Roy C. Jones, CFRE

I played high school and college football and when we knew the opposing team was going to need a BIG play on offense to win the game, guess what we did? WE BLITZED!

We sent everybody on the team after their quarterback. I think even our coaches and guys on the sidelines went after their QB too. In fundraising and development, if there was ever a time to “blitz” it is when you enter the 4th quarter. Donors are in the decision making mode about who to make donations to and I can promise you the charity that gets the gift is the one that blitzes the donor, cuts through all the clutter and makes a clear, compelling case for yearend support.

Yes, it’s that time again. The 4th quarter has arrived and what play are your going to call? By any metric or system of measurement in fund development the last quarter of the year is the most important and the last week of the 4th quarter is by far the most profitable week for any not-for-profit organization. I often refer to this week as “golden week”.

Marketing “pros” know that once the Christmas appeal is in the mail that it is NOT the time to “take a break” and relax until January.

The best development leaders bear down during the month of December to insure that the last 4 weeks of the year are a huge success.  For most healthy non-profits the last week of the year is the most profitable 7-days of the calendar year.

I know some development directors who “swear by” the last week of the year. They contend that reaching their annual goals often comes down to the last few days of the year. Most contend it is often the difference between ending the year in the black or sinking deeper into the red.

The best executives strategically plan for a “yearend” appeal and reach out to their best donors for one last year-end gift. Remember, it does not need to be a “balance the books” financial crisis, but the appeal should remind donors it is not too late to get their year-end tax deduction and help their favorite charity. 

Be cynical if you want, but if your 2011 was like most not-for-profit organizations you are behind in achieving your financial goals. You have had to make some tough decisions this year and the fact is that unless a few of your best donors step up to make just one last yearend gift you may be forced to cut vital services and programs. Let me be blunt… sometimes the truth works!

Now is the time to be direct with our best donors. Tell them if fundraising has been slow and you need their help so that you do not have to cut vital programs in 2012.

To repeat a phrase that I used to tell political candidates… “a real crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Take immediate steps to insure that your ministry or charity can have an extra “payday” in 2011. Do not delay. Look at every revenue stream you have and see if you can make one last appeal to remind donors and supporters that it is not too late to impact 2012. The gift they make could be the difference between your organization continuing vital service or being force to turn those in dire need away.

Here are just a few suggestions for maximizing your cash flow during the “Golden Week” – last week of the calendar year:

  1. Major Donor Letter. Send a hand addressed, multi-stamped, first class letter to your major donors telling them of the “year end crisis” you are faced with. Include a reply envelop with live stamped first class postage. This tells the donor that this is not some “fund raising ploy” or mass marketing technique. The challenges you face are real or you would not have gone to the expense of writing them and sending it first class. I have seen many organizations do a 10 to 20 percent response rate during the last 10 days of the year. REMEMBER, EVEN IN THIS TOUGH ECONOMY THERE ARE DONORS WHO MUST MAKE A YEAR END DONATION OR END UP PAYING “UNCLE SAM” ON APRIL 15.
  2. E-mail Blast. Send a “year end, balance the books” appeal to every email address you have. I suggest sending at least 3 different appeals in your email campaign during the last 10 days of the year. Sure, you will get a few complaints, but to most of your supporters they understand the importance of ending the year in the black, not red. Most who take the time to see your emails, and as importantly, notice that you have emailed multiple times the last week of the year, know that the challenges you face at year end are real.
  3. Direct Mail Letter to Regular Donors. Now is the time to send that “Urgent Gram” to your regular (those that give under $1,000) direct mail donors. If you ever had a “real reason” to send that year-end appeal 2012 is the year to do it. Trust me, it is worth squeezing in one last pay day. Push your January appeal out a week or so later and create a hole in your mail schedule so that the Monday after Christmas your “year-end” appeal is in home.
  4. Do not forget your monthly donors. Your sustainer file should be mailed the year end appeal too. If you have your sustainers coded for a “limited mail or no mail” do not forget to create a flag so they are forced into your select for the mailing. In addition, your monthly donors who have an HPC (highest previous contribution) of $1,000+ should get a phone call thanking them for their support and asking them to make a “sacrificial year end gift”.
  5. Search Engine Marketing. The last week of the year sees a HUGE spike in major donors cruising the internet looking for a local charity to make that last gift to for the year-end income tax deduction. Beg, borrow or barter for your organization… sink another $500 to $1,000 into SEM. Search Engine Marketing will pay for itself. There is no doubt that during the last week of the year you will reap large rewards and a huge number of new donors at the major gift level.
  6. Earned Media. Sure you are exhausted… you have had that special Thanksgiving push and you had a very big Christmas push, but trust me… do just a little bit more. Hold a press conference with a local celebrity or politician reminding your community that YOUR CHARITY is the group to consider making a year-end gift to. Think of creative ways to get the media on site at your ministry or charity during this week. Remember, the last week of the year is the “slowest news” of the year. The media is frantic to find content and stories to write, film and broadcast about.

Do not quit! Finish strong! The last week of the year is not the time to “take off” or relax. IT IS THE TIME TO BLITZ. Your year could literally be turned around by a single major gift. Keep telling yourself that “it just takes one gift” to literally change your world. Work hard. Finish strong and take advantage of the “GOLDEN WEEK” in fundraising.