Donors want to know that their gift, regardless of the size, is making an impact; successful, and sustainable, fundraising strategies must be relational.
By Kerri Laubenthal Mollard
The economic impact of holiday giving is felt far beyond the retail sector as charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations reach peak volumes in the fourth quarter.
According to "The Charitable Giving Report" published by Blackaud, 17.4% of charitable donations are given in the month of December. What does that mean in terms of dollars? Ohioans gave $7.8 billion last year, which means approximately $3.8 billion is given this month in our state.
The Columbus Foundation historically receives 30% of gifts in the holiday season of the fourth quarter, which is similar to the national average that one-third of giving is received in the last three months of the year.
A report by the Digital Giving Index is even more dramatic. They examined $233 million in online donations made in 2014 through Network for Good and of that amount, 12% of annual giving was processed in the last three days of December.
With that volume of giving, how does a nonprofit stand out in the crowded mailbox and inbox to be noticed? And how do donors make giving decisions?
Two words – relationships and impact.
Successful, and sustainable, fundraising strategies must be relational. Transactional messages can work – give $100 and get a t-shirt or buy a table to a gala and get a free ad in the program – certainly work. Public TV and radio have based their on-air fund drives on this transactional approach for years. But in our experience, we see high levels of effectiveness when nonprofits focus on the donor – we know you, we know what you value, and with your support, we can change lives.
When a nonprofit focuses on the donor, they have a 12-month strategy of stewardship and solicitation, not a one-month push at the holidays. Those nonprofits will have a year-end appeal but it will not be the first time their donors have heard from them.
High-performing nonprofits also ensure that their messages are based on the impact their mission has on the community. And, not just the outputs, the numbers served, but the outcomes, the changes in lives they make.
"We helped 100 kids with homework last year" is good but "We understand the challenges faced by the children in our care. Our homework program was informed by partnerships and funded with your support. We expect 85% of our kids will be reading above their grade level by the end of the year…" is great.
Donors want to know that their gift, regardless of the size, is making an impact.
Our best advice to individuals making giving decisions at this time of year is to make it personal. What matters to you and your family most?
Whether your passion is poverty, education, environment or the arts, there are highly effective nonprofits in our community addressing those needs. When giving is personal – I believe in this cause and I see the impact being made – then it is deeply meaningful and is likely to be repeated.
When thinking about what your family values, remember to include the children in your life. Kids are the recipients of most of the traditional gift giving at the holidays but it can be a powerful to engage them in thinking about the needs of others.
My daughter surprised us this year when her Santa wish list included dog food and dog toys, because we don't have a dog. When asked, she said she wanted to donate them to my friend Rachel (Executive Director at the Capital Area Humane Society). Our family now has a new cause.
It's also important to remember that nonprofits are processing huge volumes of donations and requests at this time. In fact, YWCA Columbus receives twice as many calls during the holidays asking about volunteer opportunities and the need for donations than at other times of the year.
When thinking about giving of your time or treasure, remember that the community has needs 365 days a year. It may be even more meaningful for your family to volunteer serving meals in January or June.
There is great joy in giving. We are part of a generous community, and to me, it means the true spirit of the season is alive and well.
Kerri is founder and CEO of Mollard Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org The company's mantra is Be Healthy. Mollard Consulting builds financial health through effective fundraising strategies, professional health through coaching, and sector health through capacity building, and believes that thriving nonprofits are essential for a healthy society.