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Making your year-end fundraising campaign in three steps

This is the second post in my year-end fundraising series. In August and September, you can follow along here to receive training and tools that will help you launch a year-end fundraising campaign by October 1. The lessons I'm offering are best for small nonprofits (five or fewer employees). Ready for an amazing and successful Giving Season? Rock 'n' roll.


If you read the first post of my Merry Year-End Fundraising program, you’re making a list of people who care about you, your mission, and your small nonprofit. How is it going so far?

In this second post, I want to give you a preview of how your year-end fundraising campaign is going to come together.

I’m writing this post in “broad brush strokes.” The details will follow in the rest of the blog posts, live webinars, and tools that I’ll share with you over the next few weeks. Remember: If you follow this step-by-step program, you’ll have a year-end fundraising campaign ready for launch on October 1. If you haven’t signed up to get each lesson and tool in your inbox, do so here.

Now, on with the program!

The process

If you’re making your list as I instructed in the first lesson, you’re already working the process. Congratulations! Making the list is the most important activity besides making contact with the people on your list. If you make your list the right way, your list will make your fundraising campaign for you.

I mean that literally: Your list will “tell” you:

  • What your campaign goal should be

  • What message and media to use

  • How to plan your days and weeks during the campaign

If you do it right, your list will generate a lot of energy, money, and time while saving energy, money, and time.

Why is the list so important? Read the first post here for the best explanation I can give.

So, Step One is making your list. What are the next steps?

Step Two is shaping your list. Let’s say you come up with 500 people who are friendly to you and your small nonprofit. Obviously, those 500 people are not all the same. Some are friendlier to you than others. Some are active with you and some only come around whenever you ask them for something. Some have a lot of money to give, but not much time; others don’t have much money to give, but they have a lot of time. Some are eager for you to ask them for help; others only want to hear from you once in awhile.

In the second step, we turn your big list into three groups. I call these groups partners, friends, and acquaintances. These are familiar terms from everyday life.

You know that partners are going through life with you in a very intimate way. My wife is my partner. My business coach is my partner. My parents and siblings are partners. My three best friends since college are partners. We’re all in this together. If your life is in proper balance, you spend most of your time with these people.

Friends are always happy to be there when you need them. They genuinely like you and want to be around you. They have their own lives, however, with their own partners. You spend some time with these people.

Acquaintances are people who will smile and say “hello” on the street. They’re happy to do a favor once in a great while, but you are rarely on their mind and they like it that way. You rarely spend time with these people.

A small nonprofit has partners, friends, and acquaintances, too. Just as you allocate the most energy, money, and time to partners in your personal life, you should do the same as a small nonprofit.

Why? One simple reason: Partners and some friends enlarge and expand your energy and resources to be who you want to be. If you spend too much time with acquaintances, they actually exhaust your energy and resources. You become less of who you want to be and you are less able to do what you want to do.

A small nonprofit has limits on its energy, money, people, and time. Those limits make it crucial that you invest in relationships that will energize and enlarge you rather than exhaust you.

This is why your list is so important. When you identify your partners, friends, and acquaintances, you can see which relationships deserve most of your energy, money, and time. When it comes to a small nonprofit fundraising campaign, your partners will always outperform your friends and acquaintances. Why? Because partners will always do more and give more because they want to. Friends may want to, but they are committed to partners of their own. Acquaintances give only what they have to.

In the next blog post, I’ll get into more detail on how to shape your list around these three groups.

The takeaway today is that once you shape your list around these three groups, your list will actually tell you how to allocate your energy, money, and time for your year-end fundraising campaign.

Step Three is letting your list “tell” you what your year-end fundraising campaign needs to be.

As I lead you through the list-making and list-shaping process, you’re going to fill in some details that bring your year-end fundraising campaign into focus.

Here are a few things your list will reveal:

  • Your year-end fundraising campaign goal. The biggest mistake I see a lot of small nonprofits make when planning a fundraising campaign is to set the wrong goal. Sometimes, the board or executive director looks at a budget deficit and simply makes that deficit the goal. Sometimes, the board or executive director picks a fantastical number out of their dreams. The only way to plan a successful year-end fundraising campaign is to let your list set your goal for you. I’m going to show you how in a future lesson.

  • Your message, messenger, and media plan. This is actually where a lot of small nonprofits start their year-end fundraising plan and it’s a big, big mistake. Your list will tell you what message your supporters want to hear/see, how they want to hear/see it, and from whom. I’m going to show you how to do this in a lesson in a couple of weeks.

  • Your merriness plan. You won’t find this is any other year-end fundraising guide. I believe the most important element in any fundraising program is joy. See my reasons here. You need a plan to make sure that joy is built into every element and interaction. Your list will tell you how to make the right conditions for joy in your year-end fundraising campaign. Look for this lesson in a couple of weeks, as well.

Step Four is mapping out the campaign. In this step, we take everything we learned from our list and turn it into an action plan that we can plot on a calendar and track day-to-day and week-to-week. We assign roles and responsibilities to members of the board and/or team. Then we enjoy working the plan. In addition to the blog posts where I’ll write about this in more detail, the live events and live webinars will help you make and work your plan in “real-time.”

I also created a year-end fundraising checklist for you. This checklist leads you through the year-end fundraising planning process and includes links to the lessons and tools I'll share.

This year-end fundraising season is going to be amazing and successful for you and your people. Let's rock and roll!

Onward and upward!

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