More than any other time of year, the Holiday Season encourages more charitable giving –whether serving food at homeless shelters, donating toys to needy children, attending seasonal arts events, or making cash donations directly to organizations that do good in our communities.

Myriad nonprofit and social service organizations are vying for end-of-year contributions at this time of the year as well. While we all hate to say it, they’re essentially “competing” for charitable dollars in a market that not only includes many wonderful and well-respected regional organizations, but national and international causes as well!

Even though more people are in charitable moods around the Holidays and year-end tax incentives also come into play, a less-than-robust economy leads to more organizations competing for charitable dollars to maintain and expand their program offerings. Both existing and start-up organizations are also competing for “in-kind” donations of goods and services, board and committee members, and both operational and programmatic volunteers. Challenges are many, including:

  • Providing both for more people in need, and offering more services to the same underserved populations.
  • Re-energizing and reengaging staff and board members and enlisting their support as community ambassadors and dedicated fund-raisers.
  • Compelling past donors to give again, give more, or both.
  • Re-invigorating and recapturing lapsed donors.
  • Identifying and reaching next-generation (i.e. younger) donors.
  • Defending your existing donor base against increasingly competitive appeals for support that not only include multiple charitable causes, but also heartfelt crowd funding requests from individuals and organizations who are not tax exempt.

During the holidays especially, nonprofit and social service organizations must look at fund development through a competitive lens – difficult as it may be when the focus is on serving their missions, meeting intensified seasonal needs and obligations, and producing multiple year-end reports. That means, among other things:

  • Regular donor analysis and segmentation to identify, retain and grow those most likely and productive sources of revenue.
  • Developing a communication strategy and targeted messages to guide specific appeals to the identified segments, that are both emotional and pragmatic.
  • Keeping an eye out for competitive threats – whether similar organizations, regulations on giving, a tight economy, or even changing attitudes toward social issues.
  • Developing strategies to counter the known competitive threats and to lay the groundwork for rapid response to unanticipated changes in the nonprofit landscape.

We all like the feeling that comes from helping those in need – especially at this time of year. It’s important to remember, however, that when the nonprofit fundraising chiefs and executives are back in the office after the New Year, looking at giving totals from the previous year, they’ll ultimately want to know that they reached all the donors they could…and that those donors gave all that they could!

Taking a cold, analytical look at the numbers and the factors driving them may not be so merry, but it’s necessary for those who want to keep doing good… and doing it even better in the next year.

Dorsey & Company Senior Associate Jeffrey Bowen, MNO, CFRE, contributed to this article.