Monday, July 01, 2013

6 Fundraising Habits to Develop Before 2014

by Pamela Barden

I hate to mention it, but July is just a few days away. That means half of 2013 is gone, and we'll all be focusing on calendar year-end giving before we know it. (My apologies to those of you with a June 30 fiscal year-end; you probably were hoping for a few weeks respite before having to think about another year-end.)

Dec. 31 is one of the unavoidable events every year, but for many nonprofits it's also the close of the most important giving season. Take a look at these six ideas, and see if there are any you need to add or recommit to. If you get started now, you can go into 2014 with some new habits as well as (we hope) the glow from a great year-end giving season.

July: Measure what matters
If you aren't looking at the volume of new donor acquisition, lapsed donor renewal and current donor retention, do it. Today. And at least once a month for the rest of your fundraising life. Once you know how these key areas are performing, you can put your energies into fixing what is broken instead of chasing after every new idea that you read or hear about.

 August: Find new ways to be creative
Are you struggling to say the same thing over and over again? Set aside time every month to look at what other nonprofits are mailing, e-mailing, and posting on their websites and in social media. Be on the lookout for great ideas that can inspire your own next great idea. Feeling totally uninspired today as I prepared to write copy, I checked out the Who's Mailing What! archive as well as recent samples that came into my mailbox and inbox. Suddenly I was no longer alone in my search for creative stimulation.

September: Think like a new donor
Getting a first donation is just the beginning. What are new donors expecting from you next? How quickly are you thanking them? What are they receiving from you (by mail, e-mail, phone, etc.) that reaffirms the wisdom they showed by making that first gift? Yes, overall attrition rates in our industry are awful. But that's no excuse. Before the surge of new donors at year-end, make sure you have your great welcome process fully operational.

October: Don't give up without a fight
Reactivating lapsed donors is tough, but year-end is an ideal time to invite them back. Put a strategy in writing, indicating every effort you could make to bring donors back on board. Of course, we all have limited time (and budgets), so choose the ones that look like the best options. Then make them happen.

November: Try something new — but stick with what works, too
Is there something missing from your fundraising program that you think might revitalize it? Choose something new, and work toward testing it as soon as possible. (It may not be until after Jan. 1 due to workload, but if you don't start planning now, it might not even happen then.) At the same time, make sure your plan for December and beyond includes solid, proven (at your organization) fundraising methods. Chasing the newest idea helps stave off your boredom, but it might not resonate with your donors.

December: Resolve to make every communication in 2014 matter to your donors
Chances are, many of your donors enjoy hearing from you as long as what you say is interesting (to them). If there are communications in your fundraising program that meet an internal need but not a donor need, maybe it's time to get the entire organization to agree to let go. At least try. You might not win the battle today, but perhaps you will plant a seed that leads to the desired results some time in the new year.

It's easy to let our own boredom — or our own comfort zone — drive our decision making in fundraising. At least it is for this old dog. For the rest of the year, try to have puppy-like tenacity to sniff out ways to make your fundraising program even better — for your donors and for your organization.

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