You ask yourself the same question as you wrestle with the need to meet goal and the 30 days you have to do so. Plus, you haven’t had a day off since New Year’s Eve and you’d like to book some vacation time before you lose them. What’s a fundraiser to do? Here are some end of year strategies to help you through these next 30 days and beyond.
Yes, breathe. Stress in our profession is real and burnout even more so. Unrealistic expectations, lack of support, un-returned phone calls from donors and a non-existent culture of philanthropy all make for a stressful situation. 30 days isn’t enough time to change our situation completely but it is enough time to change our reactions and thoughts about our situation. It’s also enough time to make breathing during stressful times a habit. So for 30 days take the time to focus on your breath. Here’s how.
Before you log on to your computer take a few minutes to breathe instead of mentally running through your “to do list.” Dr. Andrew Weil one of the world’s leading authorities on alternative health recommends the following three breathing exercises each providing a different internal and external benefit.
- The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness. Dr. Weil suggests using this technique instead of reaching for a cup of coffee. I’ve personally used this when I feel extremely tired and need a quick pick me up. It does work though you might get some interesting looks from anyone walking by you as you perform this exercise.
- The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
According to Dr. Weil, this exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It’s the perfect exercise to use before going into a meeting or anytime you experience anxiety. This exercise takes practice and is easier to comprehend by seeing it in action. The following is a link to view this technique. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r82UgmWReY
- Breath Counting
This breathing exercise can be used as a form of meditation throughout the day. I’ve used it to quiet my mind especially during times of endless to do lists. It’s simple to do because it’s literally just counting your breaths.
You can find more information about these and other stress reduction techniques by visiting Dr. Weil’s website at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
2. Focus on what you can control
You can control the number of strategic conversations you have with donors but you can’t control whether they give during these next 30 days or not. You can increase your odds for success by visiting with those donors who you have personally engaged during this fiscal year but you haven’t quite made it to asking them for their support. Now is the time to ask not because it’s the end of the fiscal year but because you have a compelling reason and opportunity for them to invest in. “We need your support because it’s the end of the fiscal year” is not a compelling reason for our donors to give now. But “join us in sending 100 kids with brain injuries to experience camp for the first time this summer ” is a more compelling reason to move donors to action.
What are some other things you can control during these next 30 days?
3. Revisit your no’s and yeses
Just because a donor declines to give when you ask the first time doesn’t mean they will not give in the future. Now is the time to revisit the no’s and ask questions about their thoughts, values and motivations to give. Perhaps it was the timing of your original ask or the particular project you presented. Find out what inspires the donor to action and ask questions about the impact the donor wants to have on your cause through your organization.
Next , go over every top donor and highly rated prospective donor. Re-calculate your “high, low, likely” projections. Do this as a team. Get others’ take on each name. Include corporations, foundations, and individuals. Don’t forget event donors for spring events. Who are the top fundraisers among your volunteers? Who are the top donors to those events? Make sure they are in the mix as potential end of the fiscal year donors. Take just an hour or two to strategize and spend the rest of the day making your appointments.
Finally, revisit the yeses you received earlier in the fiscal year. Are there any donors that might give again? You don’t know unless you ask.
4. Secure a challenge or matching gift
Matching gifts and challenge gifts can be a highly effective tools to significantly increase the chances of raising more money. A challenge gift is a noncontingent gift (not dependent on the gifts of other donors) to your organization with an accompanying “challenge” for other donors to join. For example, Janet Smith commits to give your organization a “$10 a day” during the month of June to help in sending kids with brain injuries to summer camp. She then challenges 30 other people to join her and when they do your organization will have $9,000 in additional revenue. This method can be highly effective using social media especially when donors ask their friends and family to join them and then their friends and families ask others to join them as well.
Matching gifts can add an even more compelling dimension to your case, letting donors know that the gifts they give will not only help to support your organization and make your organization’s campaign success a reality, but that the money they give literally multiplies as it is matched by the matching donor. If your Board members have capacity to make large gifts, ask one of them to lead the challenge. If they can’t do it themselves, they may know another individual, family, company, or foundation with potential interest. You may even consider asking the Board to collectively fund a matching gift challenge at the outset of the 30 day campaign, which can be a good way to get them invested in your overall fundraising success.
5. Ramp up your personal stewardship to donors
Write down the names of 30 of your top donors and each day pick one to deliver personal stewardship. 30 days= 30 successfully stewarded donors=30 possible donor relationships teed up for their next gift opportunity. The best way to retain donors is to continue to share with them the impact their philanthropy is having on the constituents you serve. How about new donors to your organization? Divide this list up among your board members to personally reach out to new donors which again makes board members a part of your organization’s philanthropic success.
For minimal effort but great results, try hosting an “end of the fiscal year thank a thon.” Invite your community – students, staff, other donors, current and retired board members to a year- end thank you party complete with pizza or popsicles. It’s your choice. Just keep it simple. Pick a day for people to drop in and write a few notes, make a few calls, share a few stories of impact that others can share too. Set a goal – daily, hourly, weekly – for everyone and track progress – people love a game and knowing that they contributed tangibly to your organization’s success.
It might be June 3 by the time you read this but don’t fret. You still have time to incorporate some or all of these strategies to help you in meeting your goals. There is a light at the end of the tunnel filled with donors ready to give and a well-deserved vacation.