I’m nearly certain that you’d agree with me that strong time management skills are key for busy, multi-hat wearing fundraisers.

Every fundraiser I know has their set of time management tricks. Outlook reminders. Highlighters. Multi-coloured pens. The “mark as unread” option (a personal favourite of mine). To name a few.

I’m sure your tricks are top-notch. But in case you’re looking for something new to add to your tool belt, I have one you may find useful.

And get this! A friend of mine who has also been using it for years told me that members of her executive fundraising team are starting to use it. So we must be on to something.

It’s a very simple “5-day week” calendar:

That’s right. No fancy app or smartphone here. (Although I do use my outlook calendar for managing my events, conference calls and appointments, etc.)

The printed “5-day week” calendar is meant solely for the list of tasks you need to complete.

Time management is a breeze with this simple tool. You just write down what you’re going to do on the space for when you’re going to do it.

You can even make note of that “report that you need to start three weeks from now” by flipping the pages to the page that will be three weeks from now.

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Harvey McKinnon Associates (HMA) is thrilled to announce that Tara Lepp, CFRE, has joined our team of direct response fundraisers.

With a wealth of experience in both non-profits and direct response agencies, Tara joins HMA as Senior Account Manager.

Tara says, “I’m excited to join Harvey, Lynne and the incredible team at HMA to enhance our clients’ fundraising programs. It is a pleasure to be working with Ecojustice, who is helping to protect Canada’s environment through the law and University Hospital Foundation to help their hospitals to provide the best possible care.”

Tara joins HMA after a seven year stint at Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, where she was responsible for the annual giving programs of six hospitals and a cancer centre. One of her crowning achievements during her time there was launching and running a staff lottery, raising over $700,000 from staff to support the hospital’s programs.

As a consultant, Tara also has a host of experience managing direct response programs for organizations like Greenpeace, Red Cross Lottery, and Interval House.

Besides her wisdom and knowledge about all things fundraising, we are inspired by Tara’s commitment to the sector. Tara serves on the Board of the AFP Golden Horseshoe Chapter as Director of Education, overseeing all the education events.

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How many of your likes do you expect you’re reaching through your Facebook posts? 100%? 75%? 50%? The truth is that you’re likely only reaching 5-10% of your likes. Maybe 15% if you’re lucky. Why? Because this is exactly the way Facebook wants it.

They continue to refine their algorithm to ensure that the only way you can reach most of your supporters is through Facebook Advertising. Luckily though advertising on Facebook is still fairly inexpensive, and it’s something you should be testing for your charity.

There are three primary tools within Facebook advertising that you should be considering – Boosting your posts, increasing page likes, and sending people to your website. Each can be effective depending on what your purpose is.

Boosting a post (or multiple posts) is most effective for increasing your visibility and awareness. You can choose to boost your post to your likes (ensuring they all see it) or you can boost it beyond your own page, choosing demographic selections that work the best for you.

Increasing page likes is viable as an entry strategy if you eventually plan to boost posts to your likes. Just increasing your likes won’t do a lot of good on its own as you’ll only reach a small percentage of your actual likes. If one of the goals set out by your board is to increase the likes on Facebook this could be the tool for you.

Sending people to your website is most effective if you’re looking for donations. Be sure that if you are using this you send them to a page that clearly identifies your mission and provides an easy way to donate. Ideally this would already be part of your homepage, but if it’s not be sure you make the updates before testing.

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For those of you who may not be aware, a premium is a small gift that organizations will include in their direct mail fundraising appeals. If you are a donor you know all too well what these are all about. The cards, labels, note pads, pens, gift wrap, if you can fit it in a mailbox there is a chance you have received it. But do these flashy premiums work?

Fundraising is about building relationships with your donors, whether that is in person, telephone or through direct mail. Non-profits use premiums in direct mail to create new relationships and when you are offering something for free in an appeal the monetary response for the organization is often higher. This is why premiums are useful in prospecting for new donor. And the good news is that we have found that the long-term value for premium-acquired donors can be higher than that of a non-premium acquired donor.

The free gift helps increase your open rates and once inside donors feel compelled to read about your organization and your story. If you are able to encourage the donors to invest time into reading about your cause then the premium has done its job.

But you must also be careful when using premiums. In some cases donors may simply be making a gift based on guilt (for receiving the gift), rather than your case for support. You want donors to give because of a natural motivation, the emotion of the story you’re telling and your cause.  So what do you need to know?

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The question, “Will my one gift make a difference?” is a core question for virtually all donors. And a closely related question is: Will my gift make a greater difference here or should I give to another cause?

As a person of modest means who loves to give, I constantly struggle with this. And I know my wealthy friends feel it acutely.

If you want to earn ongoing support, you must show donors that they can affect a life, save an endangered animal, protect a river. It is their umbilical cord to your organization. And there are tools you can use to achieve this.

One technique is to break down the actual cost of a program and put tangible dollar amounts next to a piece of equipment, a bag of seeds, or the cost of sending a child to summer camp.

For decades Missions across North America has run an enormously successful campaign advertising that “$2.59 will buy a meal for a homeless person.” Of course, they also give you the option of feeding 10 people or even 100.

