Halloween has come and gone, the fall weather has arrived all over the northern hemisphere, and we're one pumpkin spice latte and winter-themed window display away from the holiday season. In fact, the Christmas advertising has already begun.
This is also one of the most popular and lively times of year to solicit donations. After all, if people are already in the spirit of giving, what better opening can you get for the ask? As a matter of fact, the numbers are pretty amazing, especially with online gift giving: nearly $1 out of every $5 donated to a charity online is given in December – and donors give much larger gifts this time of year, too – around 80% bigger overall.
It's a no-brainer, right? Well, hold up there for a second. Yes, the holidays are the time that people and companies traditionally set money aside in order to give to charities and foundations, and therefore it's a great idea to focus fundraising efforts around the holiday season, but you have to be sure you're going about it the right way. Like so many other aspects of running a nonprofit, managing the holidays takes planning, cultivation, and knowing when to ask and when to give. A little preparation can reap benefits for you and your organization all year long.
Here are four surefire ways to make sure you're ready for the holiday season.
Check your online presence.
Online giving is huge and, in an increasingly wired (and wireless) world, it's only going to keep growing.
How's your website? Is everything up to date? Have you looked it over lately? Now's the time to make sure everything is working smoothly and cleanly. But it's not just about your website; being engaged through social media can make a huge difference in your end of the year campaign. Get on Twitter and Facebook and start telling stories. Throw some more photos up on Instagram. Pin a post to make it easy for them to make donations on your site from your social media page. You'll thank yourself for it later. (and don't forget about #GivingTuesday on December 1st!).
Make use of your networks.
Holiday cheer means holiday parties. You still have a few weeks! Plan a holiday fundraiser. It doesn't have to be a huge, elaborate affair – you can have it at someone's home or get a sponsor to donate a space, and get volunteers to help out in lieu of gifts. Just make sure to make it fun for everyone! If people enjoy it, they'll tell their friends about you. If you don't have the time or the energy to throw a party this year, make sure you go to a few yourself, at the very least, and be open to meeting people. If you work your connections the right way, it'll be easy to make more. Keep careful track of the potential donors you meet.
Make gift giving easy.
Make sure you make it easy to donate in someone else's name. Many donations come in this time of year as gifts, as furthering a cause is one of the greatest presents possible for those tricky people who already have everything. Don't forgot to let your donors know that it's possible and encouraged! Social media is a great way to spread this message – and reap its benefits. Throw in a little swag with the donation, with your organization's name on it, of course, and the gift becomes even more valuable.
Don't forget about yourself!
It's a fact: burnout rates are sky-high in nonprofit and charity worlds. Make sure to take some time for yourself: get some rest, eat regularly, spend time with your friends and loved ones, even if you have to schedule it in. After all, it's the holidays. If you don't take time out for yourself, eventually burnout will take you out of the running. A day or two celebrating or relaxing with your favorite people, thinking about things that aren't work, will keep you happily working towards the causes that are so near and dear to your heart – and to theirs.
The truth is, while individuals and organizations can be moved to offer bigger gifts around the holidays, you can keep that spirit of giving alive if you adopt and implement some of these ideas during the rest of the year. The holidays are a great time to get in touch with people you haven't spoken to in months, sure – but consider checking in throughout the year. Throw fundraising events, make sure your online presence is well maintained, and use social media to tell success stories about your organization. You don't have to do it often, just enough to keep people interested in what you're up to throughout the year.
The holidays could be a successful time because people are in the spirit of giving anyway. It might also be that's because it's the only time of year that nonprofits are really reaching out and asking for money. But you can regain that holiday cheer, no matter what time of the year it is! The secret is to always remember that your donors are hugely important parts of your organization's life and day-to-day workings, so you should treat them accordingly: show them how much you appreciate them, and never take them for granted.
Consider giving them gifts throughout the year, whether it's a behind-the-scenes tour, treating them to a post-holiday thank-you reception, and handwriting thank-you notes so that you can tell them personally how much you appreciate them and the help they've given you. And don't forget to send them cards!