When it’s this close to December, you’re coming down to the wire on whether or not you’ll meet your year-end goals. For major gift fundraisers, this is such an amazing (yet stressful) time.

On one hand, you have the stress of meeting revenue goals, visiting donors, and attending events, rushing from one thing to the next. And on the other hand, you see such incredible generosity from people that it helps you slow down and appreciate the season.

And, as part of your year-end strategy, there may be some donors that you need to go back to again, to ask for another gift. That is exactly what one Executive Director I know does every year.

Here is his story about he approaches his major donors in December:

To begin with, this ED told me that every one of his major donors has been properly cultivated and stewarded throughout the year.

He doesn’t go into December trying to play “catch up” with any of his donors.

This means that he already has a set strategy for every donor and a solicitation plan for each one. There are some major donors who are always going to receive asks in December. That is a given.

What is not a given are two things:

  • Major Donors who give on “Giving Tuesday.”
  • Going back to special donors for operating funds or to ask for a second or third gift.

You see, a few years back, these two things hit him square in the nose and he quickly had to come up with a strategy. First, his organization started participating in “Giving Tuesday.” What he wasn’t prepared for was that many of his major donors gave some fairly large gifts online in addition to their personally solicited gifts. Being that it was December and he was scrambling to keep his head above water, he knew if he didn’t respond to them immediately, they would get lost in the holiday craziness, and he would not be able to thank them properly.

So every December, on the Friday after “Giving Tuesday,” he takes the whole day to personally thank his major donors for their online gifts. Depending on the donor, he either makes a personal call or a visit.

He does this because 1) the donor isn’t expecting it, and 2) these donors are giving above and beyond, and he wants to make a big deal about acknowledging that. He got such great response from his major donors the first year he did it, it is now part of his “December Plan.”

His second strategy also came out of necessity.

That same year as his first experience with “Giving Tuesday,” he also noticed that, while he was very close to his overall fundraising goals from gifts by major donors, he realized he had a lot of restricted giving (this particular non-profit has a lot of restricted giving) and his general operating budget was in jeopardy of not being fully funded.

What he did was review his portfolio to find eight donors to whom he felt he could go back and ask for another gift. These were long-time donors with whom he had a good relationship, and who were very in tune with the organization’s mission.

That year, he went to each of those eight and all of them, without hesitation, gave him a second gift that helped him make his budget for the year. Since then, he has cultivated and stewarded these major donors as “special friends” of the organization; if he ever is behind budget, he knows he can count on these donors to help him come through.

So without fail, every December, this Executive Director executes his “December Plan” – making sure he properly thanks his major donors who give online on Giving Tuesday, and reaching out to that small list of donors from whom he can ask for a second or third gift that year.

Now is the time to consider a “December Plan” for your major donors. Maybe it’s not exactly what this Executive Director does, but take a look at your current plan and see where you could layer in strategies like these that either do more for or ask more from your top donors.


This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on December 9, 2015.