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Cynder Sinclair: Tips for Year-End Giving for Nonprofits and Donors

It’s almost Halloween, and the holidays will be here before we know it. So let the donation requests begin.

Nonprofits are busy preparing their year-end fundraising campaigns, and donors are bracing for mailboxes overflowing with multiple requests. Are you ready? Whether nonprofit or donor, you will feel calmer knowing you have a well-thought-out plan for holiday giving.

8 Tips for Nonprofit End-of-Year Fundraising Campaigns

Holidays are the perfect time for donor response to nonprofit donation appeals. People are tender-hearted and more generous at this time of year. They are also aware that tax-deductible donations made by Dec. 31 will lower their tax liability in April. Consequently, nonprofits eagerly make the most of this window of opportunity. Having a clear plan for your end-of-year fundraising appeal always results in greater success.

Fundraising expert Pamela Grow offers these eight tips for making the most of your nonprofit’s year-end fundraising campaign. She suggests you begin by deciding who in your organization will be responsible for the different portions of your campaign. She emphasizes that everyone has a role to play that will make a major difference in your year-end fundraising.

» 1. Which of your board members can write personal notes or make phone calls to selected donors?

» 2. Do you have board members who might host a house party? Hold a holiday celebration for major donors, board members and close friends.

» 3. Matching gifts provide a perfect incentive for year-end campaigns. Do you have a foundation connection or board member who might step up to the plate?

» 4. Are you sending out holiday cards? Create Thanksgiving cards now, and set aside time for staff, volunteers and board members to hand sign.

» 5. Schedule a thank-a-thon. Make calls to donors, thanking them for their past support. Mobilize your staff and volunteers to help. Answer the question “but what do I SAY to them?” with a fun, brief script for them to use.

» 6. Think about following up your year-end direct mailing with a postcard. Definitely follow up with phone calls. Which members of your team will be responsible?

» 7. Hand-addressed envelopes have a much higher open rate than printed. I love to bake, so in the past I’ve made a pan or two of brownies to entice volunteers, board members and program staff to spend an hour or two hand-addressing envelopes and/or stuffing them. If you have a larger donor database, consider hand-addressing the top 10 to 20 percent of your donors, or those donors you’re targeting for larger gifts.

» 8. You need a thoughtful, integrated course of action if you’re looking to raise the most money possible during year-end season — one that includes major donors, direct mail, online giving and social media, and leaves no stone unturned.

3 Tips for Donors’ End-of-Year Giving

People who make financial gifts to nonprofits are angels in our community. They recognize how the work of nonprofits enrich our entire community, and they want to be part of that rich blessing.

Yet, donors often become overwhelmed by the multitude of requests from organizations doing so much good for all of us. That’s why I like to recommend donors get out ahead of the appeals tsunami by proactively creating their own year-end giving plan — and then stick to it. Here are three strategies that seem to work for most people.

» 1. Identify why you are giving. People make charitable donations for all sorts of excellent reasons. Some believe passionately in a particular cause and want to do all they can to make a difference. Others donate because giving is a deeply held family tradition. Some businesses make charitable donations because they know it will increase their bottom line while benefiting their community. Still others want to do all they can to be part of the solution for a certain problem in their community. Some like the joy of seeing their name high on a public listing of donors.

All reasons for giving are valid, so identify exactly what motivates your own giving.

» 2. Make a list of the causes and organizations that are near and dear to your heart — then do your research. Have you visited their location lately or had a conversation with one of their board or staff members? If not, make an appointment today — they will welcome you with open arms. Have you checked out their website? Websites reveal valuable information about how your funds will be used. Is their mission statement prominent on their website? Are open and transparent with their financial information? Are their board and staff members listed? Do they tell stories about lives they have touched with their work?

Also, take the time to review their 990 tax return at GuideStar. This popular site is chock full of valuable information about each nonprofit. The organization’s 990 will give you a good idea about how they spend their resources and how they are funded.

» 3. Determine which giving vehicles work best for you. The giving method you choose will usually influence the amount you decide to give. The quickest way to donate is to write a check or click the donate button on the nonprofit’s website. You can also consider giving your assets like a car or real estate. One of the most popular methods is including the charity in your will. If you have reached 70½, you can make cash donations to IRS-approved charities directly out of your traditional IRA.

Donating securities eliminates tax on long-term capital gains and offers an immediate charitable deduction. Gifting your retirement assets allows you to make the gift from the most highly taxed assets. Making a gift of life insurance offers a current income tax deduction and allows you to make a large gift with little cost to yourself. Setting up a family foundation appeals to some high net worth individuals because it is the best way to make sure your donation totally matches your values and interests.

Donating through donor-advised funds is becoming more popular. These funds are charitable giving accounts offered by a sponsoring organization, such as the Santa Barbara Foundation, that are designed as an accessible, simple and less expensive alternative to private foundations. Put your money in, let the sponsoring institution manage it, and then make a donation to the cause of your choice.

Giving circles such as the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, which is under the auspices of the Santa Barbara Foundation, are relatively new to the philanthropic scene but are gaining ground rapidly. Making your donation through a giving circle is both fun and practical. Arranging for a planned gift such as a charitable remainder trust, a charitable lead trust or a charitable gift annuity has a variety of benefits and is best handled by a financial professional.

Regardless of why you give or which organizations you donate to or which vehicles you use for your donation, creating your own plan that reflects your personal preferences will help you feel more in control and prepared for this year’s end of year donation appeals. Always remember, you are an angel in our community and we all applaud your generosity and caring heart.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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