Updated: Oct 26
One of the strangest things I’ve discovered about working in the nonprofit sector is the way the calendar works. Not every organization is the same, but for many of us, July first is the start of the new year. Turning the calendar to a new (fiscal) year is odd when we’re focused on fireworks and cookouts, but it quickly becomes part of our yearly routine.
What’s even weirder than starting a new year in July? Thinking about the end of the calendar year! That all-important time for fundraisers will be here before you know it, and now is the time to get your game plan together.
The relatively quiet period after the start of your new fiscal year and the start of the fall event season is the ideal time to step back, look at the calendar, and determine what you would like to accomplish before the ACTUAL new year starts on January 1st.
What did the end of the last calendar year look like? Where are the places you would like to better engage your donors? How can you create more revenue over the next 6 months to ensure you hit your goals for the new fiscal year?
Here are some elements you can plan for and begin executing before nonprofit life gets too crazy:
Grant Funding: If you’re a client of TKM, you’ve heard me get on this soapbox a million times: an effective grant program works on a 12-month cycle. You have to determine when grants are due when funders need reports, and how you can fill in the gaps with rolling deadline applications and funder outreach over a 12-month period. The summer is the perfect time to map that out. With many foundations working on the same July through June fiscal year as nonprofits, applications can slow down in the summer months. Take time to figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and what you would like to accomplish over the next year. If you know you have that one big, all-consuming grant due later in the fall, start working on it now so you can pieces in place that will make life easier and keep some time free so you don’t have to drop other fundraising initiatives. Take special care to build a strategy for the fall so opportunities don’t sneak up - or, worse, pass you by.
Events: Event season is almost here! While I haven’t been shy about my opinion on the future of formal fundraising events, they’re still in play for many organizations, and this is the time most organizations are planning their events. As you’re planning the details of your events, think about how they can feed other revenue streams. Are there grantors you can invite to your event? How about corporate prospects who could be interested in your mission? Which individual donors do you need to be sure to meet at your event? Build a game plan so your event is something that bolsters all elements of your fundraising strategy.
Giving Tuesday: At Team Kat & Mouse, we’re big believers in community giving days. Communities like Miami and St. Louis have dedicated days where the community comes together to support their nonprofit organizations. Giving Tuesday takes that principle to the national level, driving philanthropy after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With most people being bombarded by giving requests, this is not the easiest day to raise money; however, it’s a great chance to showcase your work, connect with your donors, and prepare for giving in the month of December. Start planning which stories you’ll highlight, how you’ll show appreciation to your donors, and how that will set you up for success in December.
Individual Giving: It’s no secret that December is a big time for giving - in fact, one-third of all annual giving happens in the month of December. Whether it's the holiday spirit of giving or the looming tax season, this is a time when people are eager to give. How will you approach them? Who do you need to reach out to individually? How do you engage your broader donor list? Don’t get caught planning this on the fly - start preparing now so you can execute a fundraising plan that stands out to people during the holiday season.
In my time as a frontline fundraiser, I was always struck by how quickly these things would sneak up on me. It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day and forget the big initiatives we have to execute as the year goes on. As odd as it is to think about the end of the calendar year in the middle of the summer, this is the time to ensure you have the tools in place to exceed all of your goals.
Developing the tactics to succeed at year-end fundraising can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone!
Our team of fundraising consultants at Team Kat & Mouse can help you develop plans, action items, and tools to help your organization reach its full potential.