October Already?

October Already?

And then – suddenly – it’s October. Your whole fundraising year comes down to the next four months. Are you ready? Here’s what I’m thinking about in October. What are YOU thinking about?


Donor Appreciation Events

For a significant number of organizations, donors giving at least $1,000 as their membership gift account for less than 10% of the donor base and more than 60% of the operations funding. Time to say THANK YOU! To get the most out of your appreciation events:

  • Don’t charge people to attend. Having a donation bowl at the back of the room into which people can throw contributions to offset their meal is fine, but you don’t need to charge people for the privilege of hearing you say thank you.
  • Prominently list the donors giving at that level at each table and in event materials. Knowing who else is giving at that level is a primary driver for people deciding to join and people deciding to renew.
  • Keep the program short and relevant – we’re here to have fun!
  • Invest in good food – the returns will be worthwhile.
  • Allow donors to bring guests on the condition that you have names and contact information in advance for everyone attending.


Getting that First Fall Appeal Letter to the Post Office

Mailing this early means that you can get a reminder letter out before Thanksgiving, and if you are inclined to send out a third letter, you will still have time to drop it before Christmas.


Acknowledging Non-Cash Donations

I am NOT a tax advisor, and I am NOT an attorney. However, with that critical disclaimer:

Acknowledge any gift with a sincere statement of appreciation for what was actually given. For example,

  • Thank you very much for your gift of $35.
  • Thank you very much for your gift of 25 shares of XYZ stock.
  • Thank you very much for donating your 4-wheel-drive truck.
  • Thank you very much for volunteering to help us with the mailing last Saturday.
  • Thank you for donating a homemade meal for 6-8 people for the auction.


Taking Stock and Beginning to Plan for Next Year

Given what you know right now about what foundations, corporations, and individuals have committed, and what you know right now about what requests are still out there, and what you know right now about the requests you will yet write before 12/31, can you still project meeting your fundraising goals and getting to each of the budget numbers? If not, where will each number end up? If you wait until December 20th to figure out that you’re going to be short – it’s too late. Forewarned is forearmed.

You will also end up with a pretty good sense of how much money you could raise next year if you keep doing the things you did this year. It’s likely to be more, because you should be asking for more each year, perhaps by as much as 12-15%. But it’s not likely to be much more than that, unless you plan to do something different. So if your program people come to you asking if you can raise X, and X is MUCH greater than what you raised this year, you’ll need to add something – like a special campaign, or a second appeal, or another event, or……?


More on Development Planning next week!




Photo by Francesco Gallaratti courtesy of Unsplash.com.

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Fundraiser’s Almanac
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about for September. What are YOU thinking about?


Handwritten Letters

There are serious advantages to writing letters by hand. Here’s one:

  • Degree of personalization: Because each letter takes 15-20 minutes to write longhand, and you’re thinking about the recipient the whole time, you are far more likely to make subtle adjustments to language and sentence structure than you would be if you were typing the letter, or simply changing the salutation and calling it good. You are far more likely to be writing TO THE DONOR. And it’s like smiling into the telephone – the person on the other end can tell.


Getting the Most from Fundraising Events

Every event ends up with five different kinds of people.

  • Those who came, enjoyed themselves, and seemed genuinely interested in one of the programs or projects.
  • Those who came and just enjoyed themselves.
  • Those who said they would come and didn’t.
  • Those who responded to the invitation but couldn’t come.
  • And those who ignored the invitation altogether.

You should plan specific follow-up activities for each group.


Good News

From now until Christmas, everything you do with members and donors should be coordinated. And everything they see should appear coordinated as well. Start with some Good News. Have you been saving something back, waiting for the right moment to release it? Now is the time. The message for your donors – right before they are asked to give again – is “your financial contribution is making a difference.” Give them something to be proud of.


Filing/Data Entry – Soft Credits

When a donor makes a gift, they obviously get the direct credit for what they actually gave. But the Board member who wrote the nice note in the left-hand margin deserves some credit as well – the note-writer gets a “soft” credit. Most fundraising software includes a way to assign soft credits to specific individuals, and keeping track of such information can open several cultivation doors for you. Soft credits are thereby a way of tracking relationships.



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