Christmas in July: Why It’s Time to Start Year-End Planning Now

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Every year, Christmas decorations start appearing in stores a little earlier than they did the year before. And every year, people exclaim over how annoying it is to see Christmas ornaments right after Halloween. “It’s too early!” shoppers say. “Who even thinks about the holidays this early?!”

Shoppers might not be thinking about Christmas in October, but, if they’re thinking ahead, nonprofits should already be prepared for the holiday season and the end of the year.

Donations tend to peak in the few days between Christmas and New Years Eve, but donors start choosing their charities early. Last year, Google released a giving trends report that revealed that donors who want to donate for the holiday season start doing research about worthy nonprofits as early as September. If that’s true, that leaves just two months for nonprofits to start getting ready for year-end fundraising.

Every nonprofit’s year-end fundraising plans will be a little different from the others. But these things definitely need to be considered before the end-of-the-year rush begins.

1. Campaign development

Donors are bombarded with fundraising appeals, charity events, and other solicitations during the holiday season. Rushed, poorly-executed year-end campaigns don’t stand a chance. Nonprofits need to be careful to slowly and thoughtfully cultivate an amazing campaign that appeals to donors and spurs them to action. Now is the time to start thinking about themes, design, timing, and types of appeals that will fit into a year-end campaign. Planning ahead of time will help nonprofits mitigate mistakes or potential obstacles, and will ensure that a campaign looks put-together and intentional rather than haphazard.

2. Donor relationships

Building and maintaining donor relationships should be a year-round enterprise. July is the perfect time to evaluate existing donor relationships and build a strategy to begin new ones. It’s important to start this process early; relationships take a long time to be established, and damaged relationships, if salvageable, often take a lot of time and effort to repair. Good donor relationships are critical to year-end campaigns’ success; nothing will annoy an already-disillusioned donor like getting a fundraising appeal when they already feel unappreciated.

3. Financial information

When donors start shopping around for charities, one of the first things they look for is financial transparency. Donors want to know that their gifts are making an impact, and it’s nonprofits’ responsibility to convince them that they are. Making financial information easy to find is a huge advantage for year-end campaigns. In addition to providing financial and tax documents (like 990s or annual reports), it’s also wise to include easily-understood infographics or simple breakdowns of a nonprofit’s finances and impact. Many donors aren’t willing to wade through a long annual report but may be willing to glance over an infographic containing important figures and achieved goals.

4. Event planning

Anyone who has helped plan a wedding or other large party knows how stressful event planning can be. Getting a jump on planning major year-end events will help mitigate the inevitable stress and gives nonprofits more flexibility leading up to the event. It’s also a good way to get the best deals from vendors; vendors are busy during the holiday season, and a nonprofit may have a hard time finding someone like a caterer or venue for an event if they wait until the last minute.

5. Website

A nonprofit’s website can make or break a potential donor’s decision to give. Websites that are dated, slow to load, or hard to navigate will scare donors away. Pages that are visually appealing and easy to use will earn more donations. July is a wonderful time to evaluate a nonprofit’s website and fix problems. Many design fixes are easy to make, but preparing well in advance will ensure that even the most complicated overhaul is done on time. It’s also an excellent time to tweak parts of the webpage to improve its rankings in online searches.

6. Staff training

The year-end busy season is a terrible time for someone to learn the ropes at a new organization. Nonprofits should keep all staff and volunteers up-to-date on the upcoming campaign and make sure they’re aware of policies, procedures, and best practices. That includes board members, who should be getting ready to raise money for the nonprofit in addition to their regular duties.

7. Tax documents

The end of the year is crunch time for fundraisers, but it’s also crunch-time for donors. Many donors are making an effort to make their tax-deductible gifts before the end of the year, and they and other will be looking for tax information for their gifts throughout the year. Preparing for that rush ahead of time is the best way to make sure donors can easily get the information that they need. Now is the time for nonprofits to double-check their records to make sure that everything is in order and that necessary information can be provided to donors without much of a delay.

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