So I opened my mailbox yesterday and had a card from a pretty well-known charity. Curious, I popped it open and groaned. A turkey! It was October the fourth.
OK, guys, we have to talk about timeliness. This may be more marketing than fundraising, okay it totally is, but it has to be dealt with. Too late is a bad thing- no one wants to be putting those year-end appeals in the mail on Dec 26th, but too early IS a very real thing. Sending a card with a turkey a full six weeks before Thanksgiving is a bit early. It's currently on my desk and I'll consider a gift in November, but that's if it doesn't get lost first (a very real possibility in my home office with cats and kids).
What's too early? What's perfect timing? Well, those are just one piece of the larger picture of marketing an end-of-year campaign. First of all, everyone is doing it. Everyone! You can bet for every heartfelt, painstakingly designed, hand-signed card you send your donors, they're getting a dozen others around the same time. Don't abandon the effort- that will surely be noticed- but consider a multipronged approach during these cooler months.
Send the card- and include an invitation to a tour of your facility, a volunteer/donor appreciation event, some kind of "thanks..and now come!" so it doesn't just look like you have your hand out. This way, you have a 3-touch system: the card & invite, the event itself, and the event follow-up. Three touches to another charity's one, without feeling annoying or harassing. If you don't have the facility for a tour or some kind of live event, take a page out of a great president's book and have your CEO/ED host a virtual fireside chat.
Sound hokey? Oh, man, cheese it up! Literally find a place with a fireplace, place a nice armchair by it with a good roaring fire, and have the CEO issue a "State of the Organization" address with perhaps a Facebook live Q & A afterwards. Stream it live and make it a virtual event! It hits all the good spots: feel-good holiday vibes, answering very real questions on the status of the organization, and a very personal appeal, "face to face". For maximum benefit, live stream via Facebook and have an embedded Donate form right there (Qgiv has a great plug-in for this).
My point is, be creative. Before you pull up the same old mailing list and get ready to order more holiday cards, step back and rethink what you're doing and what it looks like from the donor's end. Don't be that guy sending Christmas cards Nov. 3 because it's easier on your schedule, and don't be that guy sending Thanksgiving cards Dec. 13th because your staff was overworked and didn't get them done in time. Nail down an airtight schedule and be intentional, deliberate, and TIMELY!
Until next time,