Year-end YIKES? Keep this in mind.

Don't Panic!

Photo thanks to Jim Linwood

If you haven’t got your plan down for the end of the year giving season, you’re probably too late for much of a plan. You’re going to have to improvise and run with it. That’s when some experience can help. Like an athlete’s muscle memory, good instincts can get you through.

Here are some things I’ve learned over the years. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you, too.

The appeal is the fun part. Then the work really begins.
Do you enjoy the creative aspects of your job? Hunting down the best story, writing appeals, creating something visually appealing as well? Me too. And at this time of year, you’re probably also busy on a tight schedule of mail and email communications. It gets to feel almost mechanical. Push that stuff out the door!

But the real work starts after it’s out. Sure, some gifts will come right in. Bless them. But for most, it won’t be enough. You’ll have to ask again. You’ll have to send personal notes. Or email them personally. Or call.

That fabulous appeal was just the first step.

Spend at least as much time on your response form as your letter.
This is the piece that – if you’re lucky – stays behind when the rest of your work ends in the recycle bin. Make it colorful. Make it compelling. Make it count! It’s going to have to do the appeal’s job each time your potential donor goes through her pile.

Ditto your thank you letter.
Your thank you letter is the first step to your next gift. Too many don’t ever arrive at all. (I know. Isn’t that awful?) Or are boring and business-like. Or self-absorbed. Make yours a love fest. You’re cementing a relationship you hope will last a long time. Make it sound like that matters to you.

Get your data right.
Get the names right. And the salutations. But also segment smartly. Make sure you’re mailing the right message to the right people. Otherwise, your hard work is right out the window.

Details, details.
Due to a communication mishap, my last appeal went out with an indicia on the envelopes instead of the nonprofit stamps I wanted. Watch out for the little things that can make a big difference.

But don’t let process get in the way of production.
You can easily get caught up in making everything perfect. You have to know when to let go and get going. The ask you never make doesn’t result in any gifts.

Then do it all again.
Yes, December 31st comes. But nothing really stops there – it’s all a never-ending cycle.

Good luck! And try to enjoy the ride.

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