Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers

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When Does Your "YEAR-END" End?

In talking to many people at a range of organizations, I discovered that there is some controversy about when your "year-end" campaign actually ends.  What we are really talking about are those checks that show up after January 1st dated December 31st.   


Well, the simple answer is that no matter the date on the check the IRS considers the gift given when the check gets mailed.  So using this year as an example if the postmark on the envelope is after December 31, 2018, then it is a 2019 gift.  


But who does it this way? I talked to one agency that was very strict about the rule.  They occasionally got push back from donors who had anticipated writing the gift off their taxes in the year they dated the check. I would imagine most do anyway.  Where I think being strict throws you off is that you have a lot of January gifts that are really December gifts.  If you only do two appeals a year, you might miss these donors since in your books they have given in the present year when from the donors perspective they have not. 


If you fudge the closing of your year-end campaign and say keep your books open for an extra week, or so you get a better idea of what your actual December Giving is.  Now you are pushing it with the IRS, but you are following the donor's wishes. In all honesty, I have typically followed this approach, and I have never had a problem.  


I would recommend working with the head of your finance department and get their feedback.  At the end of the day, it comes down to how your finance department wants to count the gifts.  I'd be interested in hearing how you and your organization deal with this quandary.  You can use the comment box below to send me your responses.

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New Tax Affect On Year-End Donations 

Last month I discussed my concerns about the effect of the new tax law on charitable giving.  In talking to a number of colleagues at other organizations, the consensus is the tax law did hurt. Just how much I am still trying to discern.  I do know that at one organization over 30k less came in after New Years from checks dated 12/31/2018.

Interestingly their acquisition program did pretty well. It was renewal gifts that went down. After doing a cursory search, I found donors that had given for numerous years who did not give 2018.  So what to do and will this trend continue into 2019.  

I am recommending being very conservative in budgeting income for 2019, much to the dismay of many a  finance department.  But it is better to upgrade your goals at mid-year then have to lower them.  What you should do to try and bring back those donors you lost. I typically do a donor survey in Q1 this year I will be doing a separate survey of those that did not renew their gift asking basically what happened and can we do anything to change the situation in 2019. Beyond that, I am suggesting that stewardship is the key. We have to keep those who gave closer and reach out to those who did not give to try and let people know that your organization needs their support.

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