The end of the year approaches and, like clockwork, so many development leaders throw out the strategic, thoughtful approach they embrace the rest of the year. In its place arrives a hurried pace, an overflowing calendar, and worst of all… a feeling of guilt.
The pride of our work seems to dissipate as we launch a mountain of appeals into the mail and leave an inordinate number of apologetic voicemails and emails.
“I am so sorry to leave you another message, but…”
As development leaders, we know our job is to help engage the faithful in the life of the Church and their stewardship of those gifts received from God.
We are raising money for a mission in which we believe and are giving our supporters the opportunity to make a difference.
We are not begging; we are not coercing. We are not pleading; we are not pressuring. We can recite all of these adages in our sleep. Yet as the fourth quarter of the calendar year nears, there seems to be a shift in mindset. And along with that shift comes a feeling of guilt.
Surely most of us can acknowledge this shift, whether it happens in our own offices or not. The shift from strategic outreach and appeals that make us proud of our work, to last minute additions to the calendar, a different tone in our voice, and outreach that is more about us than about our supporters.
But how do we change it? How do we approach the end of the year with the same mindset of gratitude and grace we have in January?
1) Take time to prayerfully reflect and remind yourself and your team why you do what you do.
You are the one entrusted with raising money that will allow the Church to fulfill its worthy mission. You are the one giving donors the opportunity to invest in that mission. Go into this season with a joyful heart about what these gifts can do for the Church.
2) Look at your calendar to determine the true purpose of each mailing, event, or initiative.
Do they all absolutely need to happen before year-end? If not, pare it down. You will feel better come December 31. So will your colleagues and supporters.
3) View your year-end plans from the perspective of your supporters.
Is the quantity or quality of your outreach something that needs to be apologized for? If so, adjust your approach or timing. If not, proceed without apology.
4) When it comes to individual outreach, prioritize.
Use the systems you have to create achievable goals based on your prospect list and timeline (five calls per day? per week?). Whether you use the functions of your database to create tasks and send reminders or simply block out time on your calendar each day or week, you will feel more productive and less overwhelmed.
5) Remember that while you look at renewals and lapsed giving, your supporters do not.
It is up to you to give them a compelling reason to invest in the Church — on their timeline, not yours.
6) It’s about the supporter, not you.
“I know you usually think about your family’s giving around this time, and we are so grateful for your loyal support. As the year-end approaches, I want to touch base so that we can celebrate you as a 2017 supporter.”
7) Make it easy.
The more obstacles your supporters encounter, the less likely they are to give, and the more likely you are to get the disgruntled calls and emails. Online giving was up 9% in the last two years. Does your technology and messaging allow you to take advantage of this?
8) Embrace #IGiveCatholic on #GivingTuesday.
#GivingTuesday is here to stay and grows every year. What’s even better is that the Catholic community has rallied around the #IGiveCatholic effort that takes place in tandem with this global day of giving. Participation promotes both commitment to the Church and to philanthropy worldwide.
9) Whether you are an office of 1 or 100, fundraising is rewarding yet hard work.
When a mailing goes out, a long-awaited gift arrives, or an event wraps, celebrate your success! Ring a bell, send out an email, or reward yourself and others. That energy is contagious, energizing, and appreciated.
10) Remember that a strong thank you is the first step to the next gift.
The only thing better than being thanked is being able to thank someone else.
Of course, there is a reason we focus so much on this time of year. Last year’s Charitable Giving Report shows that more than one-third of annual giving happened between October and December.
But that is no reason to lose sight of who we are as an organization or as development leaders. And it is certainly no reason to throw strategy and thoughtfulness out the window.
As December approaches and you’re scurrying about adding ambitious initiatives to your growing to-do list, I challenge you to take a step back.
Scrap the guilt, embrace why you do what you do, and review the strategy.
Remember: the Church is as worthy of donor support as it was in the first quarter of the year. And you are the same inspired and focused development leader.