November 15, 2023
Nonprofit Technology & Fundraising Blog
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While December can bring a lot of festive excitement, it’s one of the busiest times of the year, both in our personal and professional lives. Nonprofits are no exception, especially when the end of the year typically sees the highest volume of donations. But just like Amazon’s 1-click buying feature simplifies holiday gifting, there are things you can do to make the season run smoothly. We all know that when things get overwhelming, checklists can help to keep things organized and on pace. So, here’s your essential end-of-year fundraising checklist, (and the tools you’ll need to get them done) before ringing in the new year.
The last weeks of December account for approximately 30% of all charitable donations throughout the entire year. A number of donors will send a check by mail, but a large constituency will go online to make their donations. Make sure your website and online giving form are up to the task. Take some time to optimize your online giving forms. Not only will this ensure you are making the most of the year-end busy season, but the more online contributions you process, the less manual gift data entry you have to complete.
Along with those last-minute gifts comes the work of making sure it all gets recorded. Don’t forget to enter all of your donations, both monetary and in-kind. If you have a lot of volunteers, it’s a good idea to track their donation of time and talent too. Save yourself the added data entry by using an online volunteer timesheet. Any task you can cross off your list can definitely help to lighten the load. Remember, a lot of end-of-year tasks hinge on having a complete record of your yearly donations, so it’s important to finish data entry in a timely manner.
Just as a complete history of donations is vital, so is the accuracy of your information. Donor communication, reporting, goal setting for the new year, etc. all depends on data that is clean and complete. So what kind of clean-up needs to happen?
You wouldn’t want to send your favorite aunt two fruitcakes. First, it’s a waste of time and money, and second, what is she going to do with two fruitcakes? The same is even truer for your donors (your aunt, at least, will forgive you). Not only will you be wasting money on additional mailings, your reporting totals on donor counts will be inaccurate, and you may send an incomplete annual donation summary if you enter a donor’s gifts on separate records. Don’t give your nonprofit’s donors a reason to question how you spend the money they donate to you. Fortunately, this task doesn’t have to be burdensome. DonorPerfect’s duplicate merge tool makes it easy to search out and merge any records that you need to join.
Scrolling through an endless list of old codes when entering gifts is time-consuming and might lead to inaccurate data. Marking old codes as inactive is a quick process and will keep you in the holiday spirit all year long.
There is a lot of constituent communication that happens around the end of the year. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have complete and updated mailing addresses for your donors. If you discover donors without an address, see if you can find them in the white pages or simply take them off your mailing list. If they have an email address, make sure you’re communicating with them through your emails.
Missing just parts of an address? You can use DonorPerfect’s Verify an Address tool to make sure you have a complete and accurate mailing address for your donor. For more tips, check out How to Make Sure Donor Addresses Are Correct.
After you’ve completed the last of your data entry, it’s time to evaluate the progress you made toward the goals you set last January. Measuring your success will help as you plan for the year ahead. Let’s look at the questions you’ll want to ask and the helpful end-of-year reports that can provide the answers.
Are you wondering how many donors you retained, lost, or gained this year and how these numbers compare to prior years? Check out a report like the Comprehensive Donor Revenue Analysis report to gain some insight into your supporters’ statuses. This report will show you two years of data side by side so you can determine your progress from one year to the next. Even if you have a large donor attrition rate (donor’s who have stopped giving) don’t lose heart. There are always ways to reconnect with contributors.
Evaluating the performance of your solicitations is vital for planning out your fundraisers in the coming year, and will help you set measurable and attainable goals. A report like the Solicitation Analysis report can help you determine not only how much a particular appeal raised but also the cost of the fundraiser so you can easily determine the net revenue. If you have appeals bringing in a large volume of donations, but the expenses are overwhelming, this report can help you find your most effective appeals to focus your attention on.
The holidays were made for staying in touch. You send cards to family and friends you may not have spoken to all year. Those who supported your cause throughout the year need to hear from you too. Here is a quick run through of what you should consider sending:
End of year appeals often bring in a large percentage of your overall revenue. Take some time crafting this message to your donors. You may even want to consider segmenting your appeal to target specific audiences. Personalized and meaningful communications can make a big impact on giving.
Do you have donors who have lapsed on their pledge payments? Run a quick report to see any donors who may have outstanding balances. This is a great time to reach out to them with a more personal touch than just an invoice. Sometimes a donor just needs a gentle reminder. Other times, especially in financially trying years, your donor may need to adjust the pledge or cancel the pledge entirely.
Either way, it’s important to follow up on outstanding pledges. You don’t want to continue to reach out to a donor who does not have the means to fulfill a pledge just as much as you don’t want to leave money on the table for a donor who only needs a follow-up. For those donors who cannot fulfill their pledge, you can close the pledge to keep your records clean and up to date.
Finally, make sure you prepare for your donors’ year end tax letters. This can loom over your head and seem like an enormous task, but after you’ve taken on data clean up and reporting to ensure accuracy, this will be a quick process. DonorPerfect provides email and letter templates to make it easy to know what to say. Check out Tips for Better Year-End Acknowledgements for even more advice. You can also join DonorPerfect for a Support Spotlight webinar that will provide all the instructions you need to get your end-of-year emails and letters out the door and off your to-do list.
Yes, the end of the year inevitably becomes very busy, but with an organized list of objectives you can get the work done. We’ve even written up a printable checklist for you, so you can cross off your tasks as you finish them. Enjoy all that the season has to offer, and celebrate the successes and struggles of the past year with those who support your mission. If you have any tips for getting through the hustle and bustle, please share in the comments below. Your fellow fundraisers will benefit from your sage advice.