Most nonprofits experience a significant lull in donations and donor activity in the months of January and February. The post year end doldrums.
Donors are slow to give, having distributed their 2010 charitable contributions during the ebullience of the holiday season.
Consumers are recovering from gift purchases.
The weather makes for hermits, with snow, ice and early nightfall urging more indoor, stay at home activities.
And snow birds have fled for warmer climates, leaving their local neighbors and friends to fend until spring.
This is the perfect time to grow your philanthropy program!
No other time in the calendar year do you have the potential to capture your audience’s undivided attention.
With all of the inactivity your donor and prospective donor is engaged in, you can offer a variety of options to help keep them entertained and informed, from the comfort of their warm living rooms.
- Give them good reading for a cold winters night. January and February are the perfect time to send out newsy information on your group, your past success, your future plans. Make sure your communication is meaty and news worthy, capturing the weather dulled eye of your constituency.
- And to make sure those e-newsletters get to the right place, this is a perfect time to clean up your database. With the reduced number of donations being processed and less visits to be made, your staff should spend time tidying up. Use an email verification software provider or staff can correspond and validate emails themselves. Capture address and phone while you are at it.
- While you’re assessing, audit your grant programs, ensuring that you are on track with grantors expectations. Send love notes to all your grantors, with New Year greetings and a true note of appreciation for what their funding has provided to your clients/mission.
- Spruce up your website, e-newsletters and social marketing plans for the coming year. Increase the frequency with which you are sending e-notices on your organizations marketing efforts, driving traffic to your newly spiffed up site.
- Your staff has unique insight and talent, let others know! Identify media outlets and negotiate opportunities for your staff to contribute articles or podcasts on activities of interest, connected to your mission. A schools newsletter might appreciate a guest blogger or author writing about the importance of home support in education. A local grocer might find an article from an expert in the field of nutrition, valuable in their marketing to their customers. Nows the time to get those pieces written and published. And don’t dismiss national journals. They need good writing too.
- Lay the ground work for your spring appeal. Collectively send out notice to your annual donors, giving them insight and a sneak peak at your case for the spring and summer months.
- Train your board. Your board meets regularly and has clearly defined agendas. Make the January or February agenda one that focuses on philanthropy. A little bit of elbow grease and knowledge sharing by the board, will prepare them for an active and engaged year.
- If you are planning a feasibility study, plan to launch it now. Most study participants can be reached by phone or online, so travel is less necessary. Staff has more time to devote to feasibility study efforts. And the sobering months of January and February will flavor the feedback from your constituents, providing a more realistic and conservative view of your organizations ability to raise those funds through a campaign.
Amazing concept and yet so…..organic? familiar? basic?
Principles of the Slow Money Alliance include:
In order to enhance food safety and food security; promote cultural and ecological health and diversity; and, accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Principles:
I. We must bring money back down to earth.
II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.
III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.
IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.
V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.
VI. Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:
* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?
Wow. Finally, a better way to measure our success as a society.
I’ve been asked to speak on visionary leadership. I’m still deciding if I have anything cogent to say on this topic.
The term “visionary leader” is tossed out like so much corporate slang today. But is it an accurate representation of the sentiment hoped to be communicated?
The encyclopedia defines leadership as an individual’s capacity to motivate others to seek the same objective. Well that’s a bit short sighted. Using this as a strict term, Hitler would be classified a leader. As would Satan. Not my perception of what the word leader should conjure up.
Lets try visionary. The dictionary defines visionary as one who is given to impractical or speculative ideas; a dreamer. Not much better.
What is being communicated when we speak of visionary leaders? Certainly not impractical dreamers, Svengali’s leading others to senseless ends.
Perhaps we can find a better term, based on our longed for attributes in leadership, those characteristics that are valuable and inherently humanistic.
I’ll start us off: West Point Academy writes that they build “Honorable Leaders”. The dictionary defines honorable as adhering to ethical and moral principles.
I like that.
Truth, purity, unselfishness – wherever these are present, there is no power below or above the sun to crush the possessor thereof. Equipped with these, one individual is able to face the whole universe in opposition.’ Swami Vivekananda
Europeans have the right idea, on many counts, of how to balance work and life: two hour lunch/naps, late socializing with friends and family, 6 week summer vacations.
The best thing a fundraiser can do is vacate. Remove yourself from the minutiae. Step away from the Treo, the database, the donors beck and call. Kindly, respectfully, dimiss yourself from your work a day environment.
Maybe take a close donor/friend along, but only if you both promise NOT to talk business (believe me he/she will appreciate it too).
And while you’re gone don’t think about work. Don’t think about philanthropy. Do something completely different. Exercise the right or left side of your brain (which ever is less dominant in your philanthropy career). Listen to some old Grateful Dead, paint, walk on the beach. Drink Corona’s or sweating cold glasses of iced tea. Read some good fiction. Sit under the stars, watching the flames of a bonfire. In the quiet. Breathe.
Your program wil be so much richer for it when you return.