More on Year-End: Outreach, the Wonders of the Phone, and “Stewardship January”!

By: Nadine Gabai-Botero, CFRE, President

November 11, 2021

Last week, I shared some tips on year-end fundraising, focusing on your message, strategies for a mailed appeal, and how to best use a challenge match.

With December fast approaching, I offer a “Part 2,” with info on how best to connect with your donors and prospects, why you should use your phone to call your donors in December, and tips to finish strong with “Stewardship January.”

The Importance of a Phone Call in Fundraising

Increase Efforts to Connect with your Donors

Sure, you’re sending one or more mailed appeals, planning a series of emails to follow-up, and are designing cool social media posts too. Is that enough? Probably not

Here are some additional elements to keep in mind:

  • Segment your lists - OFTEN! This is not a one-and-done deal. Each week in December, as you are sending messages, think about how you can pull out a few specific sub-groups from your list and tailor your message to them.
  • Ask your Board to step up - Your Board members provide a unique voice and vantage point and you should incorporate that as much as you can at year-end. Whether they’re personalizing letters (or sending sticky notes for you to add to letters), sending follow-up emails, or making calls, they are crucial to the year-end process.
  • Send something to your special donors - Yes, this time of year is all about your organization and raising the funds you need. But, it’s also about the donors who have been with you throughout the year. While these may be major donors who have made stretch gifts to help you through 2021, this may also be supporters who increased their gift substantially or came back after an absence. As to the gift -- it doesn’t need to cost a lot! Perhaps a book related to your mission, a framed photo or keepsake related to your accomplishments, or something that demonstrates their connection to your organization. Almost more importantly is the note: include a handwritten note by you or another key member of the staff/Board letting them know how important they are to you and your work.

Using the Phone to Make Calls

More and more, I hear gift officers and front-line funders relying on email and texts to reach out to donors, and staying away from the phone. Just because you may not like to receive unannounced calls, doesn’t mean others wouldn’t appreciate the outreach. In fact, I’ve seen great success in donor connections through the phone over the past two years so I urge you to call your donors! Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you reach out:

  • Nuance your message - I like preparing a bulleted script so that I remember to hit key points on calls. That said, always review giving and personal info in advance and focus on how your donor is while also conveying your message about support.
  • Stay positive - Even if things may be tough, remember to stay upbeat. This is not a time for a dour assessment of the future! Share why you’re excited to turn the page to 2022 and what you hope to accomplish.
  • What’s the “why” - It’s easy to catch up first and then just ask for “anything you can do” or “your support at any level.” The generality can feel more comfortable to you or your Board or senior staff members if they’re reaching out, but being specific is important! Be specific and convey why you need support now and what funds will cover.

Let’s Make “Stewardship January” a Thing

I know many people who swear by “Dry January” as a way to reset their trajectory and start the year off fresh (does that say something about my friends and family!?). Well, this is precisely the goal with Stewardship January: a month focused on donor gratitude and resetting your approach to your supporters (at all levels!), while sharing some personalized love.

I know there’s never enough time to do this kind of outreach, but there is a way to conduct stewardship that’s both meaningful and not time intensive. Here are some ideas you can think through now to implement in January:

  • Spotlight on impact - As you’re pulling together content for year-end, consider keeping some stories aside for January and sharing those with donors so they see how their support is making a difference. You can send these via email, or mail something directly after a call.
  • Conduct a survey - If it’s been awhile since you surveyed your donors, January would be a great time to reach out and find out what they’re thinking. Keep the questions short - no more than 5 - and focus on how they’d like to get involved during the year and what aspects of your work/mission they find most compelling. Most importantly, make sure to let them know you value their input.
  • Keep those calls going - Did you think the phone calls would end in December? Nope. Just keep reaching out. And, as I mentioned above, don’t just focus on donors at the highest level. Pull your mid-level donors, focusing on those who have increased giving or given consistently over 3+ years. After all, they may be your major donors of 2022 so this is the time to give them attention!
End of year giving campaign ideas and tips from Focus Fundraising consultants in the Washington DC area.