5 Ways to Maximize Your Year End Budget

Chris Hughes

May 6, 2015


Every person who has ever managed a budget at one time or another has found themselves with leftover funds at the end of a fiscal year. For annual giving offices, the question becomes how to use those leftover funds to achieve success not just this fiscal year, but the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

Here are five things you can do in order to maximize your annual giving program’s end of budget year leftovers:

  1. Data enhancement and research
  2. Analytics
  3. Additional pledge reminders
  4. Additional gift solicitations for leadership giving prospects
  5. Additional gift solicitations for low dollar donors

Data enhancement and research

Regardless of whether your database needs attention in the phone, direct mail or email channels, doing some of the research now will immediately strengthen your program and potentially free up some money in next year’s budget. Some research options to consider include:

  • Appending and verifying email addresses
  • Cell phone research
  • Appending and verifying employer information for your donors
  • Surveys to learn more about your donors and prospects

Active research is vital to keeping your database current and keeping in touch with your donors.  Additional information can be found on our web site as well as in my post from February discussing multichannel data.


How well are your donors responding to various channels and solicitations throughout the year?  Use some of your budget leftovers to conduct a study and get the data needed to determine these answers.

This can be especially important for the direct mail channel, where eliminating unnecessary mailings and expenses can enable you to reinvest those cost savings into a different channel for priority segments.

Direct mail still retains one of the strongest ROIs in the industry, but some segments of your database are simply not going to be direct mail responsive.  Direct mail analytics reporting can help identify your unique responsive and nonresponsive segments in order to maximize your direct mail program, which will impact your entire annual giving program.

Additional pledge reminderspledge_cubes

Pledge fulfillment is critical to every annual giving program.  Whether your pledges come from telefund operations or gift officers, we all hope 100% of donors will follow through with 100% of their giving  promises.

Sending additional gift reminders, along with messaging related to the importance of giving within a fiscal year timeframe will impact not just your overall dollars and donors this year, but quite possibly in future years.  According to Blackbaud, retention rates of multi-year donors are more than double that of first-year donor retention (58.4% vs. 27.3%).  A couple of extra nudges now to ensure more retention will pay off in the coming years.

Additional gift solicitations for leadership giving prospects

Practically every nonprofit has leadership giving societies.  However, this also means that every donor left just shy of reaching a leadership level equals a lost opportunity.

For example, consider a donor who has already given $500-750 this fiscal year.  If your leadership society starts at $1,000, make every possible attempt to secure an additional gift from that donor and get them into your society.

Similarly, if you have a $5,000 level and a donor is at $4,000, an invitation to upgrade their leadership status to a new category could be well received by that donor. Many institutions have lower leadership thresholds for younger alumni, and getting young leaders to the next level this year will help your future efforts.

The email channel is perfect for this at fiscal year end.  A quick email or two sent to these donors to remind them of that status, as well as the importance of making that additional gift by the end of your fiscal year, could produce significant financial dividends.  Additionally, most donors interested in leadership giving levels will probably appreciate your organization’s attention to detail and personalization efforts.

Additional gift solicitations for low dollar donors

If your organization is like most others, it is likely that your donor retention rate improves as the total gift amount increases. Low dollar donors are historically the hardest to retain.  In the fiscal year time remaining, address that opportunity with your budget leftovers.

Start by looking at donors under $100 in cumulative giving for the current fiscal year.  Can you secure additional gifts from those donors to get them to the $100 level?  Retention rate differences between a $50 donor and a $100 donor can often be significant.


In addition, how many of these lower dollar donors are recent graduates?  Don’t forget about them.  Moving recent graduates a little higher in giving for the fiscal year now can have positive impacts on your reunion giving campaigns in just a couple of years.

Once again, the email channel is perfect for this at fiscal year end.  Consider sending an extra email or two.

Or, extend your telefund calling and use that one-on-one phone call to secure the additional gift from each donor. In 2014, Ruffalo Noel Levitz phonathons raised over $3.5 million from donors during April, May and June who had already given once—with an average pledge of $108 in those “second ask” calls.

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