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December 7, 2016

The 31 Days of December for Busy Fundraisers

Today is December 1st and as all fundraisers know, this month is BIG. Online giving, major donors, and year-end appeals all deliver critical revenue for most nonprofit organizations during the month of December.

There’s so much to do and yet so much has already been done.

By now you’ve (hopefully) sent out your annual appeal and have your online campaign in place. You’ve send something to your major donors and any events for 2016 (besides a fun holiday party) are behind you.

So, how do you use these 31 days?

Here’s what you need to do to make this most of this crucial fundraising time:

Determine your gap between November 30th and December 31st.

To plan for this crucial fundraising month, you need to figure out how far you have to go.  Sit down and figure out the gap between your actual income at the end of November and your December 31st goal.  You’ll need this to prioritize your work plan in December.

Use all your channel of communications to follow up your asks.

Generally, December is not the time to start asking, but rather the time to follow-up your solicitations using every channel available to you.  If you dropped a piece in the mail, send a reminder to those that didn’t respond.  If you have outstanding grant requests, phone your program officer and see what the possibilities are for distribution before December 31.  If your major donors received proposals or personalized letters, use the phone, e-mail, and social media to determine whether they need anything from you to make their year-end decision.

Work from the inside out and top down.

But what if you have way more donors than you can possibly follow-up with in December?  You’re going to have to prioritize.  We like to think of it this way.  Sort your list by those people who are the closest to you – those who are most likely to give you a gift (from inside out).  This is usually a list of those who have gave last year, and board and volunteers.  Then sort that list by previous gift amount and start at the top (from the top down).  Go as far down that list as your resources will allow.

Line up your help and give them specific tasks.

Year-end is the perfect time to enlist the help of others.  Ask board members to make follow-up calls to donors they know.  Ask program staff to write e-mails to update major donors on program plans.   Ask volunteers to write thank you notes.  Try to involve as many people as you can in this year-end push and let them know what a difference their involvement makes.

Make a plan.

December is a slippery month.  It’s here and gone in an instant.  Make sure it doesn’t evaporate for you.  Use our December Weekly Checklist from our Year-End Appeal Bundle to generate your own activities every day of every week in December. While you may not use every idea, it will give you some help in thinking through the timing of your own efforts. Then, plot it out on a calendar day-by-day.  You’ll be glad you did!

Be there for your donors until the very last moment. 

I can tell you from experience that donors don’t take the holidays off.  There are oodles of true stories of really BIG gifts coming in during the last days of December.  (And I can tell you from personal experience that it happens!)

Do you want your big gift to go to voice mail?  Or get buried in an e-mail box until January 4th?  Make sure that you have a plan in place so that your donors can contact you directly if they need to.

We know how busy it can be and we’ve even compiled a series of stress busters for you in this classic post from the archives.

You can do it – these days will fly by. And if you need help, let us know. We always love to hear from you!


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