Make Your Year-End Less Chaotic, Starting Now!

By Miquette Thompson, MNA, CFRE

For many people working in fund development roles, the end of the calendar year can feel more like a hurdle to overcome than an enjoyable season of celebration. An organization’s calendar is often jam-packed with community events, internal festivities, and deadlines at this time of year. Staff burnout can begin to feel imminent, and work-life balance boundaries can begin to feel razor thin. Amid all of this, it is a time of year when organizations want to ensure that their donors feel connected and aware of all the ways in which they can provide support. So, how can you mitigate internal organizational chaos while also maintaining strong donor engagement at year-end? Early, thorough planning! Essex & Drake recommends beginning planning for year-end donor communications and other year-end engagement activities as early as August. The following are some early planning tips to consider:

  • Create a project plan or set of project plans for year-end donor communications, events, social media campaigns, etc. These project plans should include a consideration of all key internal stakeholders involved, as well as their role in the project. For example, when considering logistics around year-end gift processing, finance staff should be included.
  • Once key stakeholders are identified, make a concerted effort to remain aware of everyone’s time off schedules so that requests can be made ahead of time for various needs (i.e., reviewing copy, pulling mailing lists) and so that teams can support each other in respecting work-life boundaries.
  • If you plan to engage your board in year-end donor engagement activities, enlist their support at least one quarter in advance, and ensure that you’re aware of their vacation schedules as well. Plan to hold a special meeting or dedicate time at the last board meeting prior to launching year-end activities in which board members will be made clear on their important role in supporting year-end donor engagement.
  • Automate as much as possible. Create and schedule social media posts and mass emails. If your organization hasn’t set up automated acknowledgments for online gifts yet, try to get that into place before year-end mailings go out.

Share the load equitably. Many development professionals know what it’s like to feel like the lone person in the office working on donor correspondence and gift entry while most people are enjoying time off with family and friends. Regardless of your organization or team configuration, try your best to distribute year-end responsibilities equitably, remembering that as the year comes to a close, we all deserve an opportunity to rest and reflect.