So much time, effort and hope goes into a nonprofit’s year-end fundraising campaign that when it’s over, staff scramble to use all their remaining vacation days.

The bad news: It’s never over.

The good news: You can take steps right now to ensure the next campaign is less stressful and even more successful. Just make sure you don’t fall into the “We’ll tackle that in a month or two” trap.

Here are a few things to avoid at year-end:

1. DON’T DISAPPOINT YOUR MOTHER. Say thank you.

People notice when they aren’t thanked. Just as your mother wouldn’t let you send generic thank-you cards for graduation gifts, you shouldn’t send a one-size-fits-all thank-you email or letter to all donors. Instead, ask board members and high-level staff to call or send handwritten notes to major donors. Segment the rest of your database and email or mail messages that are particularly relevant to each segment. Consider personally contacting a few first-time donors, too. You’ll wow them with the attention.

 

2. NEVER THINK DONORS KNOW WHAT YOU DO WITH THEIR MONEY. Tell them.

Send a stewardship report to major donors touting what their support allowed you to do for the people you serve. Include a well-told story to strengthen the emotional tie between the donor and the organization. Include similar information in newsletters and websites.

 

3. DON’T KEEP RESULTS A SECRET INTERNALLY. Celebrate with your team.

Since every staff member influenced or was affected by the campaign even in small ways, they should hear its results. Reporting on funds raised, of course, but also on your data collection, the integrity of the data, influential new supporters and other milestones. And if you achieved a level of teamwork you’re genuinely proud of, say so (preferably with examples).

Talking to your team segues naturally into listening to them.

 

4. DON’T ASSUME YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LEARN FROM YOUR STAFF. Debrief and listen.

Everyone felt the campaign, from the receptionist taking calls to the database manager filling internal list requests to the PR manager trying to connect busy staff with media. Openly exploring your strengths and weaknesses will help you address them in next year’s planning. At the same time, analyze your data to ensure what you’re measuring is accurate, complete, relevant and actionable.

 

5. DON’T REST ON ANY LAURELS. Make stretch goals.

The problem with goal-setting today is that not meeting a goal is viewed as failure. Merriam-Webster (my favorite online dictionary) defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed.” Not achieved, but strived for. If you set a goal you know at the outset you’ll reach, then you’re leaving support on the table.

 

Achieve has helped dozens of nonprofits created sustainable growth models based on exceptional fundraising campaigns. If you’d like to talk about your next campaign, contact us.