How to Eliminate Fundraising's Fiscal Year-End Frustrations
For many nonprofit organizations, especially colleges and universities, the six-week countdown to the fiscal year-end on June 30 is a time of intense focus and action. Fundraisers and leadership are meticulously reaching out to LYBUNT and SYBUNT donors one last time, and even re-soliciting gifts from donors who agreed to give earlier in the year.
When July 1st comes around, anyone in fundraising leadership, operations, or on the frontline has to feel fatigued from the fiscal year-end push. Most will ask if there’s a more efficient way to close gifts, the books, and the fiscal year.
Let’s first examine fiscal year-end challenges:
We all have donors who have said yes to giving two, three, four months ago, or more. However, despite that they said that you can count on them, it’s common for fundraisers to have to get back in front of donors, remind them why they chose to give, and bring the gift in the door.
For fundraisers, it can feel like they’re starting the giving process from scratch again, but this time a deadline is looming. Although this process of re-solicitation is wildly inefficient, it’s generally accepted as a reality of the job in fundraising.
When you don’t know if or when gifts will come in, there’s a general tone of uncertainty – that’s exactly why LYBUNT and SYBUNT lists exist in the first place, to measure the uncertainty and attempt to influence it in a positive direction. To manage these lists, most fundraisers use the one tool they have at their disposal 24/7 - a verbal agreement. However, when the rubber meets the road, donors aren’t accountable for verbal gift agreements.
Frustrating Fundraising Goals
The other area that a lack of donor accountability touches is leadership’s ability to forecast giving revenue at any given time of the year, especially at fiscal year-end, when it’s time to meet with the board.
Even donors with the best of intentions to give may not follow through, causing revenue to slip in some areas. For this reason, fundraising leadership does not truly know the progress toward a fundraiser’s individual goals, or collectively as an organization until the clock hits midnight on June 30.
However, there’s a real art and science that’s helping many organizations overcome these fiscal year-end challenges. In particular, digital gift and pledge agreements are extremely helpful.
Digital Gift and Pledge Agreements
In an ideal world, the last six weeks of the fiscal year would be spent collecting payments from donors who have confirmed that they’ll give earlier in the year - similar to the way pledges work.
Outside of fundraising, think about a presidential election campaign. Before the election, perhaps someone will approach you coming out of the grocery store, at your front door, or at an event, asking you for your written commitment that you will support a candidate.
They are asking you to do this, not because they’ll come knocking once again on election day and remind you of your commitment, but because simply by getting you to confirm your intention to someone else, it vastly increases the change you would will actually go out and vote for the candidate on election day.
Digital Gift Agreements and Pledges do the same thing. When you get a donor to explicitly agree to the act of giving by clicking a button, collecting a signature – or another method that’s one step more engaged than a verbal agreement – you are exponentially increasing the chance that they will make their gift. And, you’re also exponentially increasing the chances that the gift will be for the amount you discussed and on the timeline you set.
Think about how the frustrating dynamics, that we previously considered an inevitable part of fundraising, change by using Digital Gift Agreements and Pledges.
Pledges, because they document donor intent, gift amount, and timeline, are bookable revenue. Imagine leadership’s perspective on being able to forecast revenue in the door by having a full picture of when gifts will arrive and how much they’ll be.
The fundraiser-donor relationship becomes less about finding ways to get on a donor’s busy schedule to ask when a gift will come in, and more about adding value to the relationship and proper stewardship.
Donors, for that matter, enjoy a better experience and a streamlined way to confirm and make their gifts.