Receiving and recording gifts is simple to do, but very often poorly done. When donors make a gift or a pledge, solicitors notify their team captain and forward the pledge card or check to the organization’s development office that day. If the deal is struck in the evening, they do it first thing the next morning. The timing and process is where the first mistakes are made. The timing is do it immediately. The process is send the paperwork to the development office. There is no need for checks and pledge cards to go anyplace other than to the organization. These are official documents and should be collected in one central location as soon as they are signed. No solicitor should ever hold a check or pledge card while waiting for others to come in. Stamps and envelopes are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the bad will created by a lost or slowly processed check or pledge card.
Once the paperwork reaches the organization, checks and pledges should be recorded, checks deposited, and acknowledgments sent to donors that day, or at the very latest the next. Held checks too easily become misplaced checks.
You want to avoid having any donor call to tell you the check hasn’t shown up in their bank statement and have them wondering whether you received it. Quick acknowledgment shows that the gift is appreciated and the organization efficient. That acknowledgment need be nothing more than a preprinted card or a form letter from the chair of the campaign. However, in this age of the computer, what could be easier than a personalized form letter from the campaign chair on his business letterhead, that of the organization, or special campaign stationery?
The acknowledgment letter brings closure to the solicitation process. It records the outcome of the solicitation, and it announces any follow-up yet to come on the part of the organization. A copy of the acknowledgment letter should be forwarded to the appropriate solicitor and team captain to let them know that the organization can account for the paperwork and checks.
The campaign’s over and the goal has been achieved—life is good.
Issue a press release and a final newsletter thanking campaign leadership, volunteer solicitors, and the donors. Single out people who should be commended, and praise the campaign chair. I like to host a thank-you function or functions for my volunteers. The format should be in tune with the organization and the community—a cocktail party, picnic, or open house, for example. (Don’t forget to seek underwriting for this event.) If appropriate, have a function for large donors.
The campaign’s over and the goal has not been achieved—life has been better.
This has happened to me more times than I like to admit. Goals and resources do not always match, campaigns do develop insurmountable problems, and sometimes you just can’t pull it off. Fund-raisers have to be prepared for the occasional failure. However, bear in mind that a campaign can come up short of its goal and still have demonstrated a lot of accomplishment. You may still be able to say congratulations to volunteers and donors. The money raised may be an all-time high for the organization’s annual fund. More donors than ever before may have given. The campaign may have come within 10% of a goal we knew to be very ambitious. It is the rare campaign in which you cannot find a positive accomplishment to call to the attention of volunteers, donors, and the public.
So issue a press release and a final newsletter or email announcement thanking campaign leadership, volunteer solicitors, and the donors. Single out people who should be commended, and praise the campaign chair. Thank-you functions are still appropriate. Donors still need to be told how much they are valued and appreciated. With the people who worked on the campaign, you need to be practical and honest about the disappointment, but don’t let words of regret, frustration, and unhappiness get to the ears of those who gave. If you become preoccupied with the shortfall and forget about all the good things that happened, you do a disservice to those who worked a campaign and to those who gave to it. They should never be left to think their efforts or gifts were a waste.
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