Early in my career, a great boss (who was a mentor, though we didn’t call them “mentors” then) shared with me an axiom that has proven itself year after year.

“Hawkes,” he said, thriving on the use of my last name only, “Hawkes, you have to remember something. The fourth quarter is your report card of how you did all year long. Don’t expect your customers to love you in December when you ignored them in June.”

At that time, we were a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears kids, instead of being a little more grey-around-the-temples. But every year, that’s held true, and it’s as applicable to donors as it was to our Fortune 100 customers.

Have you started planning for the end of year? How will you capitalize on all the love you’ve shown and impressions you’ve made through email, social media, blog posts and even your good reputation? Now is your chance to bring it all home.

If there’s one thing you must remember, it’s to START NOW! It can easily take 90 days from concept to mail for a letter to go to donors, depending on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

November’s appeal should include a reminder of your gratitude for donors’ year-round partnership.  December should include a one-two punch of a strong letter followed up by an end of year appeal.  For larger donors, this can include an end of year appeal that is highly personalized, with asks that are customized based on their giving or your knowledge of their potential (if you have run wealth screening tools).

No doubt you’re continually hearing about other ways to drive donors to give. There are plenty. But focus on the staples at year-end to maximize boost to revenue, and use the other tools as efficiently as possible. Expect that the traditional vehicles, like direct mail, paper asks and email will do the bulk of your heavy lifting. The better you can make these cohesively work together to support each other, the better your total response should be.

So that means it’s important to run the adjacent email campaigns – as an always rule, but especially at year-end. Feel, tone and story should be complementary. Use specific opportunities, such as Giving Tuesday and countdown to end-of-year (and expiration-of-time to make a 2015 tax-deductible gift) to emphasize urgency.

All your communications in November and December should focus on asks. Don’t bother telling a donor about an upcoming spring golf-a-thon or April mission trip in December. The donor expectation is that they’ll be asked for a gift in November and December. So ask. Remind them of their importance in changing the world through your organization, and that you can’t do it without them.

End of year is your report card for how you’ve ignited your donor base during the rest of the year. No matter if you’re scoring all A’s the rest of the year, or if you skipped a few classes and are thinking you better cram for the final, it’s time to prepare.

Get a free donor development check up and find out how we can help you prepare for the end of the year and years to come.

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