It’s time: we’re headed into the calendar year-end. If you’re anything like us, the chaos is in full swing!
So, let us bring some calm to the chaos. Here are some insights and practical year-end fundraising tips from across our team to make your year-end a little less stressful.
Trust your strategic fundraising schedule. You made it for a reason.
When talking about the scheduling of year-end fundraising, our Director Client Experience, Jenn, had this to say: “I think sometimes when we’re in the thick of it at year-end we start to question our plan. I always say: the second guessing is an exhaustion reaction as opposed to a well thought-out, strategic reaction.”
So, what do you do about that exhaustion reaction? Jenn’s got more wisdom to impart.
“My number one practical year-end fundraising tip is: regardless of whatever hurdles or snags that you hit along the way – because we all know that there’s tons of competing priorities at this time of year – hold tight to your schedule. There is this tendency to get a domino effect: if one thing runs late you bump the next thing and so on – but timing is so critical at this time of year. Giving each piece that you put into market enough breathing room is truly important.”
Our Manager Creative People and Systems, Phil, is on the same wavelength about planning ahead:
“There’s always some little hiccup at some point. And if you’re behind or working on a razor thin timeline, there’s just no wiggle room. We build our timelines and our production schedules with that buffer, and that’s why.”
Year-end fundraising tips for your direct mail print production.
Direct Mail: alive, kicking, and a bit of a different beast at year-end than any other time. Our Print Production Specialists had a lot to of year-end fundraising tips, and our Print Production Specialist & Team Lead, Nadine, boiled it down:
“From a production standpoint, don’t wait until year-end to start thinking about it.”
Our Print Production Specialist Andrew agrees, “The turnaround time for getting anything done – especially the closer you get to the year-end – gets longer and longer because the printers are also facing the same busy season. You need to get in there and get your stuff queued up to be printed way earlier than you might otherwise think you would.”
Timelines everywhere are crying out from being squeezed, poked, and prodded. Our Print Production Specialist, Aaron, has a practical tip up his sleeve: “From a print production point of view, everyone is entering their busy season. My advice is: get ahead of the game if you can do it. Hitting your due dates will help busy season and your relationship with your suppliers. They’re going to be feeling the same crunch if not more than you are as a client, so communicating and then hitting those dates is a bit of a mental health saver all the way around too.”
One plus one equals many (year-end donors).
In terms of communication touchpoints, there can never be too many – at least at year-end.
Our Director Client Experience, Melanie, reframes the whole year-end time in one simple sentence,
“Your donors are going to interact with you in many different ways, so you shouldn’t limit the way that you interact with them.”
And Jenn echoes that same thought, “It is such a unique time of year where we have donors who are expecting the asks to come: so, put them out there into market.”
It’s true that year-end is a special time, and it’s not the time to be worried about communicating too much, says Melanie, “You can’t do too much at year end in terms of fundraising. Donors are used to it – it’s the season of giving. They want to hear from you, so don’t worry about over communicating.”
Not all communication is comfortable, but sometimes that makes it even more important. Nadine gives us her take on mistakes, “When an unhappy donor reaches out with a complaint, take that as an opportunity to really communicate. It could turn into a broader discussion that generates a huge gift – it’s happened before. That extra contact is key – even if you messed things up.”
Integrated fundraising campaigns call for us to look at donors a little differently. Melanie has the insight: “My number one year-end fundraising tip is not to bucket your donors by channel. You’re communicating to them through different channels, but they’re interacting with you as one single organization. Think about your donors not as online donors, nor direct mail donors, nor event donors; but simply as donors to the organization.”
Self-care matters and it’s here to stay.
A huge part of year-end fundraising is the toll it takes on your team and yourself. This field is, ultimately, about taking care of our communities. We can do that best when we make time for self-care. Account Manager Maureen pulls out the big G word this time of year: gratitude.
“My number one tip would be gratitude. Whether that’s for donors – because stewardship is always the best thing you can do to bring in more gifts, especially during the busy season – but also gratitude to the other staff on your team.”
If that wasn’t enough, there’s plenty of reason to focus on gratitude this time of year, “When you’re able to connect with both your team and donors using that thankfulness, it brings you back to the mission. It’s a really important thing when everybody is run off their feet. So, welcome it if you can. Be thankful for all the good that you’re doing.”
Account Manager Cindy connects it all – all the effort, the work, the stress – back to why we do what we do.
“In the midst of all this, how do we make sure we’re taking care of ourselves? How do we grab those moments of refresh that get us through the next wave, over the next hurdle?”
“Pause, make yourself take a breath, and remember the moment you fell in love with this work.”
“Sometimes we forget the core magic of what we do and I think remembering is truly what gets us through the harder days.”
Nadine gives us another centring thought, “I think that it’s sometimes hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind that is direct mail at this time of year, but as long as you keep your feet on the ground and your eyes looking forward, you’re going to get there.”
“We all take this big deep collective breath in January.” Says Jenn. When you do take that breath, you can rest assured the Good Workers are taking it with you.