By Mark Rhode and Andrew Olsen
As this year comes to a close, our thoughts quickly jump from Christmas to the New Year – but do we overlook what’s in between? The week between Christmas and the New Year is the most generous week of the year. And there is still time to consider thoughtful strategies to incentivize giving from your donors. Consider the following top 10 tips:
1. Enhance email frequency and messaging
The last week of the year is a time when frequent email reminders are not only advisable, but necessary to make the most of the opportunity. We suggest no fewer than three, and preferably four-to-five email touch-points during the last week of the season. These needn’t be lengthy or complicated – focus on your urgent year-end needs, and stay top of mind. Use responsive email templates for mobile users.
2. Double-down on SEM and display
Last year, our clients achieved ROI’s of 5:1 – 15:1 on their year-end SEM/online display advertising spends. With a significant percentage of all year-end giving happening online, you can’t afford to be absent in search and display. And you can’t afford to expend your entire search/display budget before the critical year-end window. Set aside additional dollars right now to make sure your search and display campaigns are active through December 31.
3. 2-for-1 comp day exchange
Every day – every hour – during the last week of the year can represent tens of thousands of dollars of incremental revenue. Each of your Development Officers should be on the phone offering major donors in their portfolio an opportunity to make a year-end gift. But many will want to take these last days as vacation days. One way to reward them for their work in the last week of the year would be to offer a 2-for-1 comp day exchange. Offer them two comp days in January for each work day during the last week of the year.
4. Call every major donor
Call every major donor who has given this year, and thank them for their partnership. Offer them an opportunity to extend the impact of their partnership with a year-end gift. Call every one. Start now.
5. Be ready to accept creative gift payment forms
Many donors will be moved to make last-minute gifts at the end of the year. Whether it’s because of the emotional significance of the holiday season or a desire to minimize taxable income, many organizations see a flurry of donation activity in the last 48 hours of the year. Make sure that your team is ready and able to take credit card and electronic funds transfer (EFT) gifts over the phone or in-person at your office(s). And importantly, be sure that you have the information and documentation available to allow donors to make year-end contributions of appreciated stock and other assets. High net worth donors often prefer to give stock at year-end, but unless you’re prepared to accept it, you could miss out on these significant gifts. If you’re not sure how to accept gifts of stock, ask your bank or financial advisor for assistance.
6. Clean up unfulfilled pledges
Do a thorough search of your donor pledge files and identify any unfulfilled pledges. Have a donor representative call each donor with an unfulfilled pledge and ask them to fulfill it prior to year-end. Be ready to process credit card donations!
7. Send voicemail blasts to donors who have given $500+ in the last 24 months
Sending a thank-you voice mail to your middle and major donors in the last week of the year helps keep your organization top of mind, and reminds donors of the importance of supporting your critical work. Timed appropriately, this approach can yield an increase in giving at year-end, and help improve your retention rates going into the New Year.
8. Call every corporate partner who hasn’t given in the last twelve months
Year-end is a great time to call corporate partners who haven’t made a gift yet in the calendar year. They often have better vision to their own income and profitability by the end of the year, and might be able to give even more than they have in the past.
9. Engage your Board
Ask each board member to reach out to a foundation, corporate, or major donor with a heartfelt thank-you. Match the board member with a foundation, corporation or major donor they already know. Provide talking points or a script.
10. Video thank-you
Create a video thank-you message for your donors. Demonstrate the impact of their giving by featuring “thank-you messages” from beneficiaries in your video. It’s most effective to use low production values (smartphone cameras will do) with a call to action. Disseminate via email, social media, or on your website.