An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Planning for the giving season


An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Planning for the giving season

As we start moving into fall, many nonprofit organizations are already gearing up for the giving season! According to Charity Navigator, 31 percent of charitable giving occurs in the month of December, but the time and effort involved in getting your message out means that programs should start planning now for their end-of-year campaigns.

Approach your end-of-year campaign as not only an appeal for additional support but also as an opportunity to showcase the organization’s achievements while  thanking those who helped advance your work. Keep in mind the significance of your individual donor base. According to Giving USA 2017 findings, the most comprehensive report on charitable giving in the U.S., individual giving topped off again in 2016, making up 72 percent of all charitable giving in the U.S and marking a 4 percent increase from 2015. Individual giving also grew at a faster rate than other forms of charitable giving.

Knowing that, your appeal letter to your donors is critical for success. As the first piece of communications your donors receive, the appeal letter is sometimes your only opportunity to make your pitch, so it pays off to invest time now to develop the overarching theme of your campaign. That theme should resonate throughout your letter and across all other messaging platforms.

As you craft your letter, keep these points in mind:

  • Personalize it as if writing to one donor
  • Add visual appeal
  • Ensure consistency of branding throughout the form letter, reply card, and envelopes

In the letter, you’ll want to tell your supporters how they’ve made a difference throughout the year. Share a compelling story or two about how lives were changed as a result of their support. These stories should demonstrate the kind of impact your organization is capable of making to improve your community. Also give donors a glimpse of the current landscape – what are the major challenges and problems facing the communities you serve and how is your organization poised to address them? Help your supporters understand that they are potential solutions to these challenges.

As we all know, social media is an important tool to use in your campaign. Messaging around your overall campaign theme needs to be engaging, compelling, visual, and brief — especially on Facebook and Twitter! Make sure your organization’s webpage is updated, including end-of-year campaign content. Work with your communications team to design follow-up campaign messages once your appeal letter is out the door. These could be stories from the field, testimonials from clients, quotes from afterschool program leaders, and other allies.

Here’s a suggested timeline of key activities to help prepare for a successful end of year campaign:

  • September: Set a financial goal and decide on a theme for your end-of-year campaign. Compile your donor list and ensure all names, addresses, and emails are complete and updated. Make sure you have an ample supply of paper, reply cards, envelopes, etc. for the appeal letter.
  • October: Craft your appeal letter and reply card, including images and graphics. Plan and draft follow-up appeal communications, including weekly e-blasts and social media posts. Ensure consistent branding across all communications.
  • November: Mail out appeal letter by mid-November or before Thanksgiving. Do follow-up communications through weekly e-blasts, starting week after Thanksgiving. Use Giving Tuesday, a day of global giving on November 28, to launch follow-up messaging.
  • December: Weekly e-blasts and social media posts are ongoing with urgency of messaging increasing (for instance, a message on December 30 that reads, “Only 24 hours before the year closes to show your support”...) Prepare donor thank you letters.
  • January: Continue sending donor thank-you letters, including the donation amount as proof for tax deductions. Once your campaign is over, send donors an update on whether your financial goal was met or not. Inform your donors on how their support will be put to work in the coming year.

Finally, devote time to debrief with your team on campaign results. Assess total campaign contributions and compare with previous year totals and review average gift amounts.

Check to see if donor base expanded from previous years. Analyze your campaign expenses – were they higher this year? Did those expenses net a significant increase in donations? Examine social media analytics (i.e., open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates) to assess what if any modifications should be made in future campaigns.

And most importantly, keep nurturing relationships with your supporters through regular communications updates so they remain connected and committed to your cause and ready to engage on your next campaign!

Service learning grants—up to $500!

