Broad Solutions for Nonprofits

Viva Krasinski, Grant Writing & Consulting


Annual Campaign

Volunteer Opportunities

I love a good mystery.  So, when a check for $5,000 came in from a donor who was not on our mailing list and lived on the other side of the country, I hit the internet and started searching.  Unfortunately, she had a very common name and kept a relatively low profile online. Thus, our mystery donor remained just that until about a month later, when a volunteer stopped by my office to tell me that he had received our end-of-year appeal.  While he wasn’t able to give, he had passed it along to a few of his friends and family members.  He wanted to know if anyone had contributed so he could call and thank them.  Our mystery donor was his aunt.

This was the first year we had included volunteers in the end-of-year appeal and we received quite a few donations in response.  While most of these were under $100,  many were matched by employers. Better still, almost every single volunteer who gave to this mailing, gave to the end-of-fiscal-year mailing six months later.

When I first floated the idea of asking volunteers to become donors, it was not received warmly. There were some very vocal objections from staff and board members who feared that asking would offend if not downright alienate this dedicated, generous group.

But who better than volunteers, who have already demonstrated their passion and commitment to the mission, to understand the need for financial support? Who is more invested in your cause than your volunteers?  Why would you not give them the opportunity to deepen their involvement?

I cringe every time I hear someone say  “Our volunteers already give us so much, we couldn’t possibly ask them for money, too.”  Listen, if that ask were any hotter, you’d need to wear protective gear to make it.

Now is the Time to Start on Your End of Year Appeal

The problem with end of year fundraising is that it happens at the end of the year.  Smack dab in the middle of a disharmonic convergence of deadlines and time off requests.  If you are running a small organization with just one or even no dedicated development staff, your final quarter may be a blur of grant reports, annual contract renewals and open enrollment.  If the end of the calendar year is also the end of your fiscal year, may the gods help you.   All this at a time when half of your staff is out and those that are in the office are likely spending more time working on holiday plans than actually working.

For most nonprofits, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is when most individual giving happens.  It is make or break time for annual campaigns.  So, how do you get an end of year appeal out in addition to everything else you have to get done at the end of the year?  You don’t.  You get it out before the madness hits.  You sit down during the summer to strategize and develop a work back schedule.

Start by looking at last year’s appeal.  What worked and what didn’t?  What would you like to do differently this year?  Make sure your nonprofit postage permit is paid up.  Start gathering anecdotes and success stories to use in your appeal materials.  Check in with your mailing house about pricing and timing, or schedule an in-house mailing party with volunteers and clients.  After the letters go out, will you be following up with an e-blast?  How about a social media component?  Start generating that content now.

Create a plan with realistic deliverables scheduled for each week.  Of course, once you have a schedule in place, you have to stick to it.  If the day you planned to shop around for a new mailing house turns out to be the day one of the toilets in your preschool explodes and you have to track down a Board member for a second signature for the check to the plumber, by all means deal with the toilet first.  Just make sure you block out the time later in the week to research mailing houses and gather quotes.

End of year appeals don’t have to be overwhelming if you invest the time up front to plan.  Now is the time to start.   Still need help?  Contact me.

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