3 Things To Do This Week To Finish Your K-12 School’s Fiscal Year Strong
Written by Kim Jennings, CFRE
Spring Fever is here! And the families in your K12 school have it.
Emails go unread.
Solicitation letters are tossed in the trash.
Videos remain unclicked.
What is a Development office to do?
We suggest three things you can do this week to set up your school for a successful fiscal year end.
First, respect your real fiscal year end date.
Your fiscal year may end June 30 but perception is reality —and your families don’t care that June 30 is your official last day. When the school year closes, they’re out the door.
If you’re waiting until the last week to run your “End of the Year Challenge,” maybe don’t. Your alumni may tune in to an email and social media blitz but few of your parents are likely to do so at that time. Consider running the challenge in mid-May instead. Or at least in early June.
Don’t hold your last appeal letter for the end. Consider dropping it earlier this year. And, if we haven’t convinced you, try an A/B test. Mail to half of the parent non-givers (randomly assigned “A”) on April 15 and the other half (“B”) on June 1. Tag the records so you know who got what. Track your results, analyze in July, and revise for FY22 accordingly.
See this guide from Kindful on A/B testing.
Second, focus on renewals.
You know this, but it bears repeating. Renewing a giver is critical. Schools across the country are bemoaning the loss of givers, and it’s a real challenge. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project tracks nonprofit giving data quarterly and their reports show that on average, renewal rates are under 50%. That’s a lot of lost givers, money, and time.
Pick up the phone—today—and start calling your soon-to-be-lapsed givers. Thank them for their gift last year, let them know how valuable it was in making your mission possible. Hopefully, they’ve heard from you since their last gift but even if not (especially, if not!), you need to call them. (And, next year consider setting up a stronger communication schedule so you’re not just skipping from “ask” to “ask” each year.)
Pro Tip: If you’re overwhelmed and aren’t sure how to make your goal, calling to renew givers is your very best first use of time. Start with your highest dollar amounts first, and work down from there.
(By the way, even personal emails to them are not as good. They just aren’t. Truly. Pick up the phone.)
Third, give up oldies in favor of newbies.
After renewals, who do you prioritize next for appeals?
Probably not your graduating families. (We’ll share why below.)
Focus instead on those in their first year. Acquiring these families as givers early in their tenure is critical for growing a culture of generosity. In fact, we suggest a year-round plan for cultivating these important new relationships. They need a special communication strategy to get them onboarded. And, now their honeymoon phase may soon be coming to a close.
If you haven’t been communicating regularly with first-year families, reach out now. This week.
Consider the following cadence at this point in their year:
- Email in mid-April all first-year families (regardless of giving history) celebrating a great first year, with something notable and interesting to share.
- Email in early May those who haven’t yet given, with a message about the culture of generosity and how it makes your mission possible.
- Email again in late May the still-remaining, non-givers asking them to make a gift in honor of their child’s first year.
- Email in June all first-year families wishing them a happy summer and thanking everyone who made a gift in their first year. Tie the gifts to the mission, and remind them winsomely that it’s never too late to be a part of making the mission possible.
But, why shouldn’t I seize this last chance with senior families? Many schools prize “senior” programs where parents are asked to give to a project or in honor of a beloved teacher. Schools that don’t have these programs often want to start one.
While it’s a lovely gesture, and you may receive a few gifts, trust us when we say that, generally, a program aimed at this group at this point in their year is unlikely to return much on the investment of your bandwidth.
Graduating families’ sights have been raised to the next school (and they’ve already begun making payments to it). No matter how warm and fuzzy they feel toward your institution, they are no longer reading your mass fundraising appeals. (Don’t count them out for one-on-one major gift work, however. Continue to nurture such relationships appropriately, regardless of graduation date.) If you’d still like to have a senior program, try next year’s class in September, before the first application deadlines hit.
So then, K12 Development friends, to recap:
- Don’t wait until late June to make your fiscal year end appeals—start now, while families are still on campus.
- Don’t hold your lapsing givers at arm’s length—pick up the phone today and start calling them.
- Don’t spend time you don’t have asking senior families for a last minute gift. Instead reach out this week as part of a first-year families onboarding plan and inspire them to support your school in their first year.
Within a K12 school’s truncated calendar, every moment is precious. The summer months (and Christmas through the New Year, too) are practically lost.
Your fundraising goals are real, however, and the stakes are high. It’s critical that you’re strategic in your planning, not merely jumping from appeal letter, to event, to social media challenge, and so on. A comprehensive development plan is absolutely essential to raising more money for your school through building a broad-based culture of generosity.
Complimentary Strategy Session
Total Advancement Solutions team members at Generis can help you create a custom, strategic, comprehensive development plan that fits within the unique culture of your K-12 school.
Schedule a Complimentary Strategy Session with an Advancement Strategist