Three Lessons Retailers can Teach Nonprofits About End of Year Fundraising

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Let’s get something straight from the beginning. Running a nonprofit is no small feat. Due to the business structure of nonprofits, their leaders have many tricky nuisances to navigate. Keeping the nonprofit in compliance with government rules and regulations is not for the faint of heart. The list of things to do while operating a tax-exempt entity can be overwhelming. However, fundraising is a constant, in the midst of keeping your organization’s mission front and center.

Everyday is an opportunity for nonprofits to raise money, get donations, and secure gifts. Why is end-of-year fundraising so special? Many people associate end-of-year appeals with the holiday season. Here’s where the connection to retailers comes in. They have mastered the art of marketing, and their goals are clear: sell products and services that will make them profitable.

Three lessons from retailers:

1. Use More Visuals
If you need examples of how retailers use visuals, look at TV commercials, email newsletters, internet ads, websites, catalogs, circulars, flyers and other marketing materials. They all have something in common, lots of pictures, videos, artwork, charts and other images. What kind of visuals your organization uses will depend on its mission, the type of services your nonprofit provides and other unique details.

2. Connect With Stories
This time of year, retailers find certain stories appealing for their advertising: ideas of family and friends gathering, children playing, holiday festivities, nature settings and food displays that make your mouth water. Shed some light on what’s new with your nonprofit. Tell donors about a new service your organization provides, how the service has helped a client or recipient in some life changing way. Show how donor funds assist in your organization’s ability to help the community (e.g., books to kids, food kitchen hours increased, housing for the homeless, additional computers, etc.).

3. Make Marketing a Priority
How is a nonprofit to run a successful end-of-the year fundraising appeal when other organizations are doing the same? Remember these words: Market Once, Market Twice and Market Again. Send out marketing material to your donors and supporters that they can relate to and connect with on an emotional level. Your nonprofit needs to stand out and set its mission apart from all the rest.

Drumming up gifts by December 31st is challenging. However, many people want to give back, and they like feeling charitable. Additionally, some donors appreciate the tax deductibility of their gifts. Thus, now is the time to take a look at what retailers are doing: use more visuals, connect with stories and make marketing a priority, for a successful end-of-year fundraising appeal.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice. Consult with an attorney regarding your particular situation. 

Aquanetta J. Betts is an attorney and speaker. She is licensed in DC and Maryland. Her work with nonprofits focuses on planned giving and legacy planning as part of the fundraising toolkit. Connect with her on twitter @Aquanetta Betts.

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