Preparing for donations now can help you once the holiday season comes.

How ministries can prepare for the holiday season

The holiday season is obviously a busy time for ministries, but it can also be an opportunity. And, as it says in Ephesians 5:15-16, it is wise to "make the most of every opportunity." The holiday season is the perfect time to reach out to people who can help ministries complete their mission. It's a great time to strengthen your ministry's ties to the community and impress upon people why the ministry's work is very important. Here are some things you should do before the holiday season arrives. 

"The sooner you start planning your holiday fundraising events the better."

Plan for holiday themed fundraising events early
Fundraising events are very important during the holiday season. According to ClearGive, most holiday donors search for a place to give early. Some start as early as September if they don't already have a few nonprofits or ministries in mind. The sooner you start planning your holiday fundraising events the better. While you don't necessarily need to start marketing specifically for Christmas events in September, you should try to increase the amount of marketing you're doing across the board to get attention. 

Beef up your volunteer team before the holidays hit
According to VolunteerMatch, the holiday season is a popular time for people to donate some of their time. Before the season comes, you need to make sure you're ministry is at the forefront of people's minds. This means reaching out and expressing a need for help early. Host some small events at your ministry. Have a pizza party or a baked goods sale and make sure to have someone on site to recruit new volunteers. The person recruiting help should make it clear volunteers are currently needed as well as in the coming months.

Focus on helping the community
One of the best ways to grab the attention of donors and potential volunteers is to do good deeds in the community. Hosting a local food drive or raising money for a local cause can be a successful way of drawing attention to your ministry. According to KnowHowNonProfit, events are the best way for nonprofits to engage with the community. If you can't spend money on an event, round up a group of volunteers and remove trash from the streets or help people with yard work or house chores. Whatever you do to engage the community, make sure people know what ministry you represent. That way, come holiday season, they have a better chance of remembering your organization.

Prepare online marketing efforts
While physically reaching out to people is definitely going to be worth it, you also need to focus on online marketing.

  • Email lists
    As soon as the nonprofit fiscal year ends at the end of June, you should get to work revising your email list. Make additions and omissions as needed. This is especially important if you have high bounce rates, spam complaints or if your ministry is being considered for any Internet Service Provider blacklists. According to Rita Allen, a member of FreshAddress Inc. and a Direct Marketing News contributor, when your email list is outdated some of the emails you send won't even make it to the target's inbox. Updating your email list will help you  reach the right people without causing issues with the ones who aren't interested.   
  • Social media
    While you should always be active on social media, make sure to increase your engagement before the holiday season hits. The more you can post, repost, like, comment and reply to activity on social media, the more likely you are to draw in more donors and volunteers once the holiday season arrives. 
  • Blog
    Make sure to post regularly about upcoming events and news that pertain to your ministry. These posts can be shared through your social media accounts to reach a wider audience. 

"Look over your online donations process and see if there is any way you can simplify it."

Simplify giving options
Before the holiday giving season begins, it can be a good idea to look over your online donations process and see if there is any way you can simplify it, according to ClearGive. The longer it takes and the more difficult it is for donors to make a donation, the less likely they are to finish the process and give your ministry money. In addition to considering a revision of the online donor experience, it may be a good idea to add additional online payment methods to your donor management software or to even add a text-to-give option. Mobile giving is on the rise and while donors should be able to access the website with their smartphone, providing them with the ability to text in their donation makes it even easier.