With generous support for the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Youth Service Alliance (YSA) will award Afterschool Grants of up to $500 each to support youth-led service or service-learning in afterschool programs. Grants are offered on a competitive application basis and open to any afterschool...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      09/16/19

Up to $20,000 for out-of-school time educators working with kids & parents

Do you know a fantastic educator who goes above and beyond to engage not just the student, but also families, in learning? The National Center for Families Learning is seeking applicants for the 2019 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year competition, which will provide up to $20,000 to school or...

BY: Alex Crooks      05/14/19

Ameriprise Financial grants for supporting community vitality & more

Do you provide meals and snacks to children enrolled in your program? Rely on help from volunteers? Offer arts education or access for underserved populations? Ameriprise Financial is offering grants that can help you fund your work! Scope: Ameriprise Financial provides support in the...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      03/07/19

Now open: National block grant for systemic improvements & community transformation

Big challenges require lots of resources. If your organization, network, or agency seeks to create new economic opportunities in your community and improve quality of life for low-income individuals and families, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Community Services Block Grant...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      02/05/19

Grant opp.: Up to $500 for creative community projects

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is offering funding of up to $500 to design and implement a creative program for your school or library! Public schools, public libraries, and public preschool programs are encouraged to apply. Previous successful projects have included a ceramic totem...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      01/18/19

Funding opp.: STEM learning grants from Honda

The American Honda Foundation supports youth education with a specific focus on STEM subjects, in addition to environmental science and stewardship. If these are key components of your afterschool curriculum, read on for details about applying for up to $75,000 in grant funds! Eligibility:...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      01/10/19

Grants up to $100,000 for middle school OST programs!

The New York Life Foundation is seeking applicants for $1,350,000 in grants to middle school afterschool, summer or expanded learning programs serving disadvantaged middle school youth. This is the third year of the Foundation’s Aim High grant competition. In all, 26 awardees will be...

BY: Dan Gilbert      12/04/18

Grant opp.: Support for STEM, arts, community service, and more

Established in 2005, the Henderson Foundation seeks to provide support to community organizations across the country. Nonprofits (including afterschool and summer learning programs!) are encouraged to apply for funding that would support initiatives in the following areas: Education and...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      10/08/18

Got a green thumb? Get a grant!

If your program features a youth garden, Green Education Foundation and Gardener's Supply Company want to help it thrive! To enter the Green Thumb Challenge, schools and youth groups (including afterschool programs) are encouraged to to submit chronicles of their garden projects...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      09/04/18

Grant opp.: Funding for hunger relief, environmental stewardship, and more

Looking for grant opportunities that will help your program do even more in your community? Save-A-Lot can help! Save-A-Lot supports organizations whose primary mission addresses the following focus areas: Hunger relief: Comprehensive hunger relief organizations and non-profit...

BY: Charlotte Steinecke      08/13/18

An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Stewarding a donor

What is stewardship? It’s the process by which a relationship is nurtured through communications and activities once a gift has been made. It’s about keeping a donor engaged between solicitations. Stewardship post gift is similar to cultivating a prospect before a solicitation has been...

BY: Christopher Vance      11/05/19

An insider's guide to funding afterschool: The basics of proposal writing

After you have identified, qualified and cultivated your prospect (see September’s fundraising blog, IQCSS), it is time to make the solicitation by submitting a proposal. The foundation will either have proposal guidelines available on their website or, you’ll be invited to submit a...

BY: Christopher Vance      10/04/19

An insider's guide to funding afterschool: IQCSS, the fundraising cycle

Raising the necessary funds to operate your afterschool program can often be one of the most challenging parts of your work day. It takes a great deal of time and teamwork to go from finding a donor to realizing a gift. A fundraising step-by-step guide can help. The fundraising cycle consists of...

BY: Christopher Vance      09/09/19

An insider's guide to funding afterschool: 5 steps to partnering with foundations

Running a successful afterschool program is half the challenge. You’ll need great educators, interesting curriculum, and engaged young people and parents. Finding funding for your program is the other half of the challenge and for some, the most daunting. Many programs struggle to maintain...

BY: Christopher Vance      01/17/19