Steve Waiksnoris, Guest Author  ●  11/15/2018

How to Prepare for Your Busy Holiday Fundraising Season


The end of the calendar year has an uncanny ability of sneaking up on us, doesn’t it?  In my years as a Salvation Army development professional, the advent of another holiday fundraising season always brought with it a sense of excitement, but also its fair share of stress.

It’s time to see the payoff (hopefully!) of 10 months’ worth of planning, strategizing, and cultivation.  Whether it’s direct mail, email marketing, major gifts, Red Kettles, volunteers, or public relations, it comes on strong and quickly once November 1 rolls around.  It’s a thrill to celebrate the wins, but many days also feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.

This time of year can make even the most well-prepared individual or department wonder how everything will get done.

Opportunities abound, but the truth is that everything you could do, probably won’t get done.  And let’s be honest: Even everything you should do may not get done.  When faced with that inevitable overwhelming feeling, I’ve found that stress levels decrease and effectiveness increases when you decide on a few core concepts to focus on, and then do them well.

While those things will be different (based on the size and operation of your Command), I do have a few ideas regarding how you can best prepare for this busiest time of the year.


6 Ways You Can Prepare for the Busiest Fundraising Time of Year

  1. Review your annual development plan.  Remind yourself of what you’ve identified as essential, and stick to it.  What’s that you’re saying?  You don’t have an annual development plan?  OK, don’t fret.  But please go to your January calendar right now, and set a date to begin creating one.  There are plenty of resources online for guidance and professionals ready to help.
  2. Reach out to your Development Committee or Advisory Board/Council members.  Set a meeting for as soon as possible to share with them how they can help during this holiday season.

    a. These volunteers are vital, and can help you in making thank-you phone calls, writing thank-you notes, recruiting volunteer bell-ringers from their network, sharing your social media and email marketing, etc.

    b. Come to this meeting prepared with specific lists, note cards, call lists, Red Kettle dates, etc.  These are some of your best volunteers, and they want to serve.  Help make it an efficient and pleasant process so they’re excited to do it again in the future.
  3. Is your acknowledgement process ready?  With the majority of your annual gifts coming in November and December, it’s vital that you have a process in place to thank your donors effectively and let her know the impact of her gift.  This goes beyond a simple gift receipt.  Choose a gift amount — say $500 or $1000 — and commit to providing donors in that group with an experience that goes above and beyond a receipt letter.  Send a handwritten note, call to say thanks, or even drop by their home or office with that thank-you note.  Remember that bit about your Advisory Board volunteers?  Here’s where you can really extend your reach and put them to work.  Thanking your donors personally is powerful!
  4. Get familiar with your lapsed donor query.  If you can run database queries, great!  If not, work with your staff or headquarters to create and run a lapsed donor query every two weeks of the season.  Look for donors that gave last year, but haven’t yet given this year.  You want to make sure that these donors renew their giving.  Visit their home with a small gift (Christmas cookies are always a favorite) or newsletter, send a card, make a phone call … anything to show them a little extra love and appreciation for their past support, and ask them to consider giving again this year.
  5. Consider creating a new donor welcome packet.  Sure, your direct marketing partner will have a welcome series of direct mail, but that usually takes a couple of months to kick in after they make their first gift.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right?  Well imagine that impression if you send a personalized letter recognizing their first gift to your Corps or Command.  Include your annual report, most recent newsletter, or a success story that highlights how their gifts make a difference.  I’d recommend choosing a gift amount trigger — say $250 or $500 and up, depending on the size of your Command. Whomever was able to help you with the lapsed donor query should be able to help with this as well.
  6. Schedule a time now to get out of the office and on the front lines.  Serve a dinner at the shelter, help assemble food boxes, assist with Angel Tree distribution, visit and bring some good cheer to the lonely.  Not only will this give you an important point of reference when sharing about your programs and services to donors and the public, but I guarantee that it will break through your stress and affirm the reasons why you’re raising resources for The Salvation Army.

While a number of your strategies and tactics are set in stone at this point, I do hope that these ideas will provide you with some motivation and inspiration to make a few additional preparations that will, no doubt, pay off — both short- and long-term. 

And as your favorite bell-ringer says: Merry Christmas, and God bless you!


Steve Waiksnoris has a long history with The Salvation Army, primarily serving in fundraising capacities.  Today, Steve is a Senior Consultant at Arthur Alley, a fundraising consulting firm that works with many notable charities, including The Salvation Army.  But most importantly, Steve is the husband of our wonderful Business Development Executive, Claire Waiksnoris.


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