As 2015 approaches, it is not too early to consider what the New Year will bring from a charitable giving perspective.  Many forecasters believe that the stock market and the economy will continue to improve, and we will see enough growth in 2015 to finally pull us out of the recession-influenced doldrums of the past several years.  If it holds true, that is good news for charitable giving, which has historically been very responsive to upturns in the market. 

So how should nonprofits position themselves now to take advantage of what may be the best fundraising opportunities in seven years?  Here are my top suggestions:

  1. Invest in stewardship and donor relations.  Most donors stop giving after one gift.  Many of these cite poor communications or customer service, or simply feeling unappreciated, as a reason for not renewing.  An investment in a strong communications plan including gift acknowledgements, educational and informational newsletters or updates, telephone contact and digital communications is essential.  And segmenting your audience based on capacity and/or giving levels and providing additional personalized touches to your top prospects is a proven strategy for effective stewardship.
  2. Involve your board and/or other VIPs in fundraising.  As long as I’ve been in fundraising (and yes, it’s been a long time), this has been the mantra and often the excuse of fundraising professionals.  “Our board doesn’t get it.”  “We can’t raise major gifts without our board getting on board.”  Comments like this may be true, but they never get past the stage of identifying the problem and into the realm of solving it.  What can you do if your board doesn’t “get it”?  Make it easy for them.  Use relationship mapping to identify their connections – those people they know through other nonprofit or philanthropic boards, as well as business connections.  Ask them for some one-on-one time and review your list with them.  Ask them to weigh in on the capacity, interest and timing of potential supporters. Then ask them to help you develop a strategy for cultivating them.  Success with even a small number of board members will help you begin to build a culture of philanthropy among your organizations top leaders.
  3. Adopt a data-driven strategy for annual giving.  Too many nonprofits do annual giving the way they’ve always done it.  Whether it’s four mailings a year, or eight, or phone-a-thon twice a year, or twice monthly emails, they do it because that’s how they’ve always done it.  Take another look at your annual giving, and take the time now, in 2014, to develop a strong plan that includes some new elements for 2015.    What worked last year?  Do more of that.  What was ho-hum?  Change it up.  Test and learn.  Our Annual Fund Workbook has ideas for every situation – if you can’t find some fresh ideas here, you must be doing a great job already!

Fundraising in 2015 holds some promise we haven’t seen in years.  Don’t let it catch you short, start planning now so you can hit the ground running in 2015 and capitalize on the opportunities.

For more ideas on how to make the most of 2015, contact us or join the WealthEngine Institute.

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