By the time pumpkin-everything shows up on supermarket shelves, nonprofit leaders should be moving forward with their plans for the end-of-year Giving Season. If you’ve made a list, you should be checking it twice. If not, start with this one.
1. Optimize Your CRM
It’s "all hands on deck" to review every donor, volunteer, and supporter in your CRM (client relationship management system). Use this review to ensure information is up to date and accurate. Equally important, reflect upon how your supporters have been stewarded over the past year, and how you plan to keep them engaged in the year ahead.
2. Set Clear Fundraising Goals
Set an overall fundraising goal for the holiday season, based on past performance and, most importantly, the initiatives and milestones ahead in your strategic plan. (If your organization doesn’t have an updated strategic plan, then contact CSR immediately and do not pass “Go.”)
Be prepared to track the performance of your fundraising efforts. Analyze data and metrics to identify what's working and what's not. Get ready to make adjustments to your strategy based on real-time data and donor feedback.
3. Craft an In-Depth Communications and Marketing Campaign
The holiday season provides a special chance to share stories that showcase your organization's purpose and influence, inspiring others to invest in you and your mission. Share success stories, testimonials, and real-world examples to connect with donors on a personal level. Encourage larger donations by securing matching gift opportunities from businesses, foundations, or major donors.
Next, consider how to engage your supporters in a meaningful way. Utilize videos and images appealing to a range of stakeholders, and encourage them to share your stories in person and on social media. Your comprehensive strategy should include various fundraising channels, from events and direct mail to online campaigns, email marketing, and social media. Tailor your approach to meet people where they are. Some may prefer online giving, while others may respond better to traditional outreach such as direct mail. Double-check that your Development and Finance teams are prepared to act quickly to process year-end donations of securities.
Now turn your attention to your website. Make sure that it is optimized for online donations, with user-friendly donation forms that are mobile-responsive and secure. Explore the use of crowdfunding platforms, peer-to-peer fundraising, and text-to-give options to expand your online fundraising capabilities.
4. Plan Backwards
Create a detailed calendar and timeline to pull together and track all these moving parts and pieces of your campaigns and events during the holiday season. Then reverse engineer it. Work backward from December 31, set deadlines, assign responsibilities, and consider how to leverage key dates like Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday immediately after Thanksgiving.
5. Express Gratitude - Now
Now is the time for leaders to express heartfelt thanks to donors and volunteers for their support, and tell them about the impact of their generosity. Don’t forget about your hard-working staff either. This can be a stressful time of year, but a team united with shared vision and purpose can also make this the season of miracles.
About the Author
Jane Zimmerman, a veteran of U.S. diplomacy and nonprofit leadership, brings a wealth of experience to her writing. With over 25 years in the U.S. State Department and roles at iconic nonprofits, Jane is passionate about turning vision into impact. Her career spans diplomatic postings, foundation management, and academia. Awards include the Secretary of State’s Career Achievement Award. Jane holds a Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and a Bachelor of Arts from Macalester College.
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