Summer To-Do List for Year-End Fundraising Success

August 10, 2020
5 minutes

Summertime is in full swing, fundraiser! Are you getting ready to put your out of (home) office reply on and take a break? Maybe you’re looking forward to some lighter workdays and space in your calendar, all the perks of the slower summer season.

We don’t want to jam-pack your schedule this summer, but we do want to suggest something a little radical: start preparing for year-end fundraising now. Yes! It might seem a little early to start thinking about your December campaign, but if you do a little prep work now, you can save yourself some last-minute stress down the road.

To help you out, we’ve put together a summer to-do list for year-end fundraising success.

Reality Check—Year-end campaigns are a lotta work

We probably don’t need to tell you this but year-end campaigns are a lot of work. Between direct mail, emails, Giving Tuesday, social media, and donor stewardship, there are a lot of balls in the air. Add on everything 2020's thrown at us, and this could be the year of the fundraising beast.

With this in mind, give yourself a head start. Create a project plan well in advance and start chipping away at it, and by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you'll be ready to go.

Bring on the summer To-Do list for year-end fundraising

Now that you’re ready to run the ultramarathon that is year-end fundraising, let’s talk about what you can do this summer to get ready. Some of these tasks may seem small, but we promise that getting on top of them now will help you down the road.

Plan Your Calendar

First things first; all fundraising campaigns need a calendar of activities. This is something that you can easily put together over the summer. Your calendar should include:

  • Start date of your campaign
  • Drop dates for direct email
  • Send dates for email
  • Mailing dates for any special donor communications
  • Events or giving days that you plan to participate in
  • Anything else you may want to include in your campaign!

Set a timer for 15 minutes and do a brain dump of all the important dates. If you’re not sure about the dates, start by listing out the high-level information first. Then grab your calendar and start plotting in the dates for key activities.

Create Your Project Plan

You’ve got your calendar in hand; it’s time to create a project plan for meeting all these deadlines. Having a project plan is one of the most helpful things you can do to manage your year-end fundraising efforts. And the more detailed, the better! Basically, for every major thing that’s on your calendar, list out all the tasks that will take you from zero to done.

Here’s an example of what a project plan could look like for a fundraising email.

  • Draft copy for email
  • Edit copy for email
  • Create any necessary graphics for the email
  • Format the copy and graphics in the email tool
  • Send a test of the email for final approval and link checks
  • Schedule the email to go out

If you use a project management tool, upload all of your tasks into the system, and share them with relevant team members. Organization FTW!

Decide on a Theme and Ask

So far, your summer to-do list for year-end fundraising has helped you get the big picture idea of what’s going to happen during the campaign. If you want to start working on some of the nuts and bolts of your campaign, we suggest that you decide on a theme and ask for your campaign.

These two components of your campaign will remain steadfast throughout and will also steer future decisionmaking about stories and copywriting. Giving yourself (and your team) extra time to make this decision is well worth it. Taking the time to develop your theme and ask will allow you space to brainstorm possibilities and test ideas.

Clean Your Lists

Summertime is a great time for data cleanup. We know cleaning your donor data probably falls on to your looong list of backburner projects, so let’s make time for it now. Your data cleanup could include going through your donor CRM to check mailing addresses, delete duplicate records, and make sure that family members are associated with one another in your database. You could also do a cleanup of your email list by checking for bounced email addresses, getting rid of unsubscribes, and running re-engagement campaigns for subscribers who have become inactive.

Fundraiser, you know that your data is the key to your annual giving success. Give it the love it deserves and get it in tip-top shape for year-end fundraising.

Get a Jump Start on Your Comms

We’ve likened year-end fundraising to an ultramarathon. Part of what makes it an ultramarathon is that you start laying the groundwork for your campaign well in advance. We’re not just talking about the internal work to get organized and prepared. Nope! We’re also talking about prepping your audience for the asks. That looks like strategically dropping the right messages and stories in front of prospective donors to build the narrative of your campaign. When you start thinking about this in the summer (because you’re a smartie), you’ll have plenty o’ time to make this the best it can be!

This summer, think about the messaging you need to support the theme and ask of your year-end campaign and begin creating communications to get those messages out there. This could include text messages, social media posts, newsletters, media interviews, blog posts, and more.

Fundraiser, we know that you can step up your year-end fundraising game this year. "Start early and finish strong" is our motto. On your mark, get set, go!

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