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FUNdraising in the Month of December

FUNdraising in the Month of December

By Mary Walker, Petrus Blog Contributor


December is the time for the FUN part of FUNdraising! After getting the Christmas/Year-end appeal out,  grab a cup of hot chocolate, sit back, open the mail, and count up the donations! 


I hope you get to do lots of that, BUT there is still work to be done!


25% of all nonprofit giving happens in December. As fundraisers, we want our ministries to tap into this season of generosity. Let’s look at some ways to do this!


Reach Out to Your LYBUNT Benefactors

Who are they? They are the ones who gave Last Year But Unfortunately Not This (LYBUNT) year. There are all kinds of reasons why they may not have given this year: tough year financially, busyness of life, job loss, medical issues, moved away, etc. The first step in reaching out is to know who these people are. Your fundraising database lets you run reports to find this information.


As you look at the report, are there any surprises? Who has a track record of giving, but hasn’t made a gift during the past year? If you don’t know why, give them a phone call. 


The purpose of the call isn’t to ask for a gift. Rather it’s to wish them a Merry Christmas, thank them for their generosity, and let them know that you are praying for them. 


This simple gesture communicates their value to the organization. They may open up to you about any situations in their life that affected giving. OR, they may say something like, “I’ve been meaning to send you a donation—the envelope is on my desk!” 


If the phone call is going well, you could even set up an appointment to meet in the new year! 


If they don’t answer, leave a Merry Christmas/Thank-You message.


For the others on the list, depending on the time available, make a quick Merry Christmas/Thank You call. Leave a message if they don’t answer. This call serves as a gentle nudge. Also, be sure to include them in the general end of year email campaign (yes, you should do one, see below). 


Set Up a Series of Emails for the last few days of the Year

In the United States, about 10% of annual giving happens during THE LAST THREE DAYS OF THE YEAR.  You want to make sure your organization is on the minds of your benefactors. Because email is virtually free, you can cast a wide net to those in your database. 


I like to use a series of three emails during December. 

  • Shortly before Christmas, send an email wishing them a “Merry and blessed Christmas season and a happy new year.” Share a bit of good news about your organization. Include a link to donate and a gentle reminder that donations must be made online or postmarked by December 31 to count for the tax deduction for this year. 

  • On December 29, send an email wishing them a Happy New Year and share some of the good things your organization will be doing in the upcoming year. Include a link to donate and a gentle reminder that donations must be made online or postmarked by December 31 to count for the tax deduction for this year. 

  • On December 31, send another Happy New Year email, with a direct ask for a gift and say what the funds will be used for in the New Year. Include a link to donate and a gentle reminder that donations must be made online before midnight to count for the tax deduction for this year. 


BTW—your benefactors may SAY they don’t care about the tax deduction, BUT their actions tell another story. People of means often do a quick review of their tax situation in December. If they plan to make a gift to reduce their taxes, make sure they are thinking about your organization! 


Also, we fundraisers worry way too much about “over” communicating and bothering our benefactors. We need to get over ourselves and remember that our voices are competing with many others, as well as their busy lives. It is almost impossible to reach out too often.


Thank First-Time Donors Immediately

This may not bring in more gifts THIS YEAR, but it will improve the chance of a benefactor continuing to give. 


Research shows that most first time donors are one-and-only-time donors! 


Getting a new benefactor is hard work and incurs some expense. You want that investment to have the best return. AND, don’t you want to know WHY they decided to give?


So, as you sit back and enjoy your hot chocolate, monitor the first-time donations coming in.  


As soon as you get a first-time gift, make a thank-you phone call. Let them know you noticed their generosity. Ask them why they chose your organization. Thank them again and wish them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 


This is probably a three-minute phone call, but you’ll never know what other useful information you’ll gather in the conversation. And if a new benefactor wants to chat longer—that’s great! They are going to remember your organization!


If the phone call is going well, you could even set up a time to meet in person in the new year—the gold standard of donor engagement.


In his recent newsletter, Tom Ahern referred to research that suggests personally thanking a new donor within 48 hours IMPROVES the chance of receiving a subsequent gift by 400%! Great ROI for a quick phone call.


If you can’t talk to the benefactor by phone, leave a message thanking them and invite a call back to talk to them personally about their gift’s impact. Other ways to acknowledge a first-time gift are to send a neatly hand-written note or personal thank-you email (last choice). NEVER make your first thank you a plain, bland receipt with words that only an accountant would find warm and fuzzy.


Also, the pastor or director of your organization can and should routinely call and personally thank benefactors, especially first-time donors. Their schedule is busy at the end of the year, so find ways to make it very easy for them to take part in thank you calls.


Bonus Content: Tax Letter Appeal 

During January, your organization probably sends out a tax receipt/statement that totals up all of a benefactor’s gifts the previous year. Who says you can’t turn that into another thank you and mini-appeal? 


You’ve already paid for the postage. In addition to the receipt, include a letter highlighting the accomplishments of the last year, thank them, and share the vision for the upcoming year. Include a simple return envelope (this is a great use for leftovers from other appeals). You don’t even need to make a direct ask—they’ll get the idea.


Voila—You WILL get some of those envelopes back with gifts in the months to come.



Interested in a Year-End Fundraising Checklist?

If so, click below for a well-organized task list for the month of December.

 Access the free PDF here >>



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