It’s the peak of summer and for many working in nonprofits, there’s breathing room in the schedule. The high seasons of spring and fall events have settled down. Staff, board members, and donors are rotating in and out of town on vacations. There are fewer formal meetings on the calendar and it’s an ideal time to step back, grab a glass of lemonade, and look ahead to the next several months.
Not to ruin your lemonade sipping session, but I bet I can guess the next two big things you’re looking at to the end of 2018: you have to convene that post-summer board meeting, and you need to run the fall annual fund campaign through December.
Both these things take a lot of preparation, and I’m going to suggest some steps now to make the last one smoother and more successful. Why? Because chances are, more than 30% of your contributed revenue comes in between October and December. If you’re rushed to run your fall campaign, you’ll get jammed up, run late, or take shortcuts. And any of those will increase frustration and lose money.
1. Plan to launch in mid-September to early October. This gives you more time to ask for the gifts and more time to follow-up on those asks. It also means less competition when every donor is inundated with requests starting right around Thanksgiving, and you can make adjustments along the way depending on response.
2. Start mapping out the fall campaign timeline. Which channels will you use? Snail mail? Online page, with a popup on the front page? Email blasts? Social media? Pick two or more and think about the prep time you need to get ready. Are there important calendar dates you need to integrate or work around? Can you line up a match or two from a faithful donor to boost response and give donors deadlines in October or November? Those are proven revenue boosters.
3. Clean up your donor lists now. Purge bad emails and the unsubscribes. Update the physical mailing list. Look at your main donor segments – is it members versus outright donors, alumni versus current parents, leadership level versus smaller gifts -- run the lists and check that they’re clean.
4. Craft your storytelling. This is the mojo that makes this year’s pitch different from last year’s pitch, and it takes time to develop. Pull together your key program people and a few highly engaged volunteers/board members, and brainstorm stories from this past year that can articulate the WHY of this year’s goals. Shift into different perspectives. Play with the narrator voice. Create a big list of ideas and work from abundance. You’ll need to craft the messaging and choose images for the winners -- then pair them with the communications channels where they make the most sense. This also gives your board members a better way to solicit their personal contacts for a renewal – they have a few great stories to share about your organization’s impact this year.
See, you’ve totally got this. Now for that hammock.
Emilie, Principal and Owner