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Nonprofit Leaders 4min read

I Don’t Have Any Friends, or Your Nonprofit Fundraising Year-End Appeal Is Too Late

As a nonprofit fundraising professional, you know year-end fundraising is in full swing.

Or at least, it should be.

In the past, I’d be going through stacks of Christmas cards from friends and family. In 2017? Not so much. Everything’s moved online now, yet my mail slot is still stuffed—with direct mail fundraising appeals.

What does this mean? Either I don’t have friends anymore, or you and seemingly everyone else waited too long to send me your year-end nonprofit fundraising appeal.

You’re Wearing Me Out

Many of these asks are coming from organizations I may donate to once a year, and from whom I haven’t heard a peep since I last gave. Now with the calendar and fiscal years all but over, they’re coming out of the woodwork to remind me they exist.

Sure, you may have caught me in the giving spirit, but when I’m faced with 20 or 30 asks all at once, I can’t decide. All of these organizations are worth my attention and dollars, but I feel overwhelmed. I want to be joyful and generous, but instead I feel guilty choosing just one or two from among all these worthy causes. This is definitely not how you want your donors to feel.

Donor fatigue may or may not be a real thing, but it doesn’t just result from being constantly bombarded with nonprofit fundraising communication. It can also result from being buried under an avalanche of simultaneous appeals. If you’re looking for a way to waste resources and ensure your campaign gets lost in the shuffle, waiting until the week before Christmas to communicate with your donors is a great way to go.

Remember Me the Rest of the Year

This thought struck me as I was catching up on the various nonprofit fundraising blogs I scan each day. My ballpark estimate is that one-quarter of the headlines I read today (a week before Christmas) related to garnering end-of-year donations. My reaction: “Why wasn’t I reading this three months ago?”

It reminded me of the old adage, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.” Obviously, you can’t simply not send out year-end fundraising communication at the end of the year. But you can’t wait until then to start.

The fact is, an effective year-end fundraising campaign lasts 365 days. Whether you have one fundraising event per year or 12, your yearly budget must factor into your campaign plans all year. Here’s why: when your donors receive your year-end appeal, you’ll be top-of-mind amongst all the others they receive because they’ve been hearing from you and (hopefully) engaging with you regularly.

Even if it’s just on name recognition alone, the more touches you have with a donor, the more likely they are to respond when faced with a sea of similar appeals.

At Least Act Like You Know Me

Many of the appeal emails, blog posts, and letters I’ve received make little or no mention of how I’ve contributed to the organization throughout the year. If I’ve spent 10 or 20 hours volunteering for you, don’t send me mail asking me to give without recognizing that fact. If I donated money to a specific capital campaign, tell me how close you are to your goal and what a difference my previous gift made.

Sure, it’s a bit about stroking your donors’ egos. There’s no denying that giving isn’t a wholly selfless act, as we reap the reward of feeling good when we do so. But it’s also about knowing who your donors are, and appealing to them in ways that will resonate and inspire them to act again. One boiler-plate postcard and letter sent to all your donors and volunteers doesn’t cut it.

Yes, this means having quality, actionable data about your donor base. It also means utilizing an actual CRM rather than a mail merge and a free email blast provider. There are a number of such platforms that are free or reduced-price for nonprofits. Investigate them and use them. Period.

About the Author

Matt is dedicated to making the world a better place. He works passionately to help charitable causes use mobile technology to raise the funds they need. In addition to his role at Givelify, he volunteers with the Southside Animal Shelter and Kentuckiana Pug Rescue.

Matt Chandler