The year is coming to a close, and many nonprofits have been planning their holiday campaigns for months—and in a perfect world, you would have done that, too. But, things happen, and between program crises, a major fall event, and the holidays—well, you thought you’d be further along than you are.
2013 may be winding down, but don’t worry; even post-#GivingTuesday, there are a few ways to raise some revenue and bolster your future fundraising plans before you ring in the new year. Here are three of my favorite—and most effective—last-minute fundraising ideas. Read on, then get started—there’s no time to lose!
1. Online Challenge Gift
A great way to persuade people to give is to ask one of your individual or corporate donors to match any incoming donations within a certain timeframe. This kind of campaign is gaining popularity because, especially when the average person is still dealing with the effects of the economic downturn, donors appreciate that their money can have double the impact. Also, because the match will only happen during a certain timeframe and if you meet a certain goal, it persuades people to give now, rather than next month (when they’re looking at their holiday credit card statements).
What to Do
1. Find a Donor Willing to Take the Challenge
Because time is of the essence (only a few weeks left!), your donor should be someone who has a close relationship with the organization, like a board member who hasn’t made his or her annual contribution yet. Challenge grants usually require a little extra paperwork, so start working on that now.
A challenge campaign is most successful when it emphasizes the urgency of the situation (“We only have two weeks to raise this money for the next semester!”). So, update social media and send out emails regularly with updated benchmarks and reminders of the upcoming deadline.
A fundraising thermometer may remind you of a telethon, but it works. Don’t assume that your audience can instantly calculate what 63% of $25,000 looks like—show them. If you have an IT person on staff, he or she can advise how to update an online thermometer automatically, or you can use a site, like Crowdrise, that has a measurement tool built in. Make sure to post this on social media and, if your headquarters gets a lot of foot traffic, in the reception area to get everyone excited.
2. In-Kind Drive
Folks may be burnt out on giving cash, but if they’re already out and about buying gifts (which, with three weeks until Christmas, they probably are), they may be willing to pick up something for you or your clients. You might not get the flexibility of cash, but you still get what you need—and even save yourself a trip to the store!
The key here is to clearly communicate what you need and don’t need—like Santa, your donors won’t know what’s on your list unless you tell them. For example, New Alternatives, a NYC-based agency that serves homeless LGBT youth, has a year-round Amazon Wish List for general needs (such as socks and toiletries) and runs a Gay Santa program every December that allows donors to give directly to clients. (Full disclosure: I’m a proud Gay Santa this year!)
What to Do
1. Make a Wish List
You can do this on shopping sites, like Amazon or Wishlistr, or you can simply list the items on your website. Most importantly, make it easy! Provide links to anything that can be purchased online, and make sure it’s in a ready-to-print format so folks can add to their shopping lists. (And if you work with picky teenagers or need some rather unexciting items, like office supplies, plenty of people are happy to give gift cards—just add them to the list.)
Once you have a wish list created, spread the word that it’s there! Send out emails, update your social media, and include links and reminders in all organization communications between now and the end of the year, so that your donors know that you will take more than cash.
3. Spread the Love
Make sure that your donors are telling others that they’re participating in your organization’s drive. To make it easier, email them with sample messages that they can post on social media, and explain how this extra touch really helps. Peer pressure does wonders around the holidays!
3. Don’t Forget Holiday Cards
Fundraising isn’t always about asking for money; it’s also important to establish relationships and get your name in front of the people who are likely to be future donors. You want to remind people that your organization exists during this charitable time of year (sometimes that’s all it takes to remind them to give).
Most businesses already send out holiday cards, but if you don’t have a proper appeal going (e.g., your greeting is a stock “Dear Valued Partner”), it’s worth it to be a bit more thoughtful about them. Think about who you’re writing to and what they care about, and you might earn a prized spot on their mantle.
What to Do
1. Brainstorm Your List
Remember, since you aren’t explicitly asking for money, there’s no reason to be shy about sending nice cards—a lot of them. Yes, your current donors should certainly be on that list. And what about those prospects you met last February? The vendor who’s raking in the dough? Someone you honored at a past event? A holiday card to Bill Gates isn’t going to get you anywhere (wishful thinking!), but a thoughtful note to a foundation program officer who works in your area will be appreciated—and may garner a donation this year or next.
If all you’re going to write is “Happy Holidays!,” you might as well throw the card in the trash before you bother to stamp it. Donors who have their mailboxes stuffed with catalogs and fundraising letters will likely see your generic greetings as a waste of money and paper, which doesn’t help you prove that their future donations will be used wisely.
To really hit a home run, mention something in your message that lets the recipient know that you actually thought about him or her while you were writing it, whether you reference a vacation, a family member, or a life goal.
3. Follow Up
Keep your mailing list handy in January, because that’s when you can start calling and emailing those people to keep the relationships going and move them toward bigger regular gifts. A simple holiday card may sound simple, but if you start planning as soon as possible (and make sure to follow through), you’ll have a fundraising plan that takes you through the next 12 months.
The holidays can put extra pressure on you when you’re already at a breaking point, especially when it comes to fundraising. But keep in mind, it’s one of the most charitable times of the year—so take advantage of it! Take the time to invest in some of these projects, and you’ll be able to start January off on the right foot.
Image of fundraising courtesy of Shutterstock.