How to Raise Serious Money For Your Nonprofit In the Next 30 Days

Raise MoneyIt’s December, the month when many of you will try to raise money. A lot. For some of you, we’re talking a third (or more) of your total individual donations for the entire year.

In one month. Jingle all the way, indeed.

It’s really hard. The pressure to get every dollar in the door can become overwhelming. A bad December can be devastating to your organization, even if every other month had been flawless.

I’m here to help.

Today, I’m going to tell you exactly how you can raise significant money for your nonprofit in just thirty days.

My three-step plan does not include the lottery or bank robbery. Rather, it’s precisely what I’ve personally done at several nonprofits with great success.

If you follow this plan, you will raise money.

December fundraising is frantic. But my 3-step plan can help. I speak from experience.

At the time, I was the Assistant Vice President of Development at New York Law School.

By December 30th, the gift still hadn’t closed. I was headed out of town and had to beg an airline employee at LaGuardia Airport to please keep the gate door open for five more minutes so I could close the gift before I got on the flight.

Amazingly, she actually did it! I closed the gift.

A million dollars. Seriously.

To this day Delta remains my favorite airline.

So how did I do it? Let’s get right to it…

STEP #1: BEAT BURNOUT BACK TODAY

There’s no way around it. The next 30 days are going to be brutal.

Self-care, and preventing burnout in yourself and your staff is key. I’ve written before about how to avoid burnout. I strongly suggest you read the post. Take this very seriously.

Self-care and preventing burnout is as much for you as it is for your staff and clients, and publicly talking about battling burnout is a sign of strong leadership.

At the end of the day it’s only when the entire fundraising team is firing on all cylinders that your clients and other stakeholders that depend on your organization truly benefit.

STEP #2: CREATE YOUR “SUCCESS AND STORY CHEAT SHEET”

There’s a simple formula I use. It goes like this:

Compelling story + Credible messenger = Fundraising success.

The “credible messenger” part is easy. As a staff member of an organization you deeply believe in and care about, you are as credible a messenger as it gets.

But many get hung up on the “compelling story” part.

Focus on your compelling story by drafting a Success and Story Cheat Sheet. The SSCS is your guide to the top messages you want to hit home with individual donors over the next thirty days. It’s 1-2 pages and has the following three items:

a) Five key program successes from the past calendar year: these include key points that show off your organization in the best light and demonstrate impact. Examples:

  • This year we fed hot, nutritious meals to 90,000 people who otherwise would have gone hungry.
  • Over the past 12 months, we placed 15 guide dogs with blind or partially sighted people that desperately needed assistance.
  • The City Council publicly recognized our award winning substance abuse programs and renewed funding for three more years.
  • Thanks to our incredible staff and board we moved our headquarters to a new expanded location near public transportation, so now it is even easier for our clients to receive services.

I like to have five key successes on hand so that no matter what a donor is interested in, I know that I’ll have a great success to share. These impact successes should be macro in nature and demonstrate the broad successes your organization has had with large groups of clients or stakeholders.

b) Two transformative client or stakeholder stories: Include two full stories demonstrating the personal impact of your organization. Unlike the key program successes you compiled above, these stories must focus on impact at the individual or family level.

You are looking to answer the question, “How has an individual or family been personally transformed by your organization?”

During the holiday season, donors are bombarded by asks for money. You will raise the most money, and cut through the noise, by telling donors and prospects about how your organization is transforming lives.

c) Three to five goals for your organization in 2016: Now that you have the tools to demonstrate how your organization impacted people in the past, also have on hand three to five ways the organization will continue or expand its work next year.

Let your donors and prospects know what you will accomplish with their gifts. Give them the opportunity to join with your nonprofit to assist even more people.

Once your SSCS in drafted, feel free to share it beyond the development staff. A two-page document like this can be incredibly valuable to your board, program staff, and volunteers. Each person who loves your organization will be talking to hundreds of people over the next 30 days who could potentially make an end-of-year gift to your organization.

These people are credible messengers, and the SSCC gives them the tools they need to deliver a compelling story.

STEP #3: YOU CAN’T RAISE MONEY IF YOU DON’T MAKE THE ASK

OK, before you actually start calling prospects, I have a question first. Have you been cultivating relationships with your donors all year long? Or have you made them feel like a human ATM?

If you’re getting a sinking feeling right about now, it’s time for some emergency donor cultivation. While it’s late in the game, there is still time left to update your donors before making the ask. Go read the “ATM” article I just linked to. It describes what to do.

Got the cultivation stuff down? Now it’s time for good old-fashioned elbow grease. Get on the phones (or email if the donor prefers) and ask for a gift.

Obvious? Maybe. Then just do it!

Run the list of your top prospects or donors that need to renew before the end of the year and start making calls. A few things that will make this easier:

  • Block the time on your calendar, and unless you need to meet with a donor, don’t allow a meeting to supersede your call time.
  • Block time with your Executive Director or CEO so that they can make calls.
  • Make sure your staff is blocking time for calls as well and be respectful of their call time. This time is absolutely critical to bringing in year-end revenue.

While I prefer talking to donors on the phone, if you can’t reach a donor by the middle of the month (or you know that they do not like to talk on the phone), move to a very personal email communication. Be sure to include the key points from the Success and Story Cheat Sheet and include a specific ask.

By following the above steps, you will raise significant money.

Will it be hard work? Yes.

Will it be worth it? Yes.

Please consider sharing any other tips you have to raise money during the end of the year push in the comments below.

Also, if you need some last minute inspiration, or want to bounce an idea off of me during this stressful fundraising season, please feel free to email me at seth@joangarry.com. I know how difficult these final weeks are and I’m happy to be a collaborator during this stressful time.

Seth Rosen
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Seth Rosen

Senior Associate at Joan Garry Consulting
With more than a decade of experience raising funds for major nonprofits, Seth now shares his fundraising expertise with readers and clients of Joan Garry Consulting. Seth lives in New York City with his husband, daughter, and two increasingly fat cats.
Seth Rosen
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  • DCrawford

    This is a great plan! Our YE letter mailed December 1, would you recommend giving that 2 weeks to settle before evaluating the calls to be made? Then, assuming it is now December 15, how late into December would you recommend calls be made to those who have not responded to the YE ask?

    • SethMRosen

      Thank you so much, and congratulations on getting your year end appeal out! If you sent out the appeal by first class mail I think its absolutely fine to start your follow-up calls after ten days (if you used the nonprofit rate then waiting two weeks is the way to go). I actually think its fine to make calls through December 30th. Think of the calls as another way to connect with donors and prospects, and to continue building a relationship. While it would be optimal for a gift to be made before the end of the year, the call also helps build a relationship that can grow (and result in a gift) in 2016. Have a great end of year!

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  • Tam

    What great information. I am working with a nonprofit and this will be their first time fundraising they have been around for five years and have maintained mostly out of their personal pockets and through events. We are starting with Giving Tuesday, a soft launch Individual Giving Program, and lastly Year End Appeal. I have fund-raise plenty but this is my first time spearheading myself and I want to make sure im not biting off more than I can chew! Do you think this is a bit too much (there is quite a bit of foundation work needed)?