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Help me ring in the new year by checking out my new site!

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9 Tips to Maximize Year-end Giving

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2010 is quickly coming to a close.  It’s been a tough year, no doubt.  But this is no time to put the brakes on your fundraising efforts, despite what some “experts” are saying about the continued bad economy. 

In fact, the last few weeks of the year are huge for most nonprofits – so make sure you’re poised to reap the benefits in the coming weeks.

Here are some tips to help maximize your year-end success:

1. If you can, reach out (in-person or via phone would be best, but mail/e-mail can work too) to every middle and major donor that hasn’t yet given in 2010.  Make sure they know just how critical their support is to the lives your organization touches.  And how much you depend on their continued partnership. 

2.  Adjust your marketing calendar to squeeze in an extra year-end mail appeal or telephone solicitation.  Even if you only contact your most committed donors, the extra income from one added solicitation (especially in December), can have a huge positive impact on your bottom line.

3.  If you have a monthly giving program, year-end is a great time to ask these highly committed donors to make an extra “stretch” gift. 

4.  Don’t overlook planned gift donors at year-end.  They’ve planned for your future in their will, but many will also help you meet current needs at the end of the year if you have a compelling reason to give.

5.  Don’t go dark in the week after Christmas.  There’s a tendency to send staff home for vacation that week.  And rightly so!  They’ve worked hard.  It’s been a tough year.  Everyone deserves a break.  But I’d caution you to have at least a few staff members in the office throughout that week to help with gift processing (you should see a spike in gift volume), making thank you calls, and especially to reach out to donors that haven’t yet made a gift in 2010.  This is also one of the busiest weeks for organizations that receive year-end gifts of stocks and other securities.  You’ll want someone in the office who can handle these kinds of inquiries from donors, and who can work with your bank or broker to accept these gifts before year-end.

6.  Invest in Search Engine Marketing (SEM).  In recent years, testing indicates that the final three weeks of the year see dramatic increases in people conducting web searches for terms like “year-end giving.”  Donors and prospects alike are on the web during the final weeks of the year, and are actively searching for causes to support.  SEM will help ensure you’re front and center on the web when people in your community are looking to give.  Even a modest investment in Search Engine Marketing of $500 – $1,000 can yield returns as high as 3:1 – 5:1.

7.  Use a three-part e-mail series to build awareness, excitement and fundraising momentum at year-end.  Tie your campaign to specific year-end and holiday needs to ensure success.  Time your campaign so that each e-mail is at least a few days apart, and e-mail #3 is in mailboxes on December 31, to highlight the final giving opportunity of 2010 (for tax purposes). 

8.  Make sure to ask your volunteers for a year-end gift.  We had one client who recently did this and generated a 16.5% response to this request.

9.  Remember that you still have time to seek out a matching gift from major donors and corporate sponsors.  Nothing will improve your year-end results like offering donors the opportunity to have their gifts matched by others.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful as we come to the end of the year.  Don’t hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an e-mail if I can be of assistance to you in any way.

Want more tips to improve your year-end fundraising?  Go visit Roy Jones Reports for five more great recommendations.

Wishing you much success this holiday season!
Andrew

Quick Poll: Where will your nonprofit invest in 2011?

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It’s hard to believe, but 2011 is right around the corner.  Right about now, most nonprofit executives and boards are making plans for the coming year, and looking at budgets for the coming year. 

Since it’s budget time, I thought it might be interesting to see where nonprofit organizations are planning to spend their resources in 2011.  There’s a quick poll below.  If you work in a nonprofit, I’d appreciate it if you take a minute to cast your vote.  If you don’t see the area where you’re planning to invest, just add it in the “Other” section.

So you want to be a Nonprofit Rockstar, huh?

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You’re early in your career, passionate about the cause you’re working to advance, but sure wish you could climb the career ladder more quickly.  Right?

Maybe you want to go from being a Program Assistant to a Program Director.  You’d like to make the leap from Special Event Coordinator to Development Director.  Or maybe, just maybe, your goal is to lead a nonprofit from the Executive Director’s office.

But how do you get there from here?  What steps should you take?  What should you be doing right now today to prepare you for those challenges?  And how can the way you approach your career lead you to a brighter future?

You’ll find those answers, and so much more in Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris’ new book, How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career.

Rosetta and Trista have packed this new book full of smart, easy to digest, actionable recommendations to help advance your career.

You owe it to your future self to pick up a copy of this new book!

Without spoiling too much, here are two key tips they share in the book:

Establish a Great Personal Brand.

Simply, Rosetta and Trista say that your personal brand is, “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” 

And they’re right.

