With the summer trucking along, now is the perfect time to take a breather and do some forward planning. If you consider that the general pace of life and work seem to pick up once September 1st rolls around, it pays to put in a little more time and effort now to avoid future stress.
As I mentioned in a post the other day, having great appeals at year-end isn’t enough. We have to take a big picture view of our fundraising and communications program during year-end to achieve consistency and connect the dots for our audience. This means you must have a strategy.
You have lots of communications that will go out the door from September 1 to December 31. To get you started, think about these questions.
- Do you know exactly what date each will go to donors?
- Who is responsible for layout and design?
- Which team member will in charge of writing the content?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, fret not! Year-end communications can be tamed with a well-thought out plan that integrates fundraising, storytelling, and stewardship in a way that makes donors feel appreciated and engaged. And major bonus, this will mean more revenue for your organization!
Review these 5 steps to develop your unique plan and you’ll be on your way to a less stressful year-end giving season.
Define Your Overarching Message
The key to really successful year-end appeals is consistent messaging. From newsletters to direct mail to donor meetings, you want to make sure that the donor consistently receives a consistent from your organization. Consistency is key because it will develop the donors’ confidence and trust in your organization, and will enhance the strength of the brand.
How do you achieve consistency?
It starts by defining the overarching message you want to convey to donors that will ultimately inspire them to answer your call to action.
Once you’ve nailed down your message, print it out in big font size and make it visible in the office to keep your attention focused.
Make Your Calendar Your BFF
There are just so many instances when a calendar really is the perfect tool for maintaining sanity and organization. Year-end communications is no exception. If you don’t have a physical shared calendar in your office, consider purchasing one that you can use dry erase markers on.
Once you’ve got a calendar in place, start by writing in all of your deadlines and drop dates.
Also, be sure to update your calendar regularly (see step 5).
Work Backwards to Develop Timelines
In my experience, the easiest way to manage non-profit fundraising and communications work is to take a classic project management approach. This means defining the final outcome (see step 2) and then working backward to identify each of the steps that must be taken to achieve this outcome and the required completion dates.
Consider adding these steps into your main calendar so you can easily get a quick glimpse of everything that’s on the go. Be sure to list who on your team is required at each step. This ensures a high degree of accountability.
Hunt and Gather
After you’ve determined what needs to go out the door this season and you’ve identified the steps involved to reach completion, it’s time to get to work and create!
To make content creation a little easier, take a hunt and gather approach. Meaning, crowdsource ideas, story leads and more from your colleagues. You don’t have to be a one-person show. This can be an activity that you can do on an on-going basis. Consider creating a Google form for story submission leads and sending out a monthly email to all staff asking for their ideas. Join a program staff meeting to hear what they are up to and gather some inspiration for content. Create a document or a folder in your inbox where you can file everything away fro future reference.
Evaluate Weekly and Monthly
Although year-end fundraising can be a truly chaotic time that doesn’t leave time for much else, it is important to revisit your timelines and calendars on a regular basis. In fact, consider using them as a structure for staff meetings.
Why do I make this recommendation? It’s easy to take an ostrich approach to your work (ie head in the sand) but that’s when things can easily go awry. Don’t let your hard work slip away! Proactively ensure that you’re on track and that your original ideas and timelines make sense. Nothing is set in stone, but follow through is important.
Do you have tips for managing your year-end work flow? Leave a comment below with your best advice!