Fundraising can be a lot like gardening. Success requires the right tools, conditions and timing, along with a working knowledge of your climate, fertile soil and good planning. And with both, spring is the time to start planting seeds.
Planting the garden.
Like gardeners, many fundraising programs traditionally begin planning for the new fiscal year when the calendar year begins and the days are short. In most cases, that planning is completed before the summer arrives and the busy fall season begins.
Now may be an ideal time to review your budget and overall plans for the coming fiscal year. Do you have staff training and professional conferences on the calendar? Have travel and marketing budgets recovered from the recession? Is this the year to have an outside expert assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of your fundraising endeavors? Do you need third-party assistance with your planned giving website or marketing activities? Do you have current age, wealth and income estimates of your constituents appended to your files?
If these activities are not planned far in advance, it is unlikely that the funds will be available in your budget to add them later. So check and re-check your plans and budget now while there may still be time to make adjustments.
Also, if you are on a June 30 or other upcoming fiscal year end, make sure you use your existing budget wisely during the final months of your funding cycle. Plan carefully to allow adequate time to obtain needed purchase orders or approvals. If you need an estimate or invoice for approval from a service provider for consulting or another service, contact them now.
Timing is everything.
Success in your marketing and communications for planned gifts relies on a solid plan that takes into account your prospective donors when they are most receptive to different conversations.
Some programs try to avoid sending planned gift communications during midsummer, especially on subjects that appeal to relatively younger people who may be traveling more during this time of year and may be less receptive to gift planning communications. Some organizations wisely take a contrarian view and communicate during the summer precisely because many others do not and it is a time when many older donors are inside escaping the heat!
For planned gift communications, early August is similar to June and July. Late August, however, can be a better time. As summer winds down in northern climates and other regions experience the “dog days” of August, communications on various gift planning tools may be well received.
September and October can be an excellent time for communications on the subject of bequests and other topics that involve a consideration of mortality. As the fall is traditionally a time for storing up for the winter and planning for the future, this may also be one of the better times to talk about gift annuities, charitable trusts and other plans that involve making preparations for future economic well-being while also making charitable gifts.
The final weeks of the year are traditionally devoted to year-end giving initiatives. Make sure to plan your year-end strategy well in advance to make the most of this important season.
As with any long-term project, advanced planning is the key to success. Taking time now to rethink your program will allow you to reap the rewards in months to come. ■