News & Press: Member Insights

Looking Ahead to the New Year

Thursday, September 24, 2015   (0 Comments)
By Dean Rein, President, and Don Souhrada, Vice President, Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt
It seems that we’re always in planning mode for the “End of the Year,” be it the calendar year, fiscal year or both. Whether your year ends on June 30, December 31, or perhaps a more creative date, many fundraisers put most of their focus on getting to that finish line.

Looking ahead to the end of the calendar year, chances are you’ll have a lot to be proud of, with giving having reached an all-time high in 2014. According to Giving USA 2015, released in June, giving has surpassed the high watermark that preceded the recession. We are certainly seeing a renewed sense of optimism while we work with our clients. These are exciting times and we need to make the most of this upward trend to strengthen our development programs and, ultimately, our organizations.

We’ve learned some important trends from Giving USA, which confirmed once again that most organizations need to put the majority of their focus on giving from individuals. According to the report, individuals are, by far, the largest source of giving at 72%. By adding in the 7% of gifts given by family foundations and the 8% of gifts giving by bequests, individuals account for about 87% of all giving in 2014.

While it’s important to celebrate this nationwide increase in giving, as well as your organization’s own accomplishments, it’s equally as important to not let the celebration last too long into the new year.

Momentum is your friend. It’s understandable to want to catch your breath after sprinting to the finish line. Here are four tips to help you get a (less stressful) head-start at the beginning of the year.

1. Determine when you receive major gifts during the year.

We know that there are times during the year that we get the bulk of our gifts. But it’s important to know as you start your year what the monthly totals actually are. After all, donors don’t all give in the same way, and they don’t always follow your schedule or care when your fiscal year ends!

Often in fundraising we put a lot of focus on reaching our end-of-year goals. A better way to track your progress, though, is to set up incremental goals along the way. You can set these smaller goals by comparing your closed solicitations to the corresponding period during previous years.

One strategy for doing this is to measure your income month over month (or week over week for your annual fund), starting the first week of your fiscal year. You can compare this year’s progress to the same period last year to see how you measure against yourself. It will be eye-opening to know if you are falling behind early, and exciting to see when you’re getting ahead.

2. Create a gift table and rebalance your portfolio.

Creating a gift table is a great way to map out what it takes to reach your goal. Regardless of the size of your goal, we know that a successful year will require gifts large and small. If you haven’t done so by July, take a moment to determine how many gifts, and at what levels, will be required to meet your goal.

You may compare your gift table with your prospect pool and notice that you don’t have the prospects you need to reasonably make your goal. If you struggled to meet your goals last year, now may be the time to wealth screen your database, rebalance your portfolio, and focus on your best prospects.

3. Get realistic about making visits.

Your gift table will most likely show you that you need to make dozens of closed solicitations in order to reach your goal. Closing those solicitations likely requires visiting at least 4 times as many people as the number of gifts it will take to reach your goal. For many development officers, that will mean 10-15 visits on average per month. Realizing in the first month of your fiscal year how many solicitations you’ll need to complete could help you avoid an end-of-year panic during month twelve.

4. Don’t procrastinate. Execute solicitations as soon as possible.

Take a look at prospects that supported your organization earlier during the last fiscal year. Maybe it’s time to reach out to them and ask for an early gift! Which of your prospects will require multiple contacts before you can solicit them? Starting your contacts earlier in the year may mean they can be solicited sooner.

Positive thinking is incredibly important as a fundraiser. Starting strong and seeing those early wins will help encourage you as you move through the year. When you see more positive gains in the beginning, you’ll be more confident in making future asks fearlessly. Harnessing the momentum from that positive energy may even help you to surpass your goals!

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