Aug 20, 2021

The Fall Fundraising Checklist You Need

It’s August! Kids are getting ready to go back to school, leaves are starting to look less and less green, and… is that pumpkin spice we smell?

As the season begins to change, so should your fundraising strategy. Plan out your fall fundraising season now to give your nonprofit the best chance of inspiring and building trust with supporters and maximizing the impact you can have this year-end.

Keep reading to learn…

  • Why fall fundraising matters
  • What you can be doing NOW to prepare for fall fundraising
  • Checklists for fall fundraising appeals and events
  • Ways to keep building trust with supporters beyond the harvest 

Fall Fundraising Matters!

November (46.2%) and December (30.8%) are the most popular months for making year-end asks. In fact, it’s not uncommon for small nonprofits to raise more funds during the holiday season than the rest of the year combined! There’s no doubt that generosity is contagious during the year-end with so many holidays calling supporters to express gratitude for what they have and open their hearts to share gifts with others! 

Seasonal campaigns (like fall fundraisers) are the perfect time for your nonprofit to...

  • Ensure you hit this year’s goals.
  • Set next year up for success to make a great impact.
  • Reconnect with supporters who left for vacation over the summer.
  • Connect with supporters during one of the coziest times of the year. 

Ready to start planning your fall fundraisers? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a fall fundraising checklist to help you maximize impact and minimize hiccups.

Your Fall Fundraising Checklist

Fall Fundraising Prep:

  • Build Internal Momentum. Get your staff team excited about fall fundraising with a fun “fall” themed fundraising kickoff meeting. Bring doughnuts, cider, pumpkin decor, and let the brainstorming begin! Have a great time and find out what fall fundraising ideas your team has brewing.
  • Determine Goals And Objectives. If you already have an annual fundraising plan, you earn some bonus points here. You’ve already done this! Don’t worry if you haven’t done this one yet. Start by looking back at what fundraising you did last year and what outcomes you achieved. Then, take your nonprofit’s budget into account and determine what else needs to be raised by December 31st. With all that in mind, set out 3–5 goals and objectives to help you choose the right fundraising strategies and tactics.
  • Plan Strategies And Tactics. If fundraising goals and objectives are your “what,” then strategies and tactics are your “how.” Think of fall fundraising tactics as the action steps  you’ll take to meet this holiday season’s goals and objectives. Common examples include direct mail appeals, Giving Tuesday campaigns, and events.
  • Select Target Audiences. Identify 2–3 core groups of supporters and which strategies and tactics will resonate most with them. For example, you might want to use your direct mail appeal and in-person gala to target long-term, traditional supporters, whereas your Millennial supporters may be better reached during your Giving Tuesday or year-end email campaigns.
  • Update Forms, Giving Pages, Websites, And Social Media. Make sure all of your organization’s information is up to date so you can easily link to your online fundraising form to collect donations. This includes contact information (phone, email, address, etc.), mission, vision, or program information that may have changed.
  • Inform Staff, Recruit Volunteers, And Reach Out To Board Members. With your plan in place, get your staff, key volunteers, and board members together and update them on what to expect from your organization for fall fundraising. Present your goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, and needs. Then, simply listen and ask for input. With your team’s support, you’ll be unstoppable!
  • Plan The Main Fall Fundraising Appeal Or Event. Begin to craft a more comprehensive plan for your main fundraising letters and/or events. At the very least, this should include a budget, timeline, project management template (e.g., Asana, Monday), and fundraising software selection (if you don’t already have one).

Fall Fundraising Appeals:

  • Choose The Right Stories. At its core, a winning fall fundraising appeal—direct mail or email (or both!)—include heartfelt stories of impact. Get together with your program team and ask them to help you identify 2–3 people you could interview to highlight as lives transformed by your charity. 
  • Schedule Interviews And Release Forms. Email those folks your programming team has identified as good candidates to schedule interviews and sign release forms. You’ll need to make sure they give their consent for sharing pictures, videos, and details of their stories first. Keep in mind that this is especially important if the interviewee is under the age of 18 and needs to have their parents’ consent. If you can’t interview in person, no problem! Try a recorded interview over Zoom. 
  • Craft Three Versions (Short, Medium, Long). After interviewing, write out three different versions of their testimony—a short (1 paragraph), medium (2–3 paragraphs), and long (1 page) version. This will help you hone in on the core messages of the stories and use the appropriate lengths for different communication channels. For example, a 1-paragraph testimony and 30-second video would be perfect for social media, but it wouldn’t work as well for a direct mail appeal.
  • Create A Promotion Plan To Highlight Stories. Finally, create a content plan so that you can maximize the impact of the inspiring stories you’re sharing. 

Fall Fundraising Events:

  • Choose A Theme And Format To Set The Right Tone. If you’re doing the same fall fundraising event you always do, this one should be easy to cross off your list! If you don’t know where to start, get your creative juices flowing with this blog we wrote, “10 Creative Ideas For Hybrid Events.”
  • Organize An Event Committee. Whether you’re in need of table hosts for your fall gala, team leaders for your Turkey Trot race, or an extra set of helping hands for your chili cook-off, make a list of supporters who could help. This is your event committee, and they will help lighten the load and carry these events to success. Simply email a list of people you think would be interested in helping, and set up short, bi-weekly event committee Zoom meetings to keep things organized.
  • Reach Out To Third-Party Vendors. The type of event you’re hosting will really dictate which third-party vendors you’ll need. Some of the most common vendors include venue, catering, and printing.
  • Reach Out To Sponsors. If your fall fundraising event includes sponsorship, make a list of past sponsors and send them an email or letter asking them to continue supporting your organization. Then, if you still need more sponsors, reframe the message to new sponsors, making sure they understand what a difference their sponsorship will make and how you’ll be marketing their support.
  • Create A Run-Of-Show. Practice makes perfect! Create a simple run-of-show with a timeline for the day before and the day of your fall fundraising event. Share with your staff and event committee so they have good expectations of how they can help.
  • Create An Event Promotion Plan. Create a simple direct mail, email, and social media content calendar to make sure you promote your fall event as much as possible to your target audiences.

Fall Fundraising Follow-Up:

  • Plan Your Follow-Up. Choose personalized ways you can say thank-you to deepen trust with your supporters. Be sure to remind them how much they helped raise, demonstrate what a big impact their support will make, and share high-quality photos. Consider emailing personalized thank-you videos or handwritten thank-you cards.
  • Start Building Excitement For Next Year. In your follow-up emails and social media posts, include a “Save The Date” for next year’s fall festivities (or at least begin building hype for the next season).
  • Schedule Emails To Demonstrate Impact Of Funds Raised. You don’t need to wait to begin templating follow-up emails for your year-end supporters. At the very least, consider sending emails one month later and six months later to remind your supporters that their gift is making a lasting impact for good.

Make Your Mark With Year-Over-Year Impact

Want to cross something off this checklist today? Make sure you have the right tools to maximize your fundraising and donor engagement - get started with Givecloud to ensure you maximize year-over-year impact. 

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