On January 1, I did not call all my friends and introduce myself to them as if we had never met. I did not consider everyone in my life to be a stranger. Yet a popular comment on social media at the start of this year was "Welcome to January 1. Your % of budget raised is 0."
If you feel panic over the start of a new year and a big budget number to raise, then a goal for this year is to invest time into three strategies - stewardship, monthly giving, and pledges.
One of the great things about good donor stewardship is that is creates a virtuous cycle. Research has consistently show that by thanking donors and showing them the impact of their giving, those same donors are more likely to renew their giving. Even better, it just simply is the right thing to do.
If you don't have a strong donor stewardship plan, just grab a piece of big paper, and write each month on it (January, February, March ...) and write one idea a month. Or, get into the habit of writing personal thank you notes to all your donors. Or call 3 donors a day. Whatever it is, start doing something to turn your donors into friends of the organization.
Monthly giving has been a huge blessing for charities. In accounting terms, having a steady stream of gifts provides "income smoothing." In other words, your monthly stream of donors means that you have a set amount you can count on. In the months that are traditionally thin for gifts (like January, August, and October), your monthly donors are there making a difference.
If you don't have a monthly giving program a simple way to start is to always ask for a monthly gift when you ask for an annual gift. Many charities now have a monthly gift as the default on their website where a donor then has to proactively change to a single gift. Other charities have monthly giving as an option on their donation form when they do a donor mailing. Either way, your monthly donors can make a huge difference. And don't forget to thank and steward them so that they stay connected to you.
A great way to build your intermediate and major gifts is through pledges. Honestly it is just as easy to ask for a gift of $10,000 a year for five years as to ask for a single gift of $10,000. And if the donor says "yes," not only do you have $50,000 plus a reduced chance of the donor lapsing, you have also flipped the relationship from one of asking for a big gift each and every year to one where you spend four years thanking and stewarding and then asking for a renewal in year five. It is a great way to fundamentally improve your revenues and your relations with donors - classic win/win.
Stop thinking of yourself as starting from zero each calendar year and start thinking about long-term relationships with your donors. Not only will your bottom line be stronger, your work will be more enjoyable.
Ann Rosenfield, MBA CFRE is the only person to attain the Mo Davies Award for Excellence in Small Charity Fundraising as both an Executive Director and as a Board member. She has raised over $100MM over her career thanks to generous donors, hard-working volunteers, helpful colleagues and caring staff.