Five Steps to a Successful Fiscal Year End | npENGAGE

Five Steps to a Successful Fiscal Year End

By on May 10, 2011


If you are like me, you are shaking your head as you look at the calendar, asking yourself, “How did it get to be MAY?  I just put the Christmas stuff away!”  Believe it or not, June 30 is less than 8 weeks away, perhaps leaving some organizations wondering how they are going to meet their 2010-2011 Annual Fund goal.

Rather than panic, commit today to creating a realistic plan to achieve your goals.  You may have a mailing or two scheduled for the next few weeks—and that’s fine.  However, relying on large numbers of small gifts to meet your goal is risky at this point in the year    To optimize your chances for success, a more active approach may be needed.  Here is a plan for Five Steps to Year-End Annual Fund Success:

1.      INVESTIGATION:  Take a few minutes to see where you stand with previous donors.  If your Individual Giving dollars are down from last year, there are people who haven’t given, or given less, than they did previously.  Run a LYBUNT/SYBUNT report and identify your obvious targets.  Are there some that you were planning on soliciting individually that never got contacted?  Are there others who haven’t responded that you expected to do so?   Have some individuals given but given less than previous years?  Armed with the hard facts, you will be able to create a meaningful plan

2.      ACTIVATION:  After reviewing your list, create a clear, action-based strategy for three key groups of individuals:

Group A:         Top Annual Fund Prospects:  Depending on your organization, this might be donors of $1000, $10,000 or more.  If these individuals haven’t given yet, they should become your top priority.  Identify key contacts, such as the president, vice president or board members, who can make a personal phone call to discuss the donor’s re-engagement.  Be sure the solicitor has all necessary information, including dates and amounts of previous gifts, gift designation if any and any previous efforts to solicit this year.  These prospects represent your best chance at reaching your goal so put some time into the preparation.

Group B:         Mid-Level Annual Fund Prospects:  Again, this level will vary for each organization, but the key here is “differentiation”.  Who are those individuals whose giving may seem more like a major gift to them than to you?  Or, more importantly, those that may have future major gift potential but are currently buried in the Annual Fund.  Enlist development team members you can ask to make meaningful phone calls to these prospects.  Consider this scenario:  Do you have five development staff members?  If each one of these team members makes a call a day for each of the next eight weeks, 200 important phone calls can be completed.  Be sure you provide a simple tracking system so you will know who has been contacted.

Group C:         Key Remaining Annual Fund Prospects:  This would include everyone who has given $100+ previous or given in each of the last two/three years but not this year.  The likelihood of success may be higher with these individuals than others so make them a solicitation priority.  As you review the list, you may see that some may benefit from a personal call, while others may continue to be targeted via mail.

3.      EXPLANATION:  Take a careful look at your Annual Fund message.  Have you clearly articulated what gifts at various levels will fund?  Don’t say yes too quickly.  Put yourself in the shoes of the donor.  If the donor were to ask, “What are you going to do with a gift of $500 if I give it to you?” Do you have a clear, tangible answer?   Not just “special programs” or “student financial aid”, but specific examples of what these programs are or how financial aid dollars benefit students.  One of the biggest weaknesses of Annual Fund letters is a poor case statement.  Think about how clearly you present a case for support for a capital campaign.  Your Annual Fund is, in effect, a mini campaign.  Your message should be just as clear.

4.      EXPECTATION:  Are you clearly setting a meaningful gift expectation, perhaps based on more than just the most recent gift?  While targeted gift request levels have become more common in development, an amazing number of organizations still use generic ask amounts.  Fear of complaints is the most common excuse I hear for this.  However, look around.  Many of your peers are asking for specific gift amounts—and getting them.  The key is in Step 3:  Explanation.  Clearly articulate your request and explain why the individual’s gift is needed.  You might be surprised at the results.

5.      VERIFICATION: Keep track of what “group” (A, B or C) each individual on your LYBUNT list is in and track the progress.  Know what type of solicitation took place and what the outcome was.  Keeping your eye on key players in your Annual Fund plan will help ensure its success and reduce the number of surprises.  The last thing you want to find out on July 1 is that important donors were never contacted.

In short, take steps today to kick your Annual Fund strategy into high gear.  You still have time to make sure it is successful, but just pushing out one more mailing is not the most proactive way to ensure success.  Get on top of who has—and hasn’t–given today and put a plan in place to make sure key individuals are solicited for the most appropriate gift.

Got a great year-end annual fund story?  I would love to hear it!  You can reach me at


Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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