Holiday Fundraising

Holiday Fundraising

The holiday season is here and it is time to kick back and relax, maybe clean up the office.  Catch up some of the filing that has piled up.

Not so fast!  The holidays are a great time to reach your target audience, garner interest in your cause and maybe even boost your donation revenues.  Yes, many people are starting to disengage from their jobs and get caught up in the excitement of the six week holiday season that begins before Thanksgiving and runs into January, but those same people are looking around.  Now is a good time to get them to look at your organization.

Black Friday adverts kick off the holiday season.  I remember sitting on the couch with friends the weekend before Thanksgiving, scouring the ads for the best Black Friday deals.  We looked that baby over from cover to cover.  Does anyone read newspapers anymore?  Not to worry.  According to reports, Facebook and Instagram are providing in-depth data to marketers helping drive traffic to their sites and stores.  Those same ad words and marketing pushes can help the non-profit sector as well.

Remember the holidays are not just a time of buy-buy-buy but also a season of spending time with people you care about both near and far (and on social media).  The holidays still warm our hearts and remind us of causes we care about but sometimes forget because the pressures of everyday override all else.  People more freely act on their charitable impulses during December, volunteering and making donations.

On a more pragmatic front, as the end of the year approaches many people are thinking about their taxes.  Donations to non-profit organizations, endowments, in-kind donations and all other forms of tax deductible donations begin to look good.  Remember, donations have to be made by December 31st to receive that desired tax effect.

So great.  People have the desire in their heart or the CPA’s office to donate, now what?  How can you tap into those potential donations?

1.      Consider adding an “ask” to your social media campaign.

a.      Run a Facebook ad.  You can drill down your target audience to make your advertising dollars go farther.

b.      Have you set up a “Call to Action” button on Facebook yet?  You have to make it really simple for people to donate.  If they have to work at it they get distracted and wander away.

c.      Post a special series of photos on Instagram showing the ways your organization has touched others’ lives. Put tag lines on some of your photos that tell viewers how to get involved.  The same philosophy can be applied to YouTube videos.

d.      Ask your friends and followers to recommend your page – and in turn your organization – to their friends.

2.      Write and run a series of articles leading up to Thanksgiving and running into January about the worthiness of your association.  Remember, the media is always looking for “feel good” stories during the holidays.  Those same articles can be fed into your social media campaign.  Lisa Ann Landry, Social Media Marketing Strategist, suggests dividing a single article into “little pink spoons” Post the entire article on your website and send it out to the media for mass distribution if you can.  But more importantly, create little “sound bites” (or little pink spoons) from your story – attention grabbers that can be tweeted, snippets that can be Facebooked.  All of them should lead back to your organization and, hopefully, convince your audience to make donations to your non-profit.

3.      Network at your holiday functions.  Yeah, I know.  No one wants to talk business at a holiday party.  However, when you are passionate about what you do, about the cause you are championing, it should not be a chore.  Forget the overhead and the filing that is stacking up.  Ignore the string of emails that need to be returned and the phone calls you need to make on Monday.  Tonight, remember why you care.  Remember that one person you helped.  Remember why you decided to work with this association or why you decided to start it.  Remember your mission. Let that be your passion.  Talk it up.  Inspire others to care as much as you do.

4.      Send your potential donors an “ask” letter.  Be creative. Be unique.  Know your audience.  Some people need you to be direct.  If you want my help, tell me what you want and I will see what I can do.  Other people want to help, but need to be pointed in the right direction. Not everyone will respond well to the “teen-aged candy-bar on the front door step” sales approach.  Always consider who you are talking to.

5.      Consider your approach.  One organization I know begs people to make donations by sending them “enticements” to encourage them.  One year they sent out a box of swag a week to people who had not yet donated.  That was a turn off.  Many people looked at it as, “if you have the money to make this stuff and send it out, you need to stop wasting money, so stop asking for mine.”  Be sure to show that you are a good steward of the resources you have.

6.      Combat the negative.  Every holiday and every disaster that comes along brings a renewed circulation of “be careful who you donate to” ads.  They highlight how much of the money earned actually goes to the needy or the wounded or the sick.  That is a tough one to combat when you may be one of those organizations who has high overhead.  First and foremost, consider why your overhead is so high.  Does it have to be?  The reality is some organizations seriously need to lower their overhead.  But is yours one of those?  If it is, start working toward that end right away.  Those numbers are hurting you and hurting your donation generation.

However, not all high overhead organizations are misusing funds.  For example, an association dedicated to providing for the medical welfare of children may only spend $0.08/dollar on medicines for their target population and the other $0.92/dollar goes to overhead.  What is in that overhead?  Clinic facilities?  Medical equipment?  Doctor wages?  Perhaps the reason only $0.08/dollar is spent on medicine is because big pharma is donating the vast majority of the medicines needed therefore little is needed to be spent on that area.   The problem is, while you know this, your board of directors may know it, certainly your donors know it – the public does not know it.  You have to tell them.  Just remember, dry statistics do not inspire action.  Be creative and informative.

7.      Thank your donors. While people donate for personal reasons, nearly everyone likes to be thanked – even those who wish to remain anonymous.  Be creative with your “thanks” and always honor requests for anonymity. Some ideas?

a.      My grandmother taught me to always send a thank you note.  Not a thank you email or a distracted phone call, a thank you note.  Hand written.  Tell the donor that his generosity means something to you and to the organization by taking a couple of minutes to personally write a note.

b.      Hold a thematically appropriate donor dinner.  I suggested to a food bank that they hold an appreciation dinner at the food bank.  Serve the food that the food bank “patrons” would be eating.  Of course the food would need to be purchased separately and not come from the donated stores.  Invite some of the “patrons” to dine with the donors.

c.      Publicly thank donors on your social media.

d.      Have a board member personally telephone the donor.

e.      Celebrate a “donor of the month”

f.       Make them an honorary member of your organization or board

There are a million different ways to say thank you.  Forgetting to say thanks can cost you dearly.

We all have a lot to be thankful for this year.  Sometimes it is hard to see all the good things around us, but they are there.  Enjoy your holiday. Relax and rejuvenate.  Share your passion. Thank your donors. Make the most of your holiday!


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