Set the spring stage for year-end giving

It's never too early to get your ducks in a row for year-end fundraising. There's plenty of advice for how to navigate the fourth-quarter time-crunch, but let's not forget the power of the early bird. Planning ahead can lift some of the pressure once the autumn drive for donations hits. Thinking into the future is not just about making your job easier, but also working better. A clear-headed and well-rested team of employees and volunteers is going to be more effective at garnering funds.

It's impossible to overstress the importance of the winter holiday season. In December, you'll receive 30 percent of your yearly funds, according to the Network for Good. The final three days of the year combined yield 10 percent of annual donations. If you wait until the fourth quarter to hammer out logistics for the giving season, you will  miss the chance to maximize all of your resources.

Spring renewal
According to fundraising expert Gail Perry, April is the perfect month for revising and revamping your nonprofit's message. As you reinvigorate your mission, think about how your newly-crafted stories can play into your year-end strategy. But be yourself, and don't force the message. Instead, communicate with your staff, board members and volunteers. Get everyone on board with the message, and let each organically get the word out about your organization's goals.

You know that storytelling is at the core of nonprofit success, but you can't carry a good narrative without strong logistics. Every day, you can work toward cultivating a collective connection to your vision, while developing a strategic sense of urgency, as advised by communications agency Opus Fidelis.

You want to be meeting with donors in the fourth quarter, not researching them. Now's a good time to catalyze new relationships with supporters. Next month, you'll be crunching numbers for summer fundraising events, and that will take some time away from relationship-building. Get a head start on it now. 

After building relationships with your pool party attendees, don't leave yourself without a holiday event to invite them back to.

Keeping the conversation
Speaking of invitations, the sooner you can set up a communications timeline, the more freedom you and your staff have to focus on other critical tasks. Map out specifics - recipients, types of correspondence and send dates - so you don't fall back on keeping in touch with your most important allies during the autumn months. Nonprofit Hub suggested completing all appeals letters before the close of summer. Send one letter each in late August or early September, early November and mid-December. Fundraising coach Marc A. Pitman agrees: Potential benefactors are more likely to read and respond to that first letter if they receive it before busy school and work schedules take hold. Writing letters in advance also frees time to plan events and keep a vibrant social media presence.

It's common for fundraisers to make the mistake of thinking that too much communication equals too much pressure for prospective donors. But if you keep your message mission-focused, you'll show supporters how much you value them, rather than their pocketbooks. They're already interested in your cause, so let them decide how they want to participate instead of assuming they don't want to hear from you.

Room for details
Amid all the complexity of year-end giving, it might be easy to forget the obvious: You can expect a sizeable portion of donations to come through your online platforms. Don't wait until the year's closing months to ensure your online giving form is up to snuff. A secure page with a clear mission that's easy to navigate won't turn away would-be donors at the last minute, Nonprofit Hub pointed out.

If you plan your calendar accordingly, you'll stay on top of your fundraising game throughout the entire year.

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