Happy New Year’s Eve

For those who celebrate the beginning of a new fiscal year on July 1, today is New Year’s Eve–kinda. And for fundraisers in particular, this can be a busy day filled with phone calls, emails and perhaps local visits to folks who somehow have thus far missed out on the incredible opportunity to give to your organization this year.

Some time ago I wrote a Chronicle column about this very phenomenon. Here’s a teaser:

People often ask me, I suppose just to make conversation and appear curious, if fund raising has a “busy season.” The question implies there are cycles in the development calendar, with some “seasons” involving heightened activity and others offering rest, relaxation, and spa treatments.

The answer, of course, is yes. We do have our busy seasons, at least in my experience. Two, to be exact. One is December, when folks scurry to make year-end gifts in order to realize tax benefits the following April. Christmas has concluded, and the credit-card bills haven’t yet come home to roost. I call that sudden realization of tax strategy “emergency philanthropy.”

Our second busy time occurs at the end of the fiscal year. At most colleges, that is June 30. I don’t know exactly why the higher-ed gods chose that date when drawing up the master plan, but someone got the bright idea that it made eminent sense to kick off fiscal festivities on July 1, and it stuck. So June 30 signifies our year end. Naturally, that confuses folks whose calendars conclude with December. I can instantly recognize the quizzical look when I remind someone in September that he’s yet to make a gift “this year,” even though he wrote his last check in April.

Come May, my fund-raising staff kicks into overdrive with an 11th-hour direct-mail and phone blitz. I call board members who haven’t given since July and encourage them to accommodate our fiscal time frame instead of theirs. Most comply. By the time late June rolls around, we get rather frantic.

Read the rest here.

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