Annual End-of-Year Reminders

Annual End-of-Year Reminders


22 December 2020


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Tomorrow is the 30th of December. Which means that today is the day for an annual reminder that all fundraisers should be available all week this week for the people you serve.

Sorry about that.


Let’s say that I’m a donor who wants to give a gift of stock. And I’m a procrastinator, so I decided to go to my SO’s office party earlier this month instead of taking care of business. And I wake up to this fact at about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon the 30th. I could make this gift to any one of three charities.

So, I call your office. Will anyone be there who can answer my questions? Will anyone be there to even answer the phone?

OR –

I’m spending this week revising my will and would like to leave part of it to the land trust. My lawyer says I need the legal name and address of each charity.

OR –

I just bought a new truck, and I’m interested in donating my current F-150 to the land trust. Can you accept a gift of a used truck?


Is anybody there?


The answer should be YES! Being there for your members and donors is job number 1 for fundraisers. It goes without saying doesn’t it?

In fact, consider sending out an email to you member/donor list that suggests that you are extending your hours this year to better serve their needs. (See also Make Each Donor Feel Special)


This year, New Years is on a Friday. That means someone (you?) needs to be in the office Monday through Thursday, picking up the mail and answering the phone. (Take a week in February off instead!)

This year is different in so many ways. Everyone gets that. (What does being “in the office” even mean this year?) You should still be available.

And it’s still true that most of the time the phone won’t ring. Most of the time no one will be looking for information about how to donate a truck. It can be a lonely week. You’re going to need other stuff to do.


So here are several other things you might plan for:


Send out follow-up emails.


Recent research indicates that nearly 40% of all online giving occurs between Christmas and New Years (compared with about 4% on Giving Tuesday). Explicitly reference the story and/or imagery in the appeal and remind people that there is still time to make a gift in 2020. I saw one social service group had good results emailing on the 27th, the 30th, and the 31st – all three. (For a good primer on end-of-year emails, see my post of 12/15 – Giving Tuesday – Was It Worth It?)


Get personal with your thank-you letters.


For most organizations, the mail will be fun to open during the last few days in December. The temptation will be to crank out “form” acknowledgement letters. Resist – you have time to do a better job. Make them personal. Tell a story. Hand-write a few. Consider calling a certain number (five?) every day – perhaps based on gift amount, perhaps randomly. Or consider passing along gift information to board members and asking them to call.


Call your board members


Or fellow board members if you yourself are serving on the board. Tell them how much you appreciate their board service this year and how you are looking forward to working with them in 2021.


Call other people, too.


  • Former board members,
  • Field trip leaders or other volunteers who help you work effectively with donors,
  • Donors or donor prospects whom you have not “touched” in some time,
  • A mentor, a teacher, someone whose presence made a difference for you this year,
  • Someone you need to thank.


Say Happy New Year! Say thank you. Tell them that you were thinking of them. Share.


Get your filing done.


At least get everything organized that should be in the donor files and the files themselves in the right order in the cabinet. Then read through at least your board members and major donor files. Organize the paper in chronological order and shred any redundant copies. For files that are considerably thick, consider summarizing the information on a brightly colored sheet near the front of the file.


Update your institutional donor files.


For foundations and businesses, request current annual reports and replace the ones you have been keeping with more current copies. Verify all their grant deadlines and note any interesting personnel changes and/or grants they are promoting.


Make a plan to promote planned giving more in 2021.


Keep in mind that planned gifts are simply gifts that require planning. A gift of stock is a planned gift under this broad definition. Making a gift of appreciated stock can be very advantageous for the donor. You may believe most donors know all this already, but many do not, or at least aren’t thinking that way. What will you do to help stimulate their creativity?

See also:

Three Basic Steps, and Three Enhancements, for Your Planned Giving Program

Coronavirus and Fundraising – Planned Giving



That should keep you busy.


Happy Holidays!




Photo by Albrecht Fietz courtesy of Pixabay.


PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.



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  • Danni Lang
    Posted at 10:02h, 29 December

    I understand why many folks emphasizes the importance of being available this week to donors and those we serve. It’s clearly not the week for a full vacation. However, I don’t think it’s wise to perpetuate the ways in which fundraisers and non-profit professionals contribute to their own burnout during this important season.

    If we’re extending hours in the office, let’s also make sure to ask another teammate to cover a long lunch break for us to get outside for a walk. If we’re putting in extra calls and being more emotionally available to our donors (especially during covid stressful holidays!), let’s bring in hot chocolate to the office or play our favorite music softly in the background. If we only get out 90% of the thank you letters from today, let’s not cheat ourselves out of a full nights sleep to finish that last 10%. Let’s celebrate every tiny and amazing surprise that comes in so that we feel festive and joyful.

    It seems that small shops in particular have plenty to do as we acknowledge all the incredible gifts coming in, answer donor questions about ways to give, and foster community with our supporters all with limited resources. It’s important to remind each other to take time for our own self-care. Fundraising might be the priority this week, but you can’t simply catch-up on self-care in January. It needs to be a balance, even this week. Carve out some time to spoil yourself during a busy end of year season!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 10:30h, 29 December

      Absolutely! Couldn’t agree more, and I love your specific suggestions.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 08:26h, 29 December

    When we started working remotely in March I had my calls forwarded to my cell phone. Never have to miss a donor or any other call but can still be at home.

    • David Allen
      Posted at 09:47h, 29 December

      Smart. I’m betting you’re not the only one that does that. Mostly this post is a reminder for multi-staff (or no-staff) offices where the person answering may not know how to answer.
      Thanks for your comment!