Guard your personal brand closely.  It’s the greatest asset you’ll ever have.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how many letters you have behind your name, or where you went to school.  If I’m a hiring manager, and I find out you don’t follow through on your commitments, or I can Google you and find links to the wild keg party pics you posted on Facebook, chances are you’ll never get an interview.

Learn How to Raise Money

There’s a natural inclination to shy away from asking for money.  You, like the rest of us, probably don’t like to hear “NO” all the time.  Maybe you’re afraid that someone will chase you out of their house with a broom stick when you call on them (hint: I’ve actually heard a development officer say this).  Or maybe you’re afraid that if you ask a friend or colleague for a contribution for your organization, you’ll damage your relationship. 

Rosetta and Trista point out (so appropriately), that if you can get comfortable – and good – at asking for money, you’ll always have a place in the nonprofit sector.  In fact, if you’re any good at asking for (and getting) contributions, you’ll most certainly get a seat at the table for important discussions and decisions at your nonprofit.  And the more you show your boss that you can raise support for the organization, the more valuable you become.

There are dozens more tips in this book – I’ll share more thoughts in the next week or two.

But until then, get your copy today!

Mobile Giving, the Red Cross, and your nonprofit

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Interesting update on Mobile Giving from Philanthropy Journal today.

Nonprofits find texting tough way to raise money

While the Red Cross raised over $30 million by mobile phones after the Haiti earthquake, triggering a rush by nonprofits to try to raise money through text-messaging, reproducing those results has been tough for most groups, often because the costs of supporting a mobile-donating program can outstrip the returns, The New York Times reported Oct. 31 (see charity texting story).

The bottom line is, the Red Cross is successful here for several reasons. 

1. When a crisis like Haiti happens, it owns the airwaves for a long period of time.  When the Haiti quake hit, it was around-the-clock news on every network and cable news station.  There were evening news specials, mid-day reports, etc.  There were celebrity telethons to support Haiti.  Radio updates throughout every day.  This story was top news on the web.  And everywhere a Red Cross story got exposure, they mentioned the mobile giving option and their short code.

The Red Cross didn’t have to pay a dollar for this media exposure.

2. The Red Cross has a disaster response plan that includes outreach/philanthropy.  They were able to capitalize on this within hours to ensure they had the funding necessary to handle this and future disaster challenges.  They didn’t try to throw a campaign together after the disaster happened – they simply implemented the plan that was already established.

3. They had a truly integrated campaign – not just a mobile initiative.  Yes, the Red Cross raised a TON of money via mobile after Haiti.  But they probably also raised significant dollars via direct mail, online, and maybe even DRTV.  The Red Cross knows they can’t just use mobile fundraising, so they made sure they had an integrated campaign.  And it worked well.

So here’s the dirty little secret.  A lot of nonprofits are looking at mobile as a way to cut costs and still raise money.  But it’s not going to work unless an organization has a MASSIVE audience (like the Red Cross did after Haiti).  You need a captive audience, or a major world-impacting issue in order to leverage mobile in any significant way.  If your organization doesn’t have that, mobile probably won’t work for you.

The downsides of mobile should make you think twice before you jump on the bandwagon.  You don’t get donor contact info (makes it very difficult to build long-term relationships).  Largest gifts you can generate are $10 gifts.  It could take months for you to actually get the contributions. 

I hate to be so negative, because in the long-term, I think mobile has a lot of potential.  But that’s what it is right now, just potential.

You hate telemarketing? So what.

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Everyone hates telemarketing.  I spent three years leading telemarketing for a major national political organization, and I hate getting telemarketing calls! 

Those invasive calls at the dinner hour.  Solicitors not taking no for an answer and asking you twice more for a contribution after you say no.  Always trying to get you to give your credit card over the phone.  Those telemarketers are pushy. 

That’s all true. 

You’ll get a few more complaints from your board and your staff.  And you’ll see a slight increase in complaints from your donors (it averages less than 1% if managed appropriately, fyi).

But you know what?  Chances are your nonprofit can benefit from telemarketing.  Even though you hate it.

Consider this . . . mailing your lapsed donors (37+ months since last gift), you can expect to reactivate 3% of them, at most.  But telemarket that same audience, and you could see reactivation rates as high as 12% – 15%.

That’s 300% – 400% lift in reactivation compared to typical lapsed donor direct mail.

Telemarketing is also valuable for upgrading donors beyond their current giving levels.

Hate it or not, telemarketing is valuable, and can significantly improve your direct response fundraising efforts. 

You owe it to the people you serve to at least test it, regardless of your personal beliefs.

Check out these companies for additional information: Strategic Fundraising, RuffaloCODY, Infocision, and MDS.