Another underused tool is “reporting back.” Say that the help of donors to your hospital give $160,000 for a new echocardiogram machine. A postcard sent a few days after the equipment is purchased to thank those who contributed.

Smaller donors need assurance, too

It’s not unusual for major donors to be updated on the use of their contribution. But billions of dollars come from lower-dollar donors, and many of these people would give more – often much more – if you showed how their money is invested.

While you might not always be able to attribute one gift back to a direct purchase (outside of a mission), you can certainly equate the support of many donors to completing a project.

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Last week I was looking back at our most viewed blogs from 2015. I was surprised to see that the highest views, by far, were to a blog post that was originally posted in 2012. It was titled Do you know your donor attrition rate?

Attrition (and retention) continue to be an important topic in fundraising today so we wanted to post a quick tool to help you calculate your retention rate. 

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Have you entered all of your donations through the end of the calendar year? If so, you’ve probably already been looking through results to see how good year-end was for your organization.

Did your online giving go up? My guess is yes, because this is the case for most organizations. But how much analysis do you do to determine what channel actually prompted those online gifts?

Donors don’t just decide to make a gift. There’s always something that prompts them. In fact, direct mail is one of the biggest drivers for online gifts. Many direct mail donors will visit your website after they receive your letter. Some will still make their gift through the mail, but many will choose to give online.

We push all of our clients to do this analysis, to learn how donors are moving through different channels. We generally recommend that you don’t try to re-allocate the revenue (as that can cause disputes between departments), but it’s important that you know how many of your direct mail donors made their gift online.

We did this analysis for one of our clients after they discovered their direct mail program was $100,000 short of targets for the year. Online giving was way up, nearly $100,000 over target. Our analysis showed that direct mail donors gave more than $115,000 in online gifts, within 2 weeks of receiving the various appeals through the year. It was pretty clear that those online gifts were being prompted by direct mail.

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Today is January 8th. Is your new year’s resolution still going strong? Studies show that only 75% of people can maintain their new year’s resolution through the first week. The scarier number? Only 8% of people keep their resolution all year.

The same thing can happen with your fundraising. I’m sure you have a big list of things you want to accomplish for your organization in 2016. But many of them may be too large, which can make them much tougher to accomplish.

So rather than setting a bunch of big goals for 2016, try to break your goals down into smaller, more achievable goals throughout the year. This will make you feel good as you complete the various steps, and you’ll actually be much more effective in completing your end goal.

If your goals are centered around growing your online fundraising (as they are for many organizations) it’s important to remember that not all of your goals should be financial. While that’s certainly the end goal many of your online channels (especially social media) are primarily engagement channels. Yes, you can certainly raise money through them, but you shouldn’t be expecting social media to replace your direct mail program anytime soon.

So next week while you have a few minutes look at your To Do list and your goals and start to break them down into smaller goals you’ll complete throughout the year. This way you won’t start off 2017 with the same list you had in 2016.

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The big day is here. You have been planning and campaigning for months and Christmas is finally tomorrow. From everyone here at HMA we hope that your holiday campaigns have been a great success and wish you the best of luck starting the New Year.

I would like to leave you with one last note for the year 2015.

The holidays are a time when some non-profits receive up to 50% of their revenue for the year. The entire foundation office and volunteer team work tirelessly trying to get everything done in time. In fundraising we put a lot of emphasis on stewardship and thanking our donors for making a gift and supporting our causes but today I encourage you to send out your appreciation within the walls of your organization.

Acknowledgment for hard work and positive reinforcement are some of the greatest gifts you can give to an employee or volunteer. The Christmas party you likely hosted this holiday season was great I'm sure but there is nothing more meaningful than a personal thank you. Just like donors, your volunteers and foundation staff want to be inspired, and  feel appreciated. Often enough volunteers and employees also make monetary gifts to your organization and when you build loyalty internally you are also giving the organization the best possible chance at success. Pick up the phone, send a personalized letter or note, even an email will do. Just say thank you.

Sending you warm wishes, joy and laughter this Christmas and a very happy New Years.

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You’re likely in one of two spots right now. Either, you’ve completed all your holiday shopping early. Or, you’re stressed about finding all of the gifts you need in the next 10 days.

Your fundraising might be in a similar spot. Many organizations have been planning their year-end campaign for months, ensuring everything is just right. Others have been too busy to really do any planning and are scrambling to coordinate year-end fundraising activities.

If you’re the latter, the good news is that year-end fundraising is not nearly as stressful as last minute shopping.

Even if you’ll be out of the office there is still lots you can do this week to maximize year-end giving.

The first thing is sending an e-mail. Even if you only have a few hundred e-mail addresses on your database it’s still worth sending a year-end email between December 28th – 31st. Focus your e-mail on the tax benefits of giving before the end of the year and have a specific goal for how much you’re looking to raise before December 31st. The more specific you can be, the more money you’ll raise.

If you’re not in the office over the Christmas break you can create a scheduled e-mail that will send while you’re away. This can be easily done through Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and many other e-mail providers.

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