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Five Things Nonprofits Can Do to End the Year Right

Erin Westergaard November 30, 2017

Five Things Nonprofits Can Do to End the Year RightThe holiday season is here, and before we know it, 2017 will be behind us. Make sure you have a plan in place to keep your nonprofit operations running smoothly through the rest of the year.

Below are five things your nonprofit should be working on now to ensure a clean wrap-up of this year and a smooth transition into 2018.

1. Make Sure You’re Talking Time Off and Schedules Now, With Everyone
Make sure your team, vendors and partners are sharing their end-of-year schedules with one another early. Make sure timelines are clear, staffing schedules are shared and priorities are understood. Having everyone on the same page from the start will minimize confusion and help streamline processes when resources are light.

How to Do It: To make sure everything goes smoothly, document your end-of-year instructions and requirements and discuss with everyone who will be impacted. Create a Google document or shared calendar that can easily track out-of-office time. It’s important to ensure all necessary tasks and deliverables are covered.

2. Examine Your Donations Processing Strategy for the Holidays
Many of our nonprofit clients experience an increase in donations during the holiday season, with the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day often being one the highest-volume weeks of the year. It’s also the time of year when employees are taking time off to be with families, businesses are operating on modified hours, and individuals are hard to reach because they are using up PTO. Review your donations processing historical data and make sure you have a plan in place to efficiently process incoming donations during the holidays.

How to Do It: An increased number of donations means more money in the bank and more donor information to manage. This increase requires a modified resource staffing plan. It’s important that end-of-year donations are processed and acknowledged in a timely manner to meet donor expectations. If you plan to send annual donor summaries, having the updated, accurate donor information in your database is critical for the summaries to be all-inclusive.

3. Surprise Your Donors with a Thank You
Take this special time of year to wish your donors Happy Holidays before the year ends and without asking for a donation. Use this as an opportunity to send each donor a personalized note thanking them for their valuable contributions during the year and providing them with a brief update on what the organization was able to achieve because of their continued support.

This is also a good time to review your donor database for any potential problems or inconsistencies in your data before you run year-end tax summaries for your donors.

How to Do It: Donors who care about your mission love to hear from you, especially around the holidays. Sending a personalized postcard or folded card is a good idea. Handwritten signatures are not necessary if you use the donor data to personalize the message within the card. If you have holiday activities or events that need volunteers, invite the donor to take part.

4. Reflect on the Year
Time moves fast and it’s easy to just roll from the end of one year right into the next. Don’t let this happen. Take the time to do a thorough year-end review. Ask yourself what worked well, what didn’t and where things could be improved.

How to Do It: Schedule a meeting with your team to celebrate the successes of the year and get their thoughts into which fundraising activities went well, which ones didn’t (and why), and what things could be improved in the new year. While discussing these topics, review your organization’s goals and objectives for 2018. Develop specific objectives for each person that directly align to the goals. The aim is for everyone to feel that they have a part in the plans for success.

5. Hit the Ground Running
Don’t wait until mid-January to get “unburied” and start on your 2018 goals; get after them right away. If there are marketing campaign materials you can develop early, create them. If there are upcoming fundraising event details you can finalize, get them done. Also, make sure to send your recurring donors a detailed summary of their total contributions for the prior year. Try to have this to them by mid-January at the latest.

How to Do It: First, make sure your donor data is accurate and have a variety of people review it. Then, develop your content for the summary. We’ve seen materials that share powerful mission information to educate donors while also providing the donor’s personal contribution summary. Once your donor data and summary content are ready, work with your partners to print a high-quality letter with competitive postage mailing rates.

The end of the year is a busy time for everyone, but it can be especially so for nonprofits. By planning ahead, communicating often and establishing clear operational guidelines in advance, nonprofits can wrap up 2017 with confidence and start 2018 excited and prepared!