Strategic planning, Fundraising

Your EOY Planning Guide Checklist:
7 Actions to Start Now

Natalie Harris Lenz

Associate Vice President

Jane Shepard

Senior Vice President

Karen Nicoletti

Senior Marketing Strategist & Writer

With Q3 comes the familiar approach of the end-of-year giving season. As we think about how to use this next season wisely and how to set our programs up for success at year-end, what strategic landmarks can we look to right now to ensure that we’re prepared for the biggest fundraising window of the year?

I sat down with two members of MissionWired’s nonprofit leadership team, Natalie Harris Lenz and Jane Shepard, to chat about the learnings, expertise, and strategies that they’re bringing from their past leadership roles at nonprofits to their first year-end with the MissionWired team and our partners. They’ve pooled their insights and best practices to create a planning guide that’s filled with actions and strategies that organizations can put into effect now to prepare for end of year (EOY). We’re excited to share this resource – but first, a little bit about the experiences and learnings that influence their approach. – KN

KN: Can you tell us a little bit about your past roles in nonprofit fundraising and how those have affected the way you think about year-end planning?

JS: Before joining the MissionWired team, I helped large health charities, including the Alzheimer’s Association and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, run their digital fundraising programs. Working to build digital programs from the ground up has taught me how critical innovating, exploring new channels, and integrating new learnings with traditional best practices can be to driving powerful fundraising and year-over-year growth.

NHL: In my past roles leading direct response programs at Moffitt Cancer Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, I’ve gained extensive experience working at the nexus of innovative creative planning and data-informed decision-making. Leading a fundraising team – from direct mail to digital – taught me the importance of consistent messaging and getting a plan in place early to stay ahead of the end-of-year calendar.

KN: Knowing that specific timelines for year-end prep vary depending on the size or structure of an organization, what’s one thing you advise all nonprofit organizations to think about at this time of year?

NHL: If it’s possible for your program to produce end-of-year content early, that’s a great way to stay ahead and avoid the rush in the final weeks of the year – time that can be used to start planning for 2023! The content you prepare early can always be adjusted closer to EOY based on any new learnings or breaking news that might alter your plans in the meantime.

JS: I agree that it’s essential to stay nimble at the end-of-year season, to lean into messaging that yields higher responses and to make changes to your strategy based on what’s working. I would also advise any organization with big projects in the works – or with plans to test brand-new creative strategies this year – to execute and wrap up those projects now in Q3. Have big conversations across teams to ensure a well-rounded and integrated approach. That means coordinating with direct mail, with your communications team, scheduling website features, etc. This will ensure cohesive messaging at year end that will lift overall response.

KN: What are you most excited about as we get closer to your first end-of-year season with MissionWired?

NHL: My work has always allowed me to partner with nonprofits whose missions directly impact their communities, and that’s what we do here at MissionWired. I can’t wait to bring my expertise helping programs exceed their goals at EOY to our ambitious and world-changing partners.

JS: The nonprofits we partner with at MissionWired are driving huge movements of change for the better – so I’m thrilled and grateful to be able to use my experience to help these programs drive year-over-year growth and to play a part in powering their missions forward.

With a goal-smashing year-end in mind, we invite you to dig into the guide below, which was compiled by Jane Shepard and Natalie Harris Lenz. We hope it offers inspiration, helpful reminders, and a resource for growth from every angle this end-of-year season.

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