking supporters to provide their input about the season. Principle 4 of The Eight Principles®: Learn & Plan™, tells us, before seeking funds from others, learn who your prospective donors are and what they value.”
By getting feedback from your supporters on the year-end giving season, you can continue elevating your campaigns for years to come.
While there’s little you can do to impact the year-end giving season now, there are ways to set your team up for success as the end of the season approaches. A focus on data hygiene and gratitude will ensure you’re able to learn from the year-end giving season and set your efforts in January up for a strong start.
Carl Diesing co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.