'Tis the season to... raise more money. People feel sentimental, it's the "giving" time of the year, and as the fiscal year closes many people and corporations are determining where to spend their leftover charity dollars. The countdown is beginning, but there is still time for you to make a meaningful dent toward your fundraising goals.
Review your renewal list
The most important way to sustainably fundraise is to retain the donors you already have. Review your list of current donors and identify any "lapsed" donors who have not given yet this year. Thank those individuals for supporting you in the past, and ask them to contribute again. Do not expect that donors will raise their hands and offer you money again just because they gave to you once before. You have to proactively thank, follow up, share progress, and make an ask. Keep in mind that long-term donor relationships are more valuable than your short-term goals and that your outreach should be a personal effort to bring valued supporters closer to the organization.
Send a holiday appeal
Even if you don't send regular email blasts, this is an important time of year to send an annual update to your entire network and to ask people to contribute to your mission. Need help? Check out this template, these tips for lapsed donors, and review this list of no-nos.
Host a corporate 'jeans day'
Many corporations want to get into the holiday giving spirit but don't have a lot of time or capacity to pull something off. I'm sure you'd be happy to help them out. Encourage business owners to offer a holiday "jeans" day. Staff members can donate $10 to your organization in exchange for the ability to wear jeans (or some other desired benefit). During lunch, show up and share a few words of thanks, bring a treat and some materials to help employees see how their donations are making an impact. Encourage the company's CEO to match the total sum raised by the employees. While the total amount may only be a few thousand dollars, you will raise awareness and recruit many new small donors who can grow into larger supporters with thoughtful engagement.
Hold a board call-a-thon
Board members are often underutilized during the holiday season, and appreciate a low-lift, socially engaging way to contribute to the organizations they have committed to. Invite your board members to gather one evening for a "call-a-thon". Feed them, rally them around a fundraising goal, inspire them with recent organizational progress, and have them tear through your prospect list. Call existing donors to thank them for their generosity. Call lapsed donors and ask them to renew their support. Call new prospects and invite them to engage. The collaborative nature of a call-a-thon takes the edge off for board members who are anxious about asking for money, and demarcates a time when it is going to happen so that it actually comes to fruition. Go board, go!
Does your organization have members or alumni? This is a great time to galvanize the troops. Select a specific alumni initiative that can be manageably funded through small gifts, and potentially find one alum to offer a challenge grant to put a little fire on the kettle. Even if the donations are small, it makes a statement of solidarity when alums give. Just remember that having a positive connection with your members is far more important than raising a few extra dollars, so leverage the outreach as a way to strengthen ties.
Do a raffle
I'll admit it, I just love prizes. Silent Auctions. Raffles. Lotteries. 50/50. Door prizes. Goodness gracious, I'm a sucker for a good win-win opportunity. If you need a reason to call someone, this is always a crowd pleaser. For those short on time, a raffle can be a viable way to raise some cash, but I'm mostly sharing this tip because I want more auctions in my life.
Claim leftover government dollars
I cringe saying this, but government dollars don't usually roll over, and if there's money on the table, agencies often want to spend it since it will disappear at year's end. If you have the capacity to learn the lay of the land, you can discover untapped discretionary funding that is just sitting there waiting.
Make an "ask-free" touchpoint
If the only time I hear from you is when you're asking me for money, I don't usually want to take your call. In the long run, people are more likely to donate to a person they feel connected to and an organization that makes them feel great about their engagement. At the end of the year, take stock in all of the people who so generously contribute to your mission. Call them to say thanks...to see what led them to give...to learn how they'd like to get involved (if at all)...to update them on your progress...and don't ask for anything at all. Tell them you're not going to make an ask so they don't try to get off the phone. Explain that you are just taking a moment to appreciate your supporters and to keep them in the loop. You may not leave the call with more money in the bank but the long term investment will pay off in the long run.
Participate in Giving Tuesday
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday. I've been surprised how many non-profit leaders have not heard of this "event", which takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving each year. Take advantage of this new phenomenon, and make an ask on this day. Missed the boat? Block your calendar for next year. Learn the backstory of Giving Tuesday here.
Evaluate board member give/gets
Most boards have a basic give/get agreement where members are expected to raise or personally donate a certain amount to the organization. It is worthwhile to calculate each board members progress to goal and to share that information with the board members in an effort to help them complete their goals before the year closes out.
Good luck to you as the year winds down. And if you're looking to spend YOUR leftover charity dollars, check out some of the organizations inspiring me this year: Ashoka, Charity: Water, Health Information Project, BMe Community, Code.org, and Defy Ventures. Here's to a new year where social changemakers can access the resources necessary to address the issues of our generation.