11 Tips for the 11th Hour

Posted on 05/04/2016 - by Dan Allenby

Hour glass 2There are a number of expressions one could use to explain the mood of an annual giving department near the end of its fiscal year. One is “hustle and bustle.” That’s because teams are busy monitoring progress, preparing final appeals and communicating with donors and volunteers. Another is “11th hour.” That’s because there’s a sense of urgency and only a limited amount of time remaining to do what needs to be done.

Annual Giving Programs have exactly 365 days each year to secure as many gifts and raise as much money as possible. That’s about eight thousand hours or just over a half million minutes. While that might feel like a lot of time at the beginning of the fiscal year, that’s no longer the case once the sands have started slipping through the hour glass.

The final months of the fiscal year are critical. What you do during this time can determine whether or not your goals are achieved and your institution receives the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. So here’s a fiscal year-end checklist: 11 tips to guide you and your team through the 11th hour of your annual giving campaign.

  1. Review your goals – Make sure everyone is on the same page, centered around the same priorities, and monitoring key performance metrics.
  2. Spend your budget – If you don’t use it, you might lose it. Some finance offices assume that unspent money is unnecessary money. Those who think you can’t address an issue or solve a problem by throwing money it, probably just don’t know how to throw money.
  3. Focus on last year’s donors – They’re the most likely prospects to give now. The three keys to a successful annual giving effort are retention, retention, and retention.
  4. Remind those with open pledges – Verbal commitments can be easy to forget. Don’t be shy about sending reminders via print or email – or both!
  5. Try second asks – Go back to those who already made a gift in the current fiscal year and ask them to give AGAIN. This might be a good way for them to support something new OR join/step up to the next level in a gift society.
  6. Spend time with gift officers – Schedule time to sit down and review lists of the prospects they manage. Try to determine when and how to solicit each one for an annual fund gift. Ask what you can do to help. Offer to produce personalized year-end appeal letters on their behalf.
  7. Lobby your Boards – Sometimes the most important volunteers and donors are the easiest to overlook when it comes to annual fund gifts.
  8. Update your signature and voicemail greeting – Include a reminder about the fiscal year-end date – people respond to deadlines – and offer instructions for those who might want to donate.
  9. Provide a “cheat sheet” to your colleagues and volunteers – Create a simple 1-page document outlining the various ways people can donate. Include the URL for your online giving form, wire transfer instructions, a phone number to call and an email address to contact for assistance.
  10. Make sure your gift processing team is prepared – If all goes well, they should expect a jump in activity. Share a copy of your appeal schedule and samples of any reply devices they can expect to receive.
  11. Start planning for next year – Don’t wait until after the year ends to start thinking about what’s ahead. If you do, you’re bound to miss out on early opportunities.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on End-Of-Year Appeals.