3 Tips to Secure Your Fundraising Results Under the New Tax Law

Are you making any changes to your fundraising plan in consideration of the new tax law?

It’s tough to turn on a dime, we know. It’s hard to rethink your schedule, messages and tactics when no one is precisely sure what the ramifications will be.

We all want to believe that — tax law or no tax law — people will still feel moved to support nonprofits. But belief isn’t a strategy for success. So here are three tips to help your nonprofit thrive under the new tax law:

1. Rethink your schedule. In past years, nonprofits raised approximately 30% of their revenues in the month of December — and more than 10% in the last three days of the year.

That could change this year, as most donors won’t have a tax deadline looming. That’s why there’s never been a better time to implement a monthly giving program.

Monthly donors have much higher retention rates than one-time donors. They give your organization a stream of predictable income. And if they’re giving to you every month, you won’t need to be feverishly sending them email in December, right?

(Don’t know where to begin on monthly giving programs? Here’s some good advice from fundraising expert Gail Perry.)
2. Hone your messages. People make charitable gifts for so many reasons. We give because we care. We give because we want to pay forward the success we’ve achieved in our lives. We give because we want to right a wrong, or help someone in need.

But now, giving to affect your tax bill is most likely off the table, unless the sums you’re giving away are pretty large.

So there’s never been a more important time to make sure your communications with your supporters really speak to them. That means no jargon and no bragging. That means thanking them creatively and authentically. And reminding them that their support makes your work possible.

And it means you must do more than just ask. Your goal for your mail, email, and social media communications is to reinforce their original decision to support you.

If hearing from you always makes them feel good, they’ll want to keep hearing from you. How can you make that happen?
3. Focus on planned giving. Most of the analysis of the new tax law has centered around annual giving. But changes to the estate tax are estimated to reduce overall bequest gifts to nonprofits by $4 billion each year.

If donors can leave more of their estate to their heirs without incurring a tax penalty, will they still have a reason to leave money to charity?

There’s not one answer, of course. Some will, some probably won’t. So what can you do about it? Remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. It’s never been more important to incorporate planned giving messages into your fundraising annual plan.

And that doesn’t mean just talking to your top ten donors about remembering you in their will. The average bequest gift is less than $10,000. Donors who give $50 or $100 every year without fail are just as likely to leave you a bequest as donors who give thousands. But they won’t give if they aren’t asked.

Make sure your planned giving documents are written in plain language, not legalese. It also helps to make the entire process as simple and seamless as possible. Here’s one nonprofit’s “Give Through Your Will” page … notice they provide sample language, tax ID numbers, everything a donor would need to complete the process.

And they include it as an everyday option in their donation menu — not as something separate that only gets brought up in individual conversation.

As 10,000 baby boomers hit retirement age every day, the time to focus on planned giving is now. No organization is too small!

The surest way to succeed under the new tax code is to remember that you’re giving your donors something they can’t buy in any store at any price: the opportunity to change the world through the work you do. Keep the focus on that and you’ll survive any changes to the tax system.