Strategy #1 – Help donors maximize their current year-end gifts. One of the keys to assuring that your organization receives increased gifts this year-end is to make sure that donors are given the opportunity, information, and assistance necessary to make their gifts. Be sure to provide them with up-to-date information about the most efficient ways to give before the end of the year.
Surveys show that the primary reason people give is because of the desire to support a well-articulated mission. In your development efforts this fall, tell your donors about your mission in a way that will make them want to be a part of it. For example, in the cover letter of your year-end mailing, be specific about what the funds raised over the past year have accomplished.
While focusing your appeal primarily around your mission, explain to donors the importance of properly timing their gifts. Outline the benefits of making gifts before the end of the year, such as reducing their tax bill in 2007 through charitable deductions if they itemize. Inform them of the possible multiple tax savings available through gifts of appreciated assets. Though most donors will choose to give cash to make their gifts, others who own securities or other non-cash assets will appreciate learning about effective strategies for giving these assets to fulfill charitable goals. (See page 7 for more information about publications that can enhance your end-of-the-year appeals).
Strategy #2 – Discover donors who may be interested in making planned gifts. Since the end of the year is traditionally a time when donors may be reviewing their long-term financial plans, make sure your year-end communications contain information not only about ways to make outright gifts but also mention gifts that take advantage of planned giving opportunities. Donors may be more receptive to ideas about giving through their will, retirement plans, life insurance policies, and other estate planning tools during this time of the year when they may be evaluating their overall financial and charitable goals.
Strategy #3 – Thank your donors. Year-end, traditionally a season of sharing, is also an ideal time to express your gratitude to donors for their gifts. Through an effective year-end appeal, you can demonstrate your appreciation for the gifts your donors have made in the past and, at the same time, provide information that can help them give more at a lower after-tax cost.
Of course, very careful consideration must be given to balance all of the elements of a year-end gift solicitation. Keep your message simple and straightforward. A letter may be best focused on the mission and donor appreciation elements, while a P.S. and ancillary materials may be used to convey information aimed at helping donors maximize their giving.
And once you have approached your donors with a request for funds, be sure you have made arrangements to effectively facilitate and/or accept gifts during the final months of the year. It may also be wise to take time now to create or review policies concerning vacations and holidays before the prime season for charitable giving gets into full swing.
If your offices will be closed during the holiday season, you may need to create a special voice mail message for potential year-end gift donors, letting them know that someone from your office will contact them as soon as possible regarding end-of-year contributions. Some organizations choose to have a rotating schedule during the final weeks of the year to make sure a qualified staff member is on call to field inquiries that may occur. Also arrange for someone to monitor e-mail and Website inquiries.
Making arrangements now for encouraging and handling gifts will help ensure that your year-end giving season runs smoothly this year. Steps taken today can and will make the difference between a good year-end and a great one.