Judging by the displays in the “big box stores,” the holidays are coming earlier this year! Of course, that’s not true from a calendar point-of-view. But seeing the decorations filling the shelves is a clarion call to every fundraiser that we’re running out of time if we want to maximize our fundraising opportunities before 2018 begins.

If you haven’t already done it, develop your calendar for email appeals NOW. There are four “events” to plan around: Thanksgiving (November 23), Giving Tuesday (November 28), Christmas (December 25) and/or Hanukkah (December 2 – 10), and New Year’s Eve. These “big four” need to anchor your strategic development of an electronic fundraising calendar. Once you have those anchor dates on your calendar, strengthen your strategy by asking these questions:

  1. Have I been consistent and timely in saying “thank you” to my donors this entire year? If not, what can I email and post on Facebook now to tell our donors we are genuinely grateful? While a last-minute thank you doesn’t make up for a year of neglect, telling a donor you appreciate her giving is never wasted.
  2. Can we use social media and email to announce an overall theme and goal for the last 6 to 8 weeks of the year that will create momentum for year-end?
  3. Will I send a “thankful” email message both to express gratitude and to set the stage for year-end giving by making a soft ask? This is especially wise if you are setting a goal for year-end giving that you’ll be announcing to your supporters.
  4. Is there a major donor (or more than one) who will pledge to match all donations up to a certain dollar amount? This can be tied to Giving Tuesday or year-end donations; either way, a match is powerful for maximizing results.
  5. How can my email and social media posts for Giving Tuesday stand out among the other messages? Although Giving Tuesday is a made-up event, why not invest a small amount of time and money to be in front of your donors on the one day a year media is saying, “Give to your favorite charity?”
  6. Is there a realistic goal we can announce for Giving Tuesday? Don’t worry if it is a small goal; in fact, it’s better to be small and doable than large and impossible. Announcing a few days late that you achieved your Giving Tuesday goal can positively impact year-end giving because we all like to be part of a winning team.
  7. What’s the right number of emails to send in December? Your intention is to be top-of-mind without overwhelming – and thus irritating – your supporters.
  8. What will we send on December 29, 30 and/or 31 (in terms of message and look) that will separate us from the pack? Ten percent or more of online giving typically occurs on those three days, so breaking through the inbox clutter is essential.

There’s not a day to waste when it comes to year-end. Even if you have your plan, review it again and keep asking, “Am I doing all the right things to maximize year-end fundraising?”