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  • Writer's pictureFrances Roen

The Case for Starting Year-End Donation Planning in September

When you're running a nonprofit organization, the fourth quarter often equates to a mad dash for year-end donations. Traditionally, the bulk of this effort takes place in November and December when the spirit of giving seems to permeate the air. But what if we flipped the script and started this crucial planning in September instead? Let's delve into why an early start can be a game-changer for nonprofits.

Why November Isn't Ideal

Time Crunch

Starting the planning process in November leaves little time to connect with stakeholders, and devise a strategic approach. With only two months left in the year, waiting until November to start planning can force you into reactive, rather than proactive, modes. Plus, for many nonprofits located in snowy locations, many donors spend their winters hibernating in warmer locations and may be less likely to check emails or receive snail mail. Time and season become your enemy, not your ally, resulting in hurried campaigns that may lack cohesiveness and impact.

Financial Constraints

For many people, the holiday season means additional expenses. Planning your giving campaigns earlier can help your donors budget and plan their year-end giving more effectively, and you may just end up on top of their list with an early appeal!

Competition for Attention

November and December are saturated with messages from every corner—sales, family gatherings, and yes, other nonprofits looking for donations. A late(r) year-end campaign risks becoming just another snowflake in a blizzard of end-of-year appeals.

The Advantages of a September Start

Enough Time for Research and Alignment

Starting in September gives you plenty of time to refine and segment your donor lists, set a goal, align your internal teams, and strategize your campaign. It's an opportunity to do the groundwork that ensures your message is powerful, targeted, and effective.

Building Momentum

By initiating your plans early, you create the chance to test the waters with soft-launches or mini-campaigns which can provide valuable insights before a launch to a broader list. You also give you and your team time to find or build a donation match. Soft launches, mini-campaigns, and matching funds all provide momentum leading up to the critical year-end period, making your efforts more strategic and calculated.

Effective Storytelling

Fundraising isn't just about asking for money; it's a wonderful opportunity to communicate with your donors regardless of whether they choose to give or not. Tell a compelling story, share a meaningful photo, and invite donors to be a part of the work.* Starting early gives you time to craft that story, engage with storytelling mediums like video or interactive web content, and deploy these assets strategically.

Staff Preparedness

More time means more opportunity for team alignment. Everyone on your staff (and your regular volunteers) should know about the campaign goal, timeline, focus, and how people can make a donation. You never want to have a potential donor stop by or call to make a donation to the campaign and have the staff or volunteer they interact with say: "I don't think we have a campaign right now."

Better Engagement

For nonprofits, early planning allows you to better engage with your donors. You have the time to craft a compelling narrative or roll out a multimedia campaign. This not only improves visibility but can also attract new donors who resonate with your message.


Starting your year-end donation planning in September might feel premature when the year isn't over yet. However, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. An early start provides the time to plan carefully, strategize effectively, and ultimately, make a more significant impact with your year-end fundraising efforts.

So, mark your calendars: This year, September isn't just the start of fall—it's the start of your most successful fundraising quarter yet!

 

*Nonprofits have a responsibility to tell and share stories in a way that honors and respects the individuals they serve and the sensitive issues they address. To learn more, visit: https://ethicalstorytelling.com/


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