Creating Urgency for Your Giving Programs

Jul 28, 2017 | All Posts, From The Partners, Fundraising Counsel

By Susan Ross.

Like many of you, I celebrated June 30th again this year.

It has been many years since I was Director of the Duke Annual Fund, but I am still tuned in to the importance of this particular day on the calendar, and the hard work with LYBUNTs that leads up to it.  I’d bet anyone whose resume includes annual giving shares my feeling.

Of course, our donors may or may not be attuned to the fiscal year-end importance of a random day in mid-summer, focused as they are on the IRS-provided December 31 timeframe.  But we development folks know it is about more than just a budget.

There is value in giving donors a deadline.

People need a reason to make a decision in a timely fashion, and good development officers can help close gifts by tuning in to opportunities. Donors are certainly in control of the timing of their gifts, but we can influence it by how we handle the solicitation.

Here are a few ways to inspire your donors through deadlines:

Teamwork: Many of our clients use June 30th not just for Annual Funds, but to encourage donors of all kinds to book their commitments.  At UNC, this year-end flurry of activity with major gifts led to a record-setting year across campus.

Campaign Stages: Stepping up as a donor in the “lead phase” because you are a board member/leader is an important motivator. Jumping in quickly when a campaign is launched can also work in your favor. And the closing days of a campaign offer a very real deadline that we all respect.

Challenges:  Nonprofits across our area have inspired donors to act through Stewards Fund and other very real challenges.  Deadlines matter, especially when the donor understands they are serious.  Challenges can come at any point during a campaign from kick-off to capstone.

Construction Timelines:  Capital projects usually have detailed external calendars, and you can cite architects, construction, and financing deadlines as valid reasons for needing to close a gift.  Remember that the best time for raising money is before the grand opening.

Tributes: When a leader or founder retires, a longtime volunteer steps down, or a beloved supporter has a major birthday or anniversary, offer their friends and family a logical way to celebrate their work through a gift. Don’t be shy about actively positioning your nonprofit for memorial gifts – this will raise more money and – when done well – is a valuable service for the family.

Special opportunities: If something happens that makes your donors proud of their association with you, give them a way to show it. Maybe a national basketball championship???