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The Hottest Season Yet—For Fundraising

This guest post is by Jay Frost, senior partner at Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, a leading capital campaign consulting firm. 

Once upon a time, charities would send out a year-end appeal … by mail … in late November. And that was their entire fundraising effort.

In an era of ice-bucket challenges, crowdfunding, and nonstop digital solicitation, is a bulk-rate mailing to your list really enough? Of course not. You need to stand out on multiple platforms and meet a heightened set of donor needs and expectations.

Fortunately, many donor engagement techniques that have traditionally been successful can set you apart in a crowded and increasingly complicated fundraising environment.

With all of the emphasis on online year-end solicitation, nonprofits often neglect the most important ways to build donor loyalty and increase giving. For example: In the waning days of 2013, I made gifts to a number of organizations online. Some provided only a digital receipt. Others took weeks to send a paper letter. Two never acknowledged the gifts in any way. Only one provided a personalized postscript.

Which do you think is at the top of my list this year? Think about your own donations last December. Consider why and how you gave, what you responded to, and how your support was acknowledged. Now, which organizations are you likely to support again this year? If they treated you in a way that was more personal, how would that influence your giving in 2014?

The thank-you letter is among our easiest and most powerful tools. The explosion of platforms and technology in the fundraising marketplace should make thanking and further involving our donors easier. Instead, many organizations have not applied the rules of relationship building we already follow so well in the analog world to an expanding and diversifying digital audience.

Building a process for properly acknowledging year-end donors is just one of many simple steps to make your fundraising more successful and sustainable. Each part of the fundraising operation has an essential part to play in attracting and retaining donors—everyone from your president or executive director to the people behind your websites and social media.

Giving, like the stock market, is at historic highs. People are ready to make “good” happen. Are we ready to ask for their support in a way that is tailored to their needs, interests, and identity?

In preparation for my Foundation Center webinar on how to “Get Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign in Shape,” I’ve created a list of specific strategies and tasks that will get you ready to take your campaign to the next level this year. I’m just warming up. Join our webinar on Monday, September 22, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm ET to learn more and share your own insights.

This December, ice buckets notwithstanding, could be the hottest ever for fundraising.

How do you give thanks to your donors? Share your successes (or failures) in our Comments area.

Jay Frost is a senior partner at Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, a leading capital campaign consulting firm. Jay has nearly 30 years of experience in discovering and exploring major fundraising opportunities for thousands of nonprofits. An active industry leader, educator, and author, Jay speaks frequently at local, national, and international conferences on wealth and philanthropy, fundraising research, social media, and transnational giving.

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Bone up on this topic with these items from our collection:

How to Thank Your Donors (Live Chat Transcript)

What information should be in a gift acknowledgement letter? Where can I find samples? (Knowledge Base Article)

Exponential Fundraising: A Conversation with Jennifer McCrea (Video)

Capturing the Attention of the Next Generation of Online Donors (Podcast)

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