Holiday Times are Critical to Development

I know many fundraising professionals in the development industry that literally take the last six to eight weeks of the year off. They move into autopilot mode. They get off the road and nestle snug in the offices (and beds), with visions of sugar-plums dancing around in their heads…

Christmas is the best time of the year to build real friendships with your supporters and board members. Instead of getting comfortable with “home for the holidays,” development professionals should use the season to demonstrate to their donors that they care about them and that they truly see them as friends and not a “mark” for the next big gift. Thanksgiving and Christmas should be a time of “ministering” to your donors.

Rest assured of one thing, money always follows ministry. If your supporters, board members and major donors know that you care more about your relationship with them than you do their money, the gifts will flow to your charity or cause. However, if the holidays come off as some contrived marketing technique, donors smell it coming from a mile away. You may lift giving response rates with such approaches but rest assured there will be fewer zeroes at the end of each check.

Cash gifts should be a natural byproduct of connecting with your friends. In order to develop donor relationships you have to listen and let the donor “tell you” how and what they want to give each holiday season. Knowing your donors giving priorities will successfully harvest bigger contributions by December 31st.

A donor recently said something I have heard many times before, “Roy, you are the first person to ever ask me what my goals for giving are and how it may have changed from last year.” Drill down into your donors’ hearts and minds to understand their attitudes and desires. You can then match up your non-profit’s projects with the need the donor is feeling led to support.

If you will spend the holiday season building real relationships with people who are your real friends, as the economy turns around, giving is going to increase exponentially. But be careful how you talk with your donors NOW. Christmas, this year, should be about ministering to them, appreciating them and caring about what their needs are.

Donors are becoming more conservative in their giving. It is critical that you understand that the charity who gets the most money at year end is, most likely, the charity who spends the most time with the donor. To quote an old Southern Civil War general, “The one who wins always get there the firstest with the mostest…” Not good grammar, but a great year-end fundraising philosophy.

Now people are giving to fewer organizations – AND only to trusted organizations. Use the holidays to develop real friendships and relationship with your supporters. Remember that credibility is essential for your fundraising now more than ever. How do you establish credibility?

The most important aspect to boosting your credibility for year-end giving is that you cared enough to come see your friend at Christmas… while all the other charities and nonprofits were tucked in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

Push back from your desk, get in your car or get on that plane, go visit your best supporters and do one thing… say thank you and listen to their hearts at the holidays. You will not regret it… money always follows ministry.

Coach Ro Jo’s Top 10 Holiday Fundraising Tips:

1. Start Baking Cookies: Hand deliver home made cookies to your top 100 donors and see what happens!

2. Hand Addressed Christmas Cards: Don’t do a mass produced, laser-signed Christmas card. Take the time to hand address and write a heart felt message for each one.

3. Call and Leave A Message In Santa’s Voice: I’m not kidding. Thank them for supporting your charity and then in your own voice, laugh and be joyful, tell them to have a great holiday and leave your cell phone number. SEE WHAT HAPPENS!

4. Send a Table Center Piece or Wreath to Your Top Financial Partners for Thanksgiving or Christmas: Just say thank you… and make sure it comes from you and your spouse (not the charity). Make sure your home or cell phone number is on the card.

5. Make Christmas Ornaments at Your Charity: Make it a staff or volunteer project. It teaches thankfulness and it will be very special when you send it to your donors and tell them how it was made. Send a picture along of the team making the ornaments.

6. Create an iPhone video: Thank the donor by first and last name while standing in the middle of a project or area that reflects the work of your charity. Thank them by name. No fancy music. No words or banner adds. Just a gritty 30 second iPhone thank you message. Be sure to text it as well as email it.

7. Mail a Christmas Present: Buy your top donors a small gift. $25 or less. Take the time to wrap it in beautiful paper and attach a heartfelt note about what their friendship means to you. I always mail it UPS because I like the driver knocking on the door. Remember, your relationship is NEVER about the money. Don’t talk about their giving in your note, talk about their friendship.

8. Thanksgiving Day Texts: Send out 50 to 100 individual text messages to your top supporters thanking them on this special day. This isn’t a mass “Happy Thanksgiving Day” text. This is a personal thank you/wishing you a heartfelt day of celebration.

9. Ask The Donor To Send a Card to YOU. If you work with children, seniors, the sick, those with any kind of need… Write and call you top donors and ask them to send a card or two to you that you can give to those your charity or ministry serves. Don’t mention money… see what happens!

10. On Christmas Day send a short letter “counting your blessings” to your top supporters. Get personal. Be thankful for family, kids, and end the note with being thankful for lifelong friends… “friends like you.” Don’t mention money. Just be thankful on Christmas day!

Remember, a major donor who invests in your charity must believe their relationship with you is NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. Use the last eight weeks of the year to prove it!