Your questions asked and answered.

We asked our New York Service Delivery Partner Y Financial Development representatives Andy Powers, Vice President of Philanthropy at the YMCA of Greater Rochester and Mara Roberts, CFRE Vice President of Mission Advancement at YMCA of Central New York to share their insights on the upcoming push for charitable giving

Q: When should we start our year-end giving campaign?

A: It’s always best to develop an annual fundraising plan that outlines all philanthropy activities for the year, including your year-end giving campaign. We like to start planning for the year-end season each September, so we have enough time to develop our year-end giving campaign materials and solicitation lists (both snail mail and email).

Q: What audiences should we target for year-end appeals?

A: Audiences to include in year-end appeal activities are existing donors (Yes, you can ask a donor to give more than once!), donors that have previously given to the Y but have not yet done so in the current year, past donors who haven’t given in several years, top member visitors, and donor prospects.

If you can segment your data and have the budget for additional printing and mailing costs, you may also consider targeting members of 5+ or 10+ years or more as they have demonstrated a strong affinity to your Y. For this audience, it is helpful if you begin to communicate with them about the philanthropic work of your Y throughout the year and not just at year-end, so you are building awareness for our charitable work, thus increasing the likelihood that they will make a donation. You can build that awareness through monthly electronic member newsletters, features on your website, social media posts, lobby promotion and sharing Y stories with the local media.

Q: We just finished our annual campaign and/or held a fundraising event. Is it okay to ask our donors to give again at year-end, and if so, what’s the best way to do that?

A: Yes! It is ok to ask donors again at year-end because we don’t want to disqualify anyone from making an additional gift to our Y. We should provide that opportunity, and then it is the donor’s decision if they would like to participate. Often, donors will surprise you by making multiple gifts because they believe strongly in your mission. Only occasionally do donors ask to be removed from our list because they feel that we are sharing too much information or appeals with them.

One of the best ways to do this is to include language in your appeals recognizing and thanking those that have already supported and encouraging others to join them. We typically do not send direct mail or e-mail solicitations to major donors of $1,000 or greater, as we work to meet with these donors in person for ongoing stewardship, cultivation and solicitation.

Q: Can you share some tips for effective e-mail and “snail mail” appeals?

A: Our Y stories are so important! They are what engage and connect donors to our work. Whether e-mail or snail mail, our appeals always incudes a picture and story of someone who has been helped through the generous gifts provided by our supporters.

Appeals should be “donor” versus “Y” focused. At the Y, sometimes we slip into sharing about our wonderful work and programs, what we are doing and how we are doing it, but appeals should be drafted with the reader in mind, and not our organization. What can a donor make possible with their gift of $25? Or $100? Why is it important? And how does it help strengthen our local community?

If you can, and your database helps you, personalize the salutation. We have all received “canned” appeals where perhaps our name has been incorrect. We don’t want to alienate the prospect or the donor because of an incorrect title or salutation. If your data is not conducive to personalizing, go with a general “Dear Y Supporter” or similar. Though personalization is stronger, don’t let that curtail you from doing these types of appeals.

Q: How does your Y participate in Giving Tuesday, and how do you recommend local Ys prepare for it?

A: Giving Tuesday provides an additional opportunity for us to raise awareness of the Y and our charitable work. We send out an initial e-mail with a “save the date” message that Giving Tuesday is coming, and then we send and appeal to our adult members on the actual day. We also promote Giving Tuesday through our social media channels and at our monthly board meetings, encouraging our volunteers to advocate for Giving Tuesday as an additional way to continue to raise financial support for the Y approaching year-end and reaching year end goals.

Q: We’re a small Y that doesn’t have a ton of resources. What ONE THING should we be prepared to do on Giving Tuesday?

A: We would recommend is sharing one strong story about how your Y transforms people’s lives and strengthens the community. Share it via social media, your website, flyers in your facilities, or in your member newsletter.

Do you have more questions for Mara and Andy?
Save the date for our live webinar and Q&A session on Wednesday, November 6 at 1:30 pm. Keep an eye out for more information and how to register!