Every fundraiser looks hopefully to December when so many people give generously to nonprofits. In fact, over 30% of the annual gifts made happen in the month of December. There is great opportunity to connect to some of your most generous supporters by ensuring that your organization's gift-club donors ($1,000 - $5,000) are asked to renew their gifts before the end of the calendar year.
Here's a concrete (hypothetical) example of how gift-club renewals can line you up to meet your year-end goal: Say your station has a budget gap of $150,000 between your year-end goal and your giving total as of December 1st. If you have 500 gift-club members ($1,200 entry gift), and 100 of them are due to renew their gifts in November/December, there is an opportunity to ask for $120,000 in gifts.
The difference between finishing the year on-budget or not could come down to the number of gift-club asks you make, so don’t delay. Here is a plan of action to solicit these donors and help them to be a vital part of your organization's successes in the coming year.
Step 1: Create a List
Regardless of what database or CRM your organization uses, you can pull a fairly quick list of the following categories of donors whom you should prioritize in the coming days.
Gift Club donors with expected renewals in November and December
Prospects who were pulled out of membership solicitations but have not yet been solicited
October, November, December gift-club donors who are one year lapsed
There are many more groups that you could pull but with time short until the end of the year, keep your attention focused on those most likely to give before December 31st.
Step 2. Assign Contact Method, Solicitor, and Ask Amounts
Set a goal for both the percentage of donors renewed and the total dollar goal, this will help you get the maximum revenue. If you get a surprise upgrade gift of $20,000 from a donor and have met your revenue target but you haven’t achieved your target for number of renewals, having two different success metrics will keep you focused.
Now that you have your list of donors, the next step is to assign a solicitor to each person who will be responsible for asking for the gift in December. This might be the major gifts officer, director of development, general manager or even a board member. The most important consideration is that the assigned solicitor will have the time to make the ask, if the GM is the right solicitor but does not have time to dedicate 10 hours to making calls, then make the tough decision to assign someone else.
Based on what you know about the donor, select the primary and secondary contact methods. Some donors want to get a physical piece of mail in their hands with a follow-up email and some donors would much prefer a short but personal email with a link to give online. Make those decisions based on donor preference, not on what's easiest for your organization.
Contact Methods to Use:
Each renewal solicitation for gift-club donors will likely be a combination of these approaches. Even with the best of intentions, donors are busy people and lives are complicated in December. Giving your donors the best opportunity to make their gift isn’t bothersome, it's just strategic planning.
These email solicitations should be personal emails, not broadcast from a service provider. Create a template for the ask and modify it for personalization to the donor. Keep in mind the principles of good copywriting to ensure that you are building the strongest case possible. Include a link to your donation form as well as your phone number should they want to call you with their gift.
This is a time to stand out from the other solicitations that your donors are receiving in their mailbox. Consider sending a card with a handwritten note asking for the renewal gift, and enclose a personalized reply card for them to return. If you have a large number of donors, this can be time-intensive. If you use a printed letter, make sure it is hand-signed with a note, if possible.
Discomfort with making and receiving calls is high nowadays, yet calls are still one of the best ways to connect with gift club donors and ask them for these critical gifts. Prepare your script in advance but remember that this is a conversation, not a speech. The goal is to connect with a donor to inspire them to give.
Example Solicitation Flow
MGO Mary at WXYZ has a donor Rachele who is due to renew her $1,500 gift in December. Mary knows that Rachele likes to give online so she sends her a personal email asking her to renew her support for the station. After three days, Mary leaves a voicemail for Rachele reiterating her ask for support and encouraging Rachele to make the gift before December 31st.
Step 3. Take Action
Now you have your list ready and your goals set, it’s time to begin. Block off time on your calendar and be diligent about honoring that time for solicitations. Let your coworkers know this is time that you need quiet and focus. Let go of your nervousness in asking, especially on the phone. These are donors who have already shown they care a good deal about your organization. Your call is about helping them have an impact on their community.
Timing is an important consideration for donors who use gifts of stock to make their annual gifts. Most brokerage houses will not guarantee that transfers of stock to charities will arrive by the 31st if not initiated by the donor by December 15. So, if you know you have donors who have given stock before, or have expressed an interest in doing so, make sure you reach out as quickly as possible to allow time for processing.
There is no urgency that donors using Donor Advised Funds give by December 31st for tax-deduction purposes, so make sure you adjust your offer language accordingly.
Step 4. Be Ready to Thank
Have your stewardship process set up to quickly deliver your organization’s thanks to these donors. If your gift processing gets behind due to volume and vacations, be creative about how you can still personally acknowledge these donors. Make sure you have a plan for updating your donors in Q1 and finding cultivation activities early in the year to keep these donors engaged.