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VOL. 127 | NO. 239 | Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Avoid the Year-End Crisis

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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Part two of a two-part series on year-end fundraising Year-end giving is in full swing. Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays nonprofits are busy soliciting. Email, direct mail, TV and in-person solicitations are on in full force. Competition for the philanthropic dollar is fierce as organizations seek to encourage our generosity. Our heartstrings are pulled at, and it is easy – and good! – to impulsively give. With just a “click” on a link we can make a difference in no time flat.

Keep that holiday giving and soliciting going. At the same time, if you are a nonprofit leader, we suggest taking a moment to think about your fundraising strategies for next year. Remember, year-end giving is both fun and dangerous.

For some organizations 40 percent of their annual budget comes from their year-end campaign. While it may be wonderful to know you can raise 40 percent during a short period of time, it is perilous if you don’t meet your goal. Here’s the danger: what if there was another disaster such as Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, Sept. 11 or the financial meltdown of October 2008. Those events redirected – and eliminated – discretionary giving by individuals, foundations and corporations. While giving to the Red Cross and other disaster organizations increased, many local nonprofits found themselves in financial jeopardy.

If possible, spread your fundraising across the year. If you are using direct mail or email as a driver for your campaign, consider doing two or three campaigns throughout the year. Consider increasing the number of events you host. Look at your one-on-one solicitations: are board members meeting with individuals and corporate or foundation representatives to ask for their financial support throughout the year?

Reduce your risk with well-organized, yearlong fundraising. Reach as many people as you can before the year-end. In December you are literally competing with both nonprofits and consumer-based businesses for limited discretionary dollars. Get ahead of the crowd!

Think about doing things differently in the coming year. Set a fundraising goal for each of the first three quarters of the year, and allocate the fourth quarter to thanking and celebrating your donors and encouraging last minute, spontaneous gifts. These can take you over the top if you reach your goal in the first three quarters.

Take the stress off your staff and volunteers – let them focus on the joy of the holiday season without the stress of feeling the organization’s financial health rests on their shoulders during a very condensed period of time. Spread it out across the year.

Fundraising is really all about planning. Yes, you have to ask, but plan how and when and who you ask. Be creative. Get ahead of the pack – set quarterly goals and engage people at less stressful times of the year.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They provide fundraising counsel locally and nationwide. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

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