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Nonprofits can make this a December to remember

December is close. And – in keeping with the overarching theme of 2020 – we head into the year-end giving season with a great sense of uncertainty.

The COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and a presidential election all loom in the minds of donors. Nonprofit organizations are left wondering how donors will respond.

In order to get a feel for donor sentiment right now, RKD Group and The Nonprofit Alliance recently co-commissioned research around year-end giving. The results showed some clear trends around who is willing to give in December.

I recommend every nonprofit checks out the study and the webinar that accompanies it. Together, you’ll gain a better understanding of what donors are thinking and some ideas about how to connect with them.

I’m also here to share a few thoughts and strategies for year-end giving. I hope they bring some relief to the general sense of anxiety out there.

STAY THE COURSE

We know that roughly one-third of all annual giving comes in December, and 10% of annual giving comes in the final three days of the year. Yet some nonprofits are pulling back their investment in marketing and fundraising this fall.

This is a huge mistake!

Despite all the negativity of 2020, we’ve still seen an overwhelming amount of generosity. In fact, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project just released their report for the first half of the year.

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Yes, these are uncertain times. But those numbers above make it clear that this is no time to reduce your fundraising efforts. Even if you only hit 85% of your projections, that’s more than you would get if you reduce your investment.

Instead of pulling back, this is the time to …

ADJUST WHERE NECESSARY

If “uncertainty” is the best word to encapsulate 2020, then “pivot” is probably a close second.

We’ve all spent the last seven months adjusting and adapting to meet the new normal of this pandemic. For nonprofit fundraising, that’s meant changing messaging and creative, leaning into digital channels and experimenting with virtual events to replace in-person ones.

Those who have stayed the course or pivoted quickly have reaped the rewards of their quick thinking. Those who have cut back or canceled have struggled.

Year end will require a similar approach.

Our research shows that younger donors (millennials and young Gen Xers) are willing to give more this December. Those who have stepped up to give online during the pandemic have also said they plan to give more at year end.

If we take these factors into account, the need for a multichannel year-end strategy becomes more pressing.

Nonprofits must meet donors where they are right now. Target them with the same messages in direct mail, email, social media, digital ads, text messages and more. And for organizations that are close to the frontline response of COVID, keep reminding donors of the increased needs of your mission.

Give people plenty of chances to hear your message and choose the channel they prefer for giving.

They will respond.

FOCUS ON DAFS

One final bit of advice is to lean into donor-advised funds (DAFs).

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In an effort to bring DAFs to more households, Fidelity Charitable also just eliminated its $5,000 minimum contribution to create an account. Other organizations like Schwab may soon follow suit.

Amid a push to encourage money to move out of DAFs and into the hands of charities, not enough organizations are tapping into this tremendous opportunity. The funds in DAFs have already been committed to charity – you just need to convince donors to give to your charity.

For some strategies on how to unlock this potential, check out our recent post on how DAFs could save your fiscal year.

This is a challenging time for nonprofits, but also a time of great opportunity for those who are willing to stay strong and adapt where necessary. A few adjustments here and there could lead to a record-breaking December.

Andrew Laudano

Andy Laudano has more than 25 years of fundraising experience working for both agencies and nonprofit organizations. As Senior Vice President, Client Service, at RKD Group, he manages integrated, multichannel direct response fundraising programs for large, national organizations and regional nonprofits. Andy speaks frequently at DMA Nonprofit Federation and AFP Conferences, the FundRaising Success Engage Conference and webinars, and has served on the education committees of the Bridge Conference and the DMA Nonprofit Conference.

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