Contrary to popular belief, the year ends on November 22. No, that's not a Mayan calendar prediction.
The calendar may say that there are 10 weeks until the year ends, but if you work for a nonprofit, you've only got a month. All nonprofit professionals should treat November 22 as the end of the year, meaning there's only one month left to get your end-of-year house in order.
Why November 22? The holidays mean travel -- lots of it. Donors, board members, and staff leadership take vacation time and are in transit most of the holiday season. That makes it hard to get in touch with people, hard to schedule meetings, and hard to have all hands on deck to make decisions until after the New Year.
My hard and fast rule: the last business day before Thanksgiving -- November 22 this year -- is the last day of the year when it comes to major gift fundraising.
Here are six things you need to have in place before November 22:
Major gift asks. You need to touch base in person or via phone with all of your major donors who give in the fourth quarter. Make the connection before they start holiday travel, or you may not get them again until January 6.
End-of-year appeal. If your organization does direct mail, your end-of-year appeal should hit mailboxes right after Thanksgiving - at the latest! You should have the letter written, designed, and ready to roll before holiday travel starts.
Holiday stewardship. Every organization should send a holiday greeting to steward major donors. Before November 22, plan what the stewardship piece will be (holiday card, phone call, gift sent) and have it designed and ready to roll.
Gift processing. The end of the calendar year brings a deluge of gifts from people seeking to take advantage of the tax year. You need to have a plan in place for managing gift entry and getting donors their gift acknowledgments in a timely manner, despite the volume of data entry.
Office coverage. Someone will need to be in the office to field calls from donors and those you serve. Work with your staff now to set a coverage calendar, detailing who is taking off and when they'll be gone.
Your own plans. You need rest and relaxation, too! Nonprofit professionals work hard, so make sure you plan to take some time for yourself during the holidays. Set that plan and make it known to your team before November 22.
Taking these steps will ensure an easier end of the year for you and your organization. But remember, the end of the year is only a month away for nonprofits! The clock is ticking.