December was a blur.
For most Salvation Army officers and staff — especially those who work in fundraising — that certainly is true. The number of events, appearances, duties, activities, meetings, handshakes, hugs, conversations, cookie-eating, and fundraising asks is never greater than in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now that you’ve managed a little rest and recovery, and (hopefully) have a sense of what the fruits of your labor look like on your finances, this is a perfect time to sketch out the rest of your fiscal year. The steps you take now should, in some ways, depend on how successful your holiday fundraising has been.
If you have met or exceeded your fundraising goals for the first quarter, you want to capitalize on that success and find ways to bond with your donors as early as possible. There are a number of ways to do this, but we recommend these four:
- Give special thanks. Make phone calls to all donors who have demonstrated significant sacrifice. Pick a group (all donors who gave $100 or more; those who have given five straight years), and call them to simply say thanks.
- Invite your brand new donors to see your work. Again, you can pick out a special group, or send an email inviting everyone to sign up for a special tour of your key programs.
- Tell your community what you have in store for the year ahead. Local media are great about covering the holiday work, but this is a good time to plan a series of press releases that highlight the work that happens because of the community’s generosity. If there are new programs, or those that are unique to the market you serve, consider highlighting them specifically.
- Encourage your volunteers to celebrate their efforts. So often, the bell-ringers, Angel Tree donors, meal-preppers, board members, and other volunteers will be forgotten until next fall’s holiday planning. But these people are an important key to your success, and you should celebrate all you’ve done together. An appreciation meal, such as a pancake breakfast or BBQ night — with awards! — is the perfect way to tie it all together.
If you have NOT met your fundraising goals for the holidays, and find yourself facing tough choices going into a new calendar year, these steps are still important. But in order to preserve the programs that your clients need, you may need to make modifications to your existing fundraising strategy to make the most of the time remaining in the fiscal year. Here are two options:
- Partner with a local corporation for a special Matching Gifts Campaign. Donors love to take advantage of leverage offers (“Your gift will double!”), and when you engage a local company to provide the seed funding, they will often help promote through their channels.
- Reach out to major donors who haven’t supported in the past year. Many donors skip a year of giving, either because they didn’t get around to it, or they supported another organization instead. “We know that Salvation Army donors also support 10-12 other organizations each year,” says Claire Waiksnoris of TrueSense Marketing. “Even though we consider them lapsed in our view of donor data, they aren’t calling themselves that. And they’ll come around again.” Highlighting a particular need around a program (so that a specific gift can be made) is a perfect way to re-engage them. This is best done through a specially-created, high-touch mail piece, followed up by a phone call. “You don’t want the message to get lost," says Claire, "so special planning and creative touches are key here.”
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