Fundraising Weather Report: Summer Really Is Winter

We are in the midst of summer which generally means that the kids are out of school, it’s vacation time, and you should really start preparations for your year-end campaign. Unlike Santa Claus, fundraisers and marketers cannot wait until back-to-school to get to work and still hope for their big, year-end plans to go off without a hitch.

    The importance of starting early was the premise of “Plan Now for a Successful Year End Giving Campaign,” presented by Steve Abrahamson, director, direct-response marketing for the National Audubon Society and John Mix, senior director of marketing for Human Rights Watch during the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Fundraising Day in New York. During the session, the presenters laid out the three stages of preparation needed to ensure that your year-end campaign is firing on all cylinders come the holidays. They are:

  • Start planning at least six months out. Build campaign emails in advance as to ease your burden come November and December. This time should also be spent reviewing the successes and struggles of last year and building up membership and/or donor files. This might include building an activist list with petitions, investing in paid search, or acquiring emails via Facebook advertising;
  • When the kids go back to school, you get to work. Labor Day to Thanksgiving is a time for sharing the measurable results of your work with prospective donors and testing various segmentations, subject lines, giving incentives, and ask amounts. Consider alternating gift asks with other types of contact such as quizzes and non-monetary asks such as, in the National Audubon Society’s case, symbolic adoptions; and,
  • Ramp up until the end. The heat gets turned up after Thanksgiving and you should consider responding by picking up efforts on paid search, testing conversions from one-time donor to sustainer, and taking an interactive tone with messaging as the clock counts down — encouraging participation to meet benchmarks. Have a day-by-day schedule for emails; plot out messaging by message, ask, and signor; and schedule a website takeover for the campaign.