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What Will Year-End Bring – And What Will You DO With It?

November 29th, 2010

Nearly every non profit earns a substantial amount of its budget at year’s end. For some, this season is a do-or-die time of year. Either way, how many will take the time to analyze which appeals were most successful and which should be re-evaluated?

Overall dollars are important, certainly, but a great deal can be learned by delving into who gave what to which appeal when, why, by what means, etc. Reviewing details of response rates, click through rates and so forth now can help you better plan the upcoming year’s success, once you know what your constituents are responding to.

Take this challenge: Find the separate segments that are performing the very best and the very worst, regardless of whether or not you made more money overall. Where are your trends happening? Which demographics are taking off, and which ones are starting to drop off? Can you see that they are by age, geography, gender – or is it by the channel they are using, such as direct mail, email or social media? Perhaps it’s a mixture of several variables. How will you determine this to make next year’s appeals even better?

In addition to your analysis, it’s essential to keep up with current trends in the industry, which is rapidly changing. Although your organization most likely can’t respond to everything, a good goal would be to add two new things in 2011 that will interest and engage your constituents. For example, perhaps you might start a Facebook page and add video components to your email appeals. These don’t both have to begin on January 1st, but have a plan and work toward projected launch dates for each.

While assessing your year, consider other areas for improvement that affect fund raising indirectly, but may not come to mind immediately when you are doing your initial evaluation.

Find ways to boost your organization’s publicity. If you know a reporter, that’s wonderful, but reach beyond traditional means. What about bloggers? Consider asking several bloggers to write about your latest event, press release or promotion. Also remember to promote directly to your followers and friends, asking them to retweet/forward/share your latest news or video to their friends. This is the nature of social media, after all. (Remember to reciprocate now and then.)

Something else that is crucial to fund raising efforts, but often overlooked: database software. Does your database have dedicated fields for Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, text messaging, etc., or are you using [Other1], [Other2], [Other3] and [Other4]? This will make tracking next to impossible . . . and it’s only going to become more difficult as time goes on. What/how are you going to update your database with social media information or text messaging? Mobile giving and text messaging is only going to become more relevant as people have fewer land lines.

Actively seek feedback from those constituents who support you the most! Getting written documentation, as well as photos and video, will be very compelling testimony that can be used in your appeals (with permission, of course), to demonstrate to other potential donors why your organization is worth contributing to.

Just as you commit to boosting the value of your organization’s Annual Giving program by adding to its portfolio with a couple of new features, make certain that you add to your own professional portfolio as well, and increase your own skills and knowledge by a couple of features this year. Even if your training budget has reduced or evaporated completely, the Bilou Calendar lists many low cost and free online courses throughout the year, and you can subscribe to it. Don’t shortchange yourself or your personal career development.

Also remember that while online courses are very helpful, nothing takes the place of the value of face to face networking. Meeting with those in your profession on a regular basis can provide insight, education, mentoring and connections that possibly lead to a future job one day. If nothing else, staying in touch with those in the same profession helps one feel less isolated. Depending on your area of fund raising, you might find better networking with AFP, AHP, APRA, CASE or NTEN, or a combination therein.

The best year-end gift fund raisers can give to themselves is less exhaustion for next year by earlier, better planning for 2011. This begins with an in depth evaluation of what was done, but the follow through is not only adding some upgrades for the organization’s program, but investing in the fund raiser as well.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

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