For fundraisers, the last few weeks of the year are crucial. Despite the fact that many donors rank the tax deduction for charitable contributions as a less-important reason for giving, nearly $1 of every $5 of total annual giving is given in December. This makes the impact of a slip-up on the part of a fundraiser quite significant.

But as important as December is to fundraising, the truth is that the rest of the year is critical for December giving. The relationships we’ve built and the systems we’ve refined will be tested to the max this month. This, however, does not mean fundraisers can coast into the new year.

Some important things to stay on top of in these remaining weeks are:

  1. Response time to donor calls, emails and letters. With holidays and staff taking vacation, prioritizing on this can often decline. But as donors are making decisions about year-end gifts, the organization that is highly responsive can often be the one selected to receive the donation. This is especially crucial for donors wishing to make a gift of stock, donate their required minimum distribution from an IRA, or make other gifts that require more planning.
  2. Mailshop efficiency. Stay on top of any last-minute mailings as mailshops are often busier than ever this month. Make sure your mailing isn’t delayed by communicating regularly to make sure nothing is holding it up.
  3. Your online giving page on your website. A giving portal that is slow, too complicated or demands too much information may drive potential donors to another charity that has streamlined the process. In this day of swiping and scanning to pay for everything from coffee to groceries, filling out a complicated form to give a donation is not acceptable. Donors are used to the convenience of the dominant sites online and studies show that many expect everything to be flawless online.
  4. Receipting. A timely receipt and thank you is essential. By the time you get year-end giving statements out in late January, donors have often forgotten why they chose to give to you. Don’t replace genuine gratitude for giving with what is essentially a tax document. Yes, it costs money to receipt gifts, but this can be invaluable for deepening relationships and building donor confidence in your organization.
  5. The telephone. The telephone can be overlooked because it’s just far more efficient to send an email, but a quick call to a donor to say thank you for a larger-than-usual gift, answer a simple question, apologize for something that left a donor frustrated or to follow up on a concern the donor expressed earlier in the year is a powerful way to say, “You are more to us than just a donor. We value you.” Prepare for the call by jotting down notes for what you will say if you end up leaving a message; while that won’t replace a personal contact, sometimes it’s the best we can do so don’t be caught unprepared to leave a meaningful message.

Here’s to fundraising success this month!