Year-end fundraising season is upon us! How do you feel during the all the commotion and activity? Stressed out?
How do you feel during the all the commotion and activity? Stressed out? I’ve totally been there. Ever since one particularly bad year-end fundraising season in 2011, I’ve gone out of my way to do things in advance that will help me get organized and prepared. Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” This advice absolutely applies to year-end fundraising.
So how can you save yourself time and stress in December? Here are 5 things you can do this week to get organized and prepared for year-end fundraising.
#1 – Create a Master Calendar for October to December
I like to use a monthly overview calendar to write out all the important dates that I need to be aware of. This could include:
- Dates when emails are going out
- Dates when direct mail goes to the printer
- Dates when direct mail is dropped in the mail
- Thank a thons
- Board meetings
- Giving Tuesday
- Dates for mailing holiday cards
- And any other deadlines associates the campaign
This does not have to be a complicated system. You just need to write it all down so you can keep track of it.
#2 – Create a Master Task List
Let’s face it, there is a lot going during year-end fundraising between emails, asks, stewardship, and the holidays themselves. One of the most useful practices that I started implemented was to create a master task list. Once I know what the key projects are and I have them on the calendar, my next step is to literally write out everything that has to happen for each of those projects. What I do is create a separate sheet in Excel for each project. My headers typically are Task, Deadline, Assigned to, and Notes.
Each day when I am giving myself my marching orders, I can open that document and do exactly what needs to be done. What is most helpful about this is that it gives you clarity. You don’t have to spend time figuring out what you need to do. It’s already outlined for you and now you just have to execute it.
#3 – Develop or Update Your Systems
A system is basically a process that you use for a task that happens repeatedly. For example, you might have a process for acknowledgment or donor stewardship. You might also have a process for sending out fundraising emails or donor newsletters. One of the most overlooked systems during year-end fundraising is donor acknowledgment and stewardship. Here are a few things you might want to do.
- Review the process with your team or gift processing team
- Update your thank you letters. Here are 10 tips for writing a better thank you letter.
- Schedule thank-a-thons for thank you calls now
If you have never worked out your process for recurring tasks, this can be really helpful if you have the opportunity to delegate these tasks to a colleague or a volunteer.
#4 – Determine the Messages and Stories for Your Appeals
While it might seem really early to be working on your December direct mail and email appeals, it’s not. In fact, now is the time to do some of the crucial legwork to make your appeals a success. You may want to:
- Decide on a key message and call to action
- Find stories to tell
- Figure out what will resonate with your audience
By working out these key details, you’ll be well on your way.
#5 – Start Making Space in Your Schedule
This might be easier said than done, but one of the things that I always find that I need in November and December is more unscheduled time in my calendar to account for the unexpected. Small fires and new opportunities always crop up, and we need the bandwidth to handle them. Think about saying no to meetings that can wait until the New Year and pushing non-urgent projects. Ultimately, this practice will help you find balance and sanity.
What tips do you have for year-end fundraising? Please share your ideas in comments below!