Optimizing the Season of Giving

Posted on 12/01/2023

For many, nothing is more motivating than a hard deadline. That’s what makes the season of giving, which runs from Giving Tuesday to December 31 each year, such an important time for annual giving programs. 

Even though fundraising goals are often tied to the fiscal year—which ends in June for the vast majority of educational institutions—the last weeks of the calendar year are critical to a programs’ overall success. Typically, about 20 percent of annual revenue comes to schools and colleges in December (vs. 10-11 percent in June). [Source: Blackbaud Institute]

So before you close up your office or shut down the computer for the holiday break, here are some tips for making the most of the “most wonderful time of the year.”

  1. Make sure ALL of your prospects get some kind of appeal during this season. Emails, postcards, and social posts are the most inexpensive ways to do this—and they can be adapted easily to include a “Happy Holidays” message along with the ask.
  2. Focus on your donors who are most likely to give, and remind them of the amount and date of their last gift—as many will not remember but will want to keep their giving consistent, or perhaps even upgrade.
  3. Highlight December 31 and “tax-deductible” messaging in all of your communications to create urgency and remind donors of the benefits of giving at this time of year.
  4. Establish a hierarchy for Season’s Greetings cards. You’ll want to ensure your top donors and prospects get a signed card from the president, but don’t forget to appreciate other donor segments too. Consider sending cards signed by everyone on your team, or an email with a video of holiday decorations on campus.
  5. Plan for the new year. Calendar-year end is also the midpoint of your annual giving program. Take the time to analyze year-to-date reports and reflect on progress towards your annual goal. How does that compare to where you expected to be at this point in the year? What do you need to change to ensure you’ll hit the next quarter’s goal?

Somehow, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s seems to get shorter every year—no matter how many weeks are displayed on the calendar. Amidst the hustle and bustle that this time of year inevitably brings, be sure to maximize the natural incentive that the calendar-year end provides to donors at all stages of the annual giving life cycle.

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