With the New Year upon us, it’s tradition to make some resolutions. To this end, we have outlined five key efforts to help you prepare for 2015 year-end fundraising.  Yes, we are way ahead of the game, but its important to take these five points into consideration now so that you can more effectively integrate them into your overall plan for 2015 and be ready for the holiday giving period.

Focus the Staff on What Counts:

This is easier said than done, but it’s critical: when heading into the final months of the year, every member of an effective fundraising team (and key leadership) must relinquish everything that isn’t directly associated with cultivating donors and soliciting gifts. Develop a sense of urgency among staff — and supporters — and make every day count up to the very last day of the year.

It’s no secret that the holidays are the best charitable giving time of the year.  Consequently, an effective fundraising team needs all hands on deck in the final months.  Every minute that a team member’s focus is elsewhere  — such as on administrative tasks or planning the company holiday party — is a minute that could be better used to call or visit a donor, send a handwritten note, or perhaps send an informative email.  Free up staff to focus on donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  It’s that simple, and extra attention to donors at this critical time always pays big dividends!

Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate Again:

It’s amazing how often organizations scale back donor communications during the last few months of the year.  This decision is often based on the fear of bothering donors during a busy time, or the belief that donors already receive too many appeals. Your may fear that your organization could become associated with junk mail, or a plan to reduce or eliminate key donors from year-end communications because they “always give anyway.” 

Let’s face it: if a donor really loves you as much as you love them, they won’t find multiple communications bothersome.  In fact, your donors will expect communication — as long as it’s relevant and meaningful.  So communicate often, but communicate with purpose.  Of course, don’t forget to use variety in your communication strategy to include personal phone calls, handwritten notes, tweets, Facebook updates, emails and direct mail appeals.  It’s the integration of all of these personal and meaningful efforts that will be most effective in your year-end fundraising.

Refine and Share you Message Organically:

Spend time to refine key messaging and talking points, but don’t stop there.: ensure that everyone in your organization (not just development folks) is fully versed in the message that you want articulated to donors, prospects and the general public.  Everyone in your organization is a goodwill ambassador, as they not only come into regular contact with donors, volunteers or even board members, but they also interact with friends, family and relatives at parties and other functions.

Equip your entire team with the right knowledge and understanding of the organizational needs, so everyone — from interns to the CEO — can represent your organization in a personal and compelling way.  Employees are often your most enthusiastic advocates. With that in mind, empower staff with the tools and message to give your organization that extra bump in the final months.  This is not where the big money will be found, but the goodwill and awareness established helps position your organization within the local, regional and national audience.

Tell Your Story:

Fundraising is all about telling a story, and that story must explain how your organization is changing lives.  Donors typically want to witness how their philanthropic investment is making a difference for a school, a museum, an ocean, a hospital, a homeless family, a terminal cancer patient, or the disadvantaged child pursuing a college education. In other words, every organization needs to ask — and concisely answer — how it uses donors’ gifts to affect positive change.  That is the compelling and personal story to tell your donors.

The better you tell your story, the better your mission will resonate with donors and the more money you will raise.  A compelling story deepens the affinity between your mission and the heart of the donor.  Learn to tell your story and learn the best way to share it, whether it’s through new media, traditional media, or personal visits. Become a passionate storyteller and you’ll become an even more effective fundraiser.

Have a Specific Plan for Major Donors:

You certainly have key benefactors who are loyal advocates that you can rely on to step up to the plate during the holiday season, but ensure that you engage them in the most effective way possible, and that you’re not just chasing their wallet. Make sure your top philanthropists are at the top of your meeting list — not just for a solicitation — but also for continued cultivation and stewardship.  Don’t make every communication about money.  Instead, focus more of your donor contacts on communicating your compelling story, thanking them profusely, and drawing them ever deeper into a relationship with your organization.

Most importantly, make sure you have a plan in place for these key individuals. Otherwise, critical work may get left to the last minute, or worse, never get done. Take the time to develop a year-end timeline that outlines when to call, when to visit, when to meet and when to email.  With that all scheduled, then, and only then, schedule when to make the solicitation for the year-end gift.


Best of luck with your 2105 fundraising efforts! Expect it to be non-stop and at points exhausting, but if you plan well now you are assured success later in the year. During the coming months, we will take a closer look at how each of these efforts plays out in more detail.

If you would like any assistance with fundraising strategies and other marketing support, please call 630-731-0489 or email eric.streiff@opusfidelis.com.