Friday, September 6, 2013

The opening of fundraising season

It seems like every fall I have a conversation with someone, either a prospective consulting client, a colleague or someone that I met along the way in which they tell me that they are not going to push an ask in the fall.  My response is always the same - how do you plan to fill in the hole that will leave in your participation counts come January.  Amazingly to me, the majority of folks working in fundraising are surprised at my question and doubt that this will cause an issue.  In many cases, I have been able to persuade them not to skip a fall ask.  In those cases where I have not, the result is simple and predictable; they need help in January to figure out how to catch up to last year.

I take two key lessons out of this; that as much as we would like to think that donors will give because of the organization/cause that we work for, they need to be asked or other competing interests get in the way and that giving for education needs to match the educational calendar.  

It is this second point that I find most relevant as the air cools off, and the leaves begin to turn and drop here in the northeast.  Fundraising has a season - from September through the end of December is not only about calendar year end but a general societal push to give.  In higher education much of this is driven by the start of the academic year, not only for our institutions but for children of all ages, from preschool through high school.  Missing the opportunity to ride that wave not only puts you behind now but gives up that leverage for the entire year.  

Even if you have nothing planned or ready to go, it is never too late - create a simple letter ask talking about the new energy on campus as the new year starts and asking folks to give will be effective for it is fundraising season and your donors are waiting and looking to support someone, it is your job to make sure that it is your organization that those dollars go to.


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