Countdown To The Money, Week 11: Get Lead Gifts

We are counting down to the most lucrative week and day of the fundraising year, the last week of December and December 31. Here in October and November, we are telling stories like crazy! But, very shortly, in December, we will stop telling stories and ask donors to create some new stories with their gifts!

1. Be clear about your end-of-year fundraising initiative

You need to be clear about your end-of-year fundraising initiative in week eleven. You should begin to clearly know what you will ask your donors to help you do in December. ​

Your end-of-year campaign can make or break your organization this year. It can also determine your level of success in 2023. In week eleven your end-of-year fundraising initiative should be a top priority in your thinking.

The first thing I encourage nonprofits to do at year's end is to ask their donors to make up a budget shortfall. Donors love to help you meet your budget. This is the easiest money to get. ​

I am amazed at the nonprofits that operate without a budget. They just spend whatever comes in. If a lot of money comes in, they spend it. If not much comes in, they spend that too! If your organization still needs a budget, then make one today. DO NOT END THIS YEAR WITHOUT A BUDGET. Now is also a great time to set your budget for 2023. ​

A word about budgets: your budget should reflect what you hope to achieve for the year, not something adjusted to match the amount of money that comes in. Having a balanced budget is not your goal. A break-even budget can be one of the greatest hindrances to building your nonprofit's capacity. ​

When I was pastor, our budget would often be six digits behind by November. We let the congregation know where we were through December, asking for their help, and by the last day of the year, it was not unusual to be six digits ahead of our need. ​

Make your budget for what you aim to achieve for the year, and ask your donors to help you meet it! ​

If you don't need to make up a budget shortfall, you will want to fund a unique project. These end-of-year initiatives can be exciting. Set your goal and be ready to pull the trigger in December. ​

2. Get lead gifts for your initiative.

If you are raising money for a specific initiative, you will want to get lead gifts. ​

One of the most incredible things you can give your end-of-year donors is the gift of going second. After you have established your goal and before you share it with your larger audience, approach one or more of your larger capacity donors and ask them to help you give other donors the gift of going second. Help them understand donors' reluctance to be the first to give and ask them to help you overcome it. ​

Your goal should be to get at least 50% of your initiative funded before you share it with your larger audience. When doing this, you are taking advantage of the "proximity effect." ​

The proximity effect is a psychological phenomenon where we (and animals) increase our efforts toward a goal as we get near it.

Rats in a maze run faster as they approach a food reward and we increase our efforts the closer we get to rewards (gift certificates), or goals (finish lines). READ MORE HERE

The proximity effect means that the closer to your goal you are, the more donors will be motivated to help you. It also means that the further you are from your goal, the less motivated your donors will be to help you. ​

Imagine announcing your year-end initiative with the great news that another generous donor has already funded half of it. Giving your donors the gift of going second will put you over the top by December 31. ​

If you cannot get at least 50% of your initiative funded before you announce it to your larger audience, I don't recommend going forward. You may have to adjust your goal after meeting with prospective donors. These donors will help you understand your organization's capacity to meet the goal. ​

A word about "matching gifts." Remember that you are one of 1.5 million charities in the U.S., many of which will be bombarding the email world with "matching gift" strategies starting in November. I think this strategy has been used so much that it now tends to be ignored. In my opinion (and a few others): You will do better with a "lead gift" strategy for your campaign that clearly articulates your "why." READ MORE HERE​ ​

And, let me say one more thing about getting lead gifts: ASK FOR THEM FACE-TO-FACE. Why face-to-face? Because there are some things that are only done face-to-face and asking for major gifts is one of them. I have addressed in other posts and podcasts, Do I Have To Meet With Donors Face-To-Face?

Get it done; the biggest fundraising week and day of the year are quickly approaching.



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