At This Time Of Year, Ask!!!

How many times in the next six weeks will you be asked for a contribution?

Similar to retail, the time period between Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year represents a boon for charitable giving to not-for-profits – including synagogues.  We have been trained at this time of year to think about taxes and finding deductions to reduce what we will be required to pay the IRS – or even to the Canada Revenue Agency.

It is the exception for a not-for-profit not to see a bubble of increased giving each December.  But this is not done without effort.  Asking for contributions in the mail, online and even through social media such as Facebook has become the norm.

In the next six weeks, a not-for-profit organization whose mailing list you are on will send you one, and perhaps even a second direct mail letter asking you to include them in your end of year giving. That same organization will probably email you between 5-7 times during this same time period.

Let’s say you have made a modest contribution to 5 worthy organizations in the past year. That could be 10 letters you will receive – people in the printing business love this time of year – and perhaps 35 emails, all asking you to support such worthy causes with your year end giving.

Should your synagogue be asking congregants for year-end contributions? Do you want to be out there asking among the mix of all of these other organizations? Do you want the letter and emails from the synagogue to be among all the other requests?

Why not?

To me, there are a couple of important reasons to implement such a strategy. This is the time of year when most people make contributions. And the synagogue has a fundraising line item in the budget that has to be met.

And most importantly, if we believe the synagogue is an important part of people’s lives, why wouldn’t we ask congregants to include the synagogue in their end of year giving?

The case for giving that you make should be about accomplishments, about hopes and dreams. What I would highlight for my synagogue is the community feeling of High Holy Day Worship, the impact of our participation in the Interfaith Hospitality Network program for the homeless, or our advocacy efforts for marriage equality in New Jersey. Keep away from “doom and gloom”. A one-page letter, response form and return envelope is all you need.

Like a letter, you want congregants to open up an email and read it. Have a catchy subject line.  Incorporate pictures and even short (1 to 1 ½ minutes) videos. There doesn’t have to be a lot of copy. If your website allows people to make online donations, include the link to that page of your website.

You don’t want to ask people too much. But you don’t want to pass up on this opportunity.  Volume is important. Create a plan today as to what you are going to do in the next six weeks to ask your congregants for a year-end gift. And then implement it.

Still have questions? Email me and I will be happy to help.

2 Comments on “At This Time Of Year, Ask!!!

  1. If you don’t ask — we know what will happen. But if you do ask, we want to make sure what will happen.
    I do not completely agree with your end of year fundraising “volume strategy”. Fund Development, part of your Strategic Plan, is a year round endeavor that coordinates all aspects of your organization – fundraising, board development, marketing, communications and volunteer management. Relationships are at the heart of fundraising. How about conveying to your donors the power and satisfaction that come from giving – versus a year end deluge, that becomes transactional?

    • Hi Susan,

      I agree with you 100% that relationships are at the heart of fundraising. I often say that fundraising is not just about the money, but to also build community. At this time of year, I am, not sure synagogue leaders will take the time to meet with congregants to ask them “face to face” for a meaningful gift. At the end of the calendar year, most fundraising is transactional. My hope is that synagogue leaders will ask through a number of channels – in person, mail, email, and social media. If they are not asking now, as you point out, whatever contributions received will be by luck and happenstance.

      Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. May the Hanukkah lights bring much warmth and good health to everyone as well.



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