Most of our organizations have a June 30 fiscal year and this is Just Lousy. The Annual Fund, and most of fundraising, is at the core an exercise in creating and sustaining momentum and activity, of spreading the work (and worry) to volunteers engaged in your relevant, meaningful and replicable activities.
But that’s hard to do after school lets out and Grill Season has begun.
Assuming you’ve got a bit of work left to do to achieve this year’s Annual Fund goals, here are some ideas that might get you started for the June push:
1. Re-Align your fundraising volunteers: The bi-weekly committee meetings should suspend for the year and non-producers can start their vacation early. Task a smaller group to step up and finish out the work. Pick your top 3-4 solicitors and propose a 15-day year end push, where each would take an additional handful of prospects to call on before June 15. Promise them, and keep your word, that this will be the final work of the fiscal year and that they can have a summer vacation as well. Volunteers need pool time, and well rested (and appreciated) solicitors will return to you in the fall ready to go once again.
2. Engage your Current Donors: A well written, thoughtful, and specific 2nd ask to your donor base is controversial to some fundraisers but there is nothing wrong with inviting additional investment to current supporters who you’ve stewarded appropriately all year long. What might a 2nd ask look like? Ideally for something specific and timely to the season. If you are a youth serving organization, how about a focused appeal to support summer programming? This is one of the best ways to create some Urgency. The fact that your fiscal year is coming to a close 10 days after summer begins means something to you but not to your donors.
3. Focus on the Big Asks: Once you’ve narrowed down your remaining gap to goal it is vital to realize that most of it is going to have to come via larger $1,000+ prospects. This is a great time to position your CEO on some of those $5,000 Lunch Dates, and to offer a few key prospects the opportunity to be a real Hero. I am not normally a fan of transactional fundraising – “Give us $10,000 for the Canary Society Level” but this is one time of year when you can level with a significant prospect:
“Listen – this is a vital moment for us as we work to finalize our summer funding plan for this year’s Orchestra Camp. We are so very close to being able to serve a record number of kids this year. Your increased gift to $10,000 will insure that we are successful. Can you help us?”
4. Play around with Crowd Funding: My skepticism of crowd sourced fundraising is well established, particularly for the core annual fund program, but this is an opportunity to engage with your broad based audience for the last sums to your goal. Wait until you are to the very end of your campaign (say less than $10,000) and create a short window (a few days) for a crowd sourced campaign, based on the urgency of summer programs (your year end case). My rule of thumb with clients about any Gadget Fundraising is that we can consider it once the goal is at 95% and not a moment before.
5. Stay Busy: These things have a way of working out for the Best, and if you are out in the community, staying active and working hard, good things happen and the phone starts ringing back in the office. Push yourself to those three meetings per week and pursuing daily wins. Five productive days and you’ve got a week of progress to share.
And how about when the clock strikes midnight and July 1 comes? Celebrate your achievements. Hopefully you made the goal but acknowledge with your team the hard work and progress regardless. We aren’t good at this in fundraising, and it is part of the reason tenure is so short in our profession.
Perhaps a BBQ with key staff and volunteers, a little (low-cost) fellowship to celebrate together before the work starts anew?