Be First in 2023! The Case for Fundraising Early.

Some marketers hit January like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. You can’t check your mail or turn on your television without seeing promotions for gym memberships, fitness equipment and weight loss programs. Financial advisors and tax advisors hit the ground running, too, targeting consumers looking to get a handle on their finances in the new year.

When it comes to fundraising, though, the assumption has always been that January would be a waste of marketing dollars. After all, donors have just made their year-end gifts and reaching out to them in January risks being off-putting.

For the longest time, I made the same assumption, but then a few years ago I had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine.

We were co-presenting at a regional planned giving conference. She was working for a large public university and had more than 25 years of fundraising experience. She shared with me that her planned giving surveys—mailed in January—had consistently brought the highest response rates. Better yet, they identified the most qualified leads as compared to any other time of year.

She opened my eyes to January’s potential, and I’m convinced that nonprofits should, at the very least, test the new-year waters.

The Case for January

For one, year-end giving continues into January. Nonprofits are strategically focusing on non-responders from November and December—a safe approach that doesn’t risk offending donors who just gave. You can count on some non-responders to have saved your year-end appeal, waiting for a chance to recover from holiday spending. You can count on others to be more enthusiastic and open to giving, wielding a fresh budget.

As my colleague recommended, a January donor survey can be an effective way to start new conversations. Your donors may have more time with the rush of the holidays behind them and more willingness to engage thanks to fresh goals and perspectives.

A few more reasons why January could be your best time, particularly for a planned giving ask:

  • There are fewer competing appeals in the mailbox and inbox.
  • Financial planning may be top of mind as a resolution.
  • Many donors were just with family, reminding them of who they want to protect.

Hey, When Is “New Years” Anyway?

Our western calendar tracks from January to December, but the start of a new year varies by culture and religion. I saw some excellent marketing last year around the Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year). Next year it begins on January 22 and it will be the Year of the Rabbit.

See You in January

Many of your donors are in planning mode in January. Take advantage of what’s becoming a key fundraising month to keep your nonprofit’s mission top-of-mind as our calendars flip over.

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