Year-End Giving: Renewing or Refreshing?November 16, 2012 By Larry C. Johnson
The season is upon us. ’Tis the season for year-end giving. Year-end giving — those gifts received in the last six weeks of the calendar year — account for up to 40 percent of what many charitable organizations receive during the entire year. For some nonprofits, this period is truly a make-or-break window for their fundraising.
As you reach out to renew those friendships with loyal donors to your cause with year-end appeals, the first question you should ask yourself is how these investors to your organization came to be the loyal, dependable friends that they are? You’ll discover that sustaining and expanding the flow of year-end investments is much more about what you did last year than anything you will do in the next few weeks.
Acquisition — the first step
Sustainable, scalable fundraising efforts depend upon both building and renewing your donor constituency. Principle 7 of "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising" is “Renew and Refresh.” So which is more important? Neither — each effort is critical to the success of the other. Acquiring new donors and renewing existing investors are interdependent tasks. Certainly you have to acquire donors before you can renew them, but once you’re off and running a fundraising program that sustains itself, it requires both.
Sustainability of your fundraising program comes from acquiring new donors. No matter how excellent you are at building and maintaining relationships, some donors will go away. They lose interest. Their priorities change. Their financial situations change. They pass on. As in any fundraising activity, your efforts in donor acquisition must be purposeful, focused and consistent. Right now, if I asked you to review your program of donor acquisition, could you? Could you point to an effort that is designed, executed and evaluated specifically as an activity to bring new donors into your fold? Could you give me unambiguous detail regarding its success?
Your donor acquisition program is shaped by the nature of your cause or charity. Do you have members? Is a single, passionate idea the primary driving force behind your mission? Do you have grateful clients — individuals whose lives your organization has changed for the better? Do you have “alumni” in whatever form? What are the core characteristics of your true believers? Understanding the character and parameters of your organization and then applying this knowledge in a strategic way will yield the right program for you.