Four Ways You Can Start Your Fundraising Year Off Strong

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As June winds down and summer kicks into high gear, many nonprofits are also closing in on the end of their fiscal year. Whether your year ends June 30, December 31, or on a more creative date, many fundraisers put most of their focus on getting to that finish line.

Chances are you'll have a lot to be proud of, but while it’s important to celebrate your accomplishments, it’s equally important not to let the celebration last too long into the new year.

Momentum is your friend. It’s understandable to want to catch your breath after sprinting to the finish line. But your new year will be much less stressful if you follow these four tips to help you get a good start at the beginning of the year.

1. Determine when you receive major gifts during the year.

We know that there are times during the year that we get the bulk of our gifts, such as calendar year end or fiscal year end. But it’s important to know as you start your year what the monthly totals actually are. After all, donors don’t all give in the same way, and they don’t follow your schedule or care when your fiscal year ends!

Often in fundraising we put a lot of focus on reaching our end-of-year goals. But a better way to track your progress is to set up incremental goals along the way. You can set these smaller goals by comparing your closed solicitations to the corresponding period during previous years.

One strategy for doing this is to measure your income month over month (or week over week for your annual fund), starting the first week of your fiscal year. You can compare this year's progress to the same period last year to see how you measure against yourself. It will be eye-opening to know if you are falling behind early, and exciting to see when you’re getting ahead.

2. Create a gift table and rebalance your portfolio.

Creating a gift table is a great way to map out what it takes to reach your goal. Regardless of the size of your goal, we know that a successful year will require gifts large and small. If you haven’t done so by July, take a moment to determine how many gifts, and at what levels, will be required to meet your goal.

You may compare your gift table with your prospect pool and notice that you don’t have the prospects you need to reasonably make your goal. If you struggled to meet your goals last year, now may be the time to wealth screen your database, rebalance your portfolio, and focus on your best prospects.

3. Get realistic about making visits.

Your gift table will most likely show you that you need to make dozens or scores of closed solicitations in order to reach your goal. Closing those solicitations likely requires visiting at least 4 times as many people as the number of gifts it will take to reach your goal. For many development officers, that will mean 10-15 visits on average per month. Realizing in the first month of your fiscal year how many solicitations you’ll need to make could help you avoid an end-of-year panic during month twelve.

4. Don’t procrastinate. Execute solicitations as soon as possible.

No development organization has the luxury of losing a quarter of the fundraising year. A relaxing summer sounds nice, but will turn into stress in quarter two followed by panic in quarters three and four.

Take a look at prospects that supported your organization earlier during the last fiscal year. Maybe it’s time to reach out to them and ask for an early gift!

We have all heard excuses about setting appointments in the summer (EVERYONE is on vacation). While many people may be on vacation or changing their focus during the summer months, don’t assume that’s the case for all of your donors.

Which of your prospects will require multiple contacts before you can solicit them? Starting your contacts earlier in the year may mean they can be solicited in December rather than June.

Positive thinking is incredibly important as a fundraiser. Starting strong and seeing those early wins will help encourage you as you move through the year. When you see more positive gains in the beginning, you'll be more confident in making future asks without fear. Harnessing the momentum from that positive energy may even help you to surpass your goals!

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