28 Nov Your Fiscal Year Doesn’t Matter
28 November 2023
By David Allen, Development for Conservation
I read somewhere that 70% of the money raised for charity every year is raised in November, December, and January. That doesn’t necessarily mean that 70% of donors give then, but it would be easy to believe. It would be easy to believe an even larger percentage.
Some donors give at other times of the year, of course. In April around Tax Day for example. Or just after Memorial Day. Or at some other time equally random. (Some give every time you ask!)
But most people give in November and December. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about giving to you. I’m talking about giving – period.
And this phenomenon will be true regardless of your fiscal year. YOU might feel a particular urgency to get those gifts coming in by June 30, but that won’t necessarily translate for your donors. That’s why fundraisers always plan their work based on the calendar year, regardless of the organization’s fiscal year. The work you plan in January and February, and execute in March through September, all culminates in the 70% that comes in by December.
The fiscal year just doesn’t matter.
If part of your job involves raising money, these next five weeks are like your accountant’s “tax season.” Blow them off at your own peril.
So how will you use your time?
FIRST, make sure everyone is asked. It sounds pathetically obvious, but there are lots of reasons why someone might not actually get asked. Maybe you intended to ask them in person, and the opportunity never presented itself. Maybe some names were suppressed from the mailing list in October and pulled out for some special treatment that never happened.
Whatever. Time for Plan B. Those whom you can still meet in person – do so! It’s still the preferred alternative. But make sure that everyone else gets asked as well.
SECOND, check out the people who gave last year (or even the year before) and haven’t yet given this year. One-by-one, each-by-each, consider each person and what you know about them. Did they decide not to give? Did they have higher priorities this year? Did you ask for more than they were prepared for? Or did they simply forget?
Depending on the answers to those questions, would a personal call/text/email/letter/card from you help now? How about a follow-up appeal letter to everyone? You should be able to safely get out a follow-up letter by 12/15 and still be OK before Christmas.
Start with the donors who gave the most money last year. Make a list. Check it twice.
THIRD, take some time with your thank you messages (See last week’s post: You Made My Day!). Set aside some time each day to make thank you phone calls for some donors and spend extra time personalizing the rest. Remember in doing so that you are not thanking them for supporting YOUR work as much as you are thanking them for being a critical part of the organization’s mission work. You don’t thank volunteers for supporting your work – you thank them for THEIR work. It’s the same concept.
And think about more than the donation itself. Did they attend an event this year? Are they a new member? Have they been giving consistently for five years? Or ten? Or twenty? Was this their second or third gift in 2023? Anything you can do to communicate that you are thinking of them as a person, as opposed to an ATM machine, will be remembered.
FOURTH, plan now to be at least “on-call” the week between Christmas and New Years Day. Every year, donors make last minute decisions to leave stock, change their will, adjust their philanthropic priorities, and so on. They just might call the office later the week of Christmas. Will there be someone to answer the phone? Or should they call some other organization?
This year, Christmas is on a Monday. For sure, use that time to be with family. But don’t take the whole week off. If nothing else, consider this: 40% of all on-line giving occurs between Christmas and New Years (compared with about 4% on Giving Tuesday). You might want to send email to those who gave on-line last year.
Regardless, consider taking the first or second week in January off instead of Christmas week. It isn’t fair. It’s the job.
FINALLY consider reaching out to people who matter to you regardless. Even for reasons having nothing to do with fundraising. The Holidays are a lonely time for many. Is there someone who might appreciate being contacted? Being noticed? Being thought-of?
- Former board members with whom you’ve lost touch,
- Field trip leaders or other volunteers who help you work effectively with donors,
- A mentor, a teacher, someone whose presence made a difference for you this year,
- Someone you need to thank,
- Someone who might need you.
Make a list now of people to call between Christmas and New Years. As you move through the next few weeks, add to it as other names occur to you. Make it easy on yourself by writing their phone numbers down as well. Then use Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Christmas week to make phone calls.
Pro-Tip: reaching out to people in this way is good for our souls as well.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what your fiscal year is. This is the only fiscal year that your donors will recognize. Don’t relax now and trust that you can make it up in March or June.
You’ve got five weeks left in 2023. Plan to use them wisely.
Cheers, and have a great week!
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.
Photo by World Wildlife courtesy Stocksnap.io