Fundraising best practices: Treat fiscal year end like calendar year-end

Engaging donors at fundraising fiscal year end connects with them at the second-best month for giving.

June is the second-best month for giving, so be sure to have a fundraising fiscal year-end plan to engage donors.

A common misperception in fundraising is that donors aren’t as motivated to give at fundraising fiscal year-end (FYE) like they are at calendar year-end (CYE). Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to Blackbaud’s 2015 charitable giving report, December is clearly the best time for charitable giving with 17.4 percent of gifts arriving that month—17.7 percent if you’re in the higher education sector.

What may surprise you is only one other month brings in at least 10 percent of gifts: June. Overall, 10.2 percent of charitable gifts are made in June, with higher education picking up 11.2 percent of gifts.

Don’t approach the second most-popular fundraising month as if it’s any other month, especially if your fiscal year-ends on June 30. Make your fiscal year-end solicitation plan similar to your calendar year-end plan.

Tactics to consider for your fundraising fiscal year-end

Much like December’s CYE giving period, your FYE giving period should be transaction oriented. There is plenty of time during the rest of the year for cultivation, stewardship, and enhancing the emotional connection. Here are a few ways to successfully solicit donors at fiscal year’s end:

  1. Send postcards reminding donors of the FYE deadline and ways to give.  According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 Fact Book, an average of 51 percent of households will have multiple people read a postcard compared to an average of 33 percent for a letter-sized envelope.  Having postcards arrive in donor mailboxes right after Memorial Day is a great way to kick start June giving.
  2. Another direct mail option is the statement mailer.  This is a piece that also conveys a transactional, deadline-oriented tone.  It is very similar to a membership renewal billing statement.
  3. Email early, email often. Think about how much you email donors during the final 7-10 days of December. You should be doing that during the final 7-10 days of June. Make sure your message and subject lines convey an FYE sense of urgency, just like you do in December’s CYE period.
  4. Send more pledge reminders. Whether you send these via direct mail, email or phone calls, remind these donors and prospects of their promise as well as the importance and significance of fulfilling that promise by your FYE date.
  5. Focus heavily on donors whose last gift was 12-35 months ago. In fundraising terms, this means LYBUNTS and one-year lapsed donors. You should especially focus on donors with significant numbers of consecutive years making a gift.  In your push to bring in as many donors as possible, don’t lose sight of your renewal percentages.  Donor and dollar retention are critical to program growth.

Online gifts will most likely be how a lot of donors respond to your FYE reminders. Be sure to incorporate unique URLs for each of your communications and channels so you can analyze what worked best for your FYE strategy. You can read more about that in a previous blog post.

If necessary, incentivize donors to give during the final days, weeks, or month of your fiscal year. Take a look at your own program and see how often during the entire year similar offers are made. This includes what you offered through gamification in your crowdfunding and social media campaigns.

No matter what tactics you choose, always keep in mind that deadlines can be a very powerful force. Make your primary message at the fundraising fiscal year-end the critical importance of donors making gifts on your current fiscal year.

If you have any questions about this fundraising best practice, or any other fundraising strategies, please email me and I would be happy to connect.

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Chris Hughes

Director of Fundraising Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Chris Hughes is a former Director of Annual Giving who has more than two decades of experience in fundraising, marketing, public relations and organizational success in higher education and nonprofit fundraising.
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