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  • Amanda Aliperta

Three Ways to Set Yourself Up for Fundraising Success in 2021

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Let's be honest; the year 2021 has just one task: to be better than 2020. It doesn't have to be "the best year ever" or even in the top five; it only needs to be an improvement from the train wreck that was last year.

For nonprofit development professionals, this means sticking to tried-and-true basics: keeping in close, regular communication with donors, being honest about both progress and challenges, and planning ahead to ensure you are ready when opportunities come your way. Proactive and intentional strategizing now can help avoid the last-minute scramble that comes when new opportunities requiring fast action pop up. Below are a few ideas to get started.

Refresh your Gift Acknowledgement Letters

The new year is a perfect time to update your gift acknowledgements to keep them from getting stale. At minimum, every nonprofit organization should have customized acknowledgement templates for individuals, corporations/foundations, in-kind gifts, honor and memorials, and pledge payments. The best acknowledgements:

  • Are sent within 10 business days of gift receipt

  • Are limited to one page

  • Include a listing of your board of directors

  • Include the date, amount and purpose of the gift

  • Include a recent, brief, heartwarming story or quote to demonstrate impact, and ideally, a photograph

  • Are personally signed by the Executive Director or a member of the leadership team

  • Include necessary tax language

Donors are becoming more and more savvy as it relates to gift acknowledgements. Exceed their expectations and prepare now to impress them with a timely, customized acknowledgement and it'll be smooth sailing for the rest of the year.

Refresh Your Case for Support

Look closely at the language you are using for grants and communications. Is it still relevant? Do you need to update your outputs or outcomes, including the ways you had to shift your operations, with 2020 information? With vaccines becoming more widely available in the coming months, have you drafted language on how you plan to operate in both the short and longer term? Have you thought about and articulated how these changes align with your strategic plan and mission? Could you gather (or update) a list of quotes and testimonials from those your organization serves, board members, and/or funders to demonstrate impact? With input from your leadership team, could you draft basic language and create budgets for a few high priority programs or projects you'd like to pursue this year? All of these actions will strengthen your case for support, keep you focused, and avoid the inevitable scramble that comes when funding opportunities arise requiring quick turnarounds.

Review/Create Your Donor Communications Plan

The considerable challenges facing nonprofits now make regular communication with donors, particularly communication that is not associated with an ask, more important than ever. Research shows that donors who are kept informed are more likely to remain loyal to an organization in the long-term, and it is seven times more cost effective for an organization to retain donors than to acquire new ones. How do you plan to connect with your donors at regular intervals throughout 2021, and how can you create an even more personalized experience this year? If you already have a consistent e-newsletter, could you consider creating an insider's email list for top donors and stakeholders who receive personal, regular email updates directly from your Executive Director? If you've been putting off making those personal donor thank-you calls or handwritten notes, could you create a process for doing so at regular intervals in 2021? If you are already preparing to draft and send an annual report, could you create a plan to include personalized messages upon distribution to a group of key stakeholders? A clear donor communications plan with personalized touches to keep your donors close is more critical than ever and will certainly pay off with increased donor loyalty.

We'd love to hear your thoughts. How are you preparing for 2021? What steps are you taking now to set yourself up for success this year? Can we help? Please leave a comment below or reach out for more information.

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