By Katy Snyder, JVA Consulting
We’d like to give a shout-out to all of you who stayed open this week (we’re open at JVA, too). While many nonprofits take a break toward the end of the year, a recent Network for Good study confirms what we’ve known at JVA for a long time—the last week of December is one of the most important, if not the most important week of the year for nonprofits. Why? Because it’s when donors scramble to get their donations in before the end of the year. In fact, as the Network for Good study points out, the last two days of December are when 22 percent of all online donations to nonprofits are made.
Web analytics have allowed researchers to determine that online donations get even busier in the last couple hours on December 31. While the holiday spirit may play a role in this giving spike, the study points to donors who are clamoring to make tax-deductible contributions before the year ends as the most likely culprit in the donation upswing.
Not only is there a higher volume of donors at the end of the year, but these donors seem to have more personal wealth as well. The study shows that the cumulative giving of donors who make their first donation in December is almost 52 percent higher than donors who give at other times of the year.
Because of their higher volume and value, December donors, particularly those who will give in the last few days of this week, are integral to your fundraising success for the year. Some tips from JVA staff members on how to accommodate them:
JVA President Janine Vanderburg: Staffing is key. According to Janine (who admits that many of her nonprofit donations are made in the last hours of the year), one of the most frustrating things to a potential donor is trying to make a last-minute donation to a nonprofit organization that won’t go through. Even more frustrating? Not being able to reach a live person at the nonprofit to help you troubleshoot an online donation problem. Keep in mind that your Web site will likely experience higher volume in the last few days of the year and plan accordingly. If you must close this week, make sure you have one staff member (at minimum) on hand to field questions that come in, be they tech questions or questions about what your organization does. A donor who is looking to make a last-minute donation will make a donation no matter what, but that donation might go to another organization if your Web site is down and there is no one to answer questions in your office. Another option is to re-think when to close the office: It may make more sense to shut down the first week of January instead of the last week of December to deal with the influx of December donations.
JVA Director of Capacity Building Jennifer Johnson: Add a personal touch. Don’t leave it to donors to remember to give before the year ends, they may be too busy with holiday plans. Give past donors who haven’t yet made a donation this year a call to check in and see if they want to give again this year. Also, make sure any donations that do come in are promptly followed with a personalized, handwritten thank-you note. Click here to read a great article about personalized thank-you notes that Jennifer recommended.
JVA Vice President of Design and Innovation Ashley Kasprzak: Communicate, communicate, communicate. If your donations weren’t as high for 2010 as you want them to be, make sure you ramp up donor communications in 2011. Reiterating what Jennifer suggested, Ashley pointed out the need for nonprofits to offer customized thank yous to all donors (like the much-appreciated gift of cookies she received in thanks from Meals on Wheels of Loveland). When reaching out to donors and potential donors, however, make sure it’s not all about the money—donors need to hear from you at least a couple times a year about your organization’s successes, such as client achievements, relevant new studies and staff member milestones. Communicating with donors only to ask for money contributes to donor fatigue, something you want to avoid. Ashley also suggests that you enlist volunteers to help with these types of donor communications, which will lighten your staff’s load and get volunteers engaged. Social media networks are great places to get volunteers communicating with donors, but make sure that all volunteers are briefed on your social media policies before they are turned loose to communicate with supporters.
Have a great week, and remember that we’re here to help as you head into the busiest donation days of 2010!