Year-End Fundraising: What Keeps Nonprofit Finance Directors Up at Night?

Nov 10, 2022

I was the director of finance at two nonprofits before I went to work in the nonprofit software industry. One was a mid-sized membership association with a separate 501(c)(3) fundraising foundation. The other was a very large healthcare foundation, which itself was the separate fundraising arm of an enormous healthcare system’s flagship hospital.

As different as these two organizations were, year-end was year-end. Every year, my team and I braced ourselves for the onslaught of gifts. We worked diligently to record them properly and post them accurately. And we collaborated with the Development team to acknowledge them in a timely fashion – especially right before and right after December 31. That’s what kept me up at night. Not even to mention our anxiety about deposit reconciliation, and timely year-end reporting.

That was also in the 1990s and early 2000s. We mainly got checks in the mail (sometimes hundreds per day) and, later, a handful of online gifts each week. Since 2003, I’ve worked on the technology side of nonprofit finance. I’ve seen a lot of changes, especially in the way that technology has supported fundraising overall and year-end fundraising in particular. And that leads to another thing that keeps today’s finance directors up at night:

Lots of Gifts; Lots of Systems

Gift volumes resulting from year-end fundraising are still blessedly high. They maintained during the pandemic, and year-end 2022 is expected to be the highest-grossing year-end yet for North American nonprofits.

The myriad of online and mobile platforms makes giving easier than ever before. And these platforms also allow nonprofits to better cater to donors preferences. For example, do donors prefer to give through traditional website forms, social media, virtual food/clothing drives, or text-to-give? Or would they prefer to attend an event, perhaps even send a check in the mail?

Year-end fundraising volumes through these disparate systems can be a double-edged sword for both the Development and Finance teams. Nonprofits welcome the gifts; however, with organizations leveraging so many platforms to solicit and collect them, gifts are more fragmented than ever.

According to MIP Fund Accounting’s 2022 Nonprofit Research Study, 75% of fundraising organizations use at least four such platforms. Twenty-three percent use as my many as eight! That represents a lot of gifts coming into organizations from an assortment of different platforms that each furnish transactional data in different, and inconsistent, ways.

So – if nightmare #1 is simply the high, overwhelming end-of-year volume, and nightmare #2 is the variety of systems providing transactional data in all different formats, how can nonprofit finance directors ever get a good night’s sleep between Thanksgiving and mid-January?

An Evident Solution

One tried-and-true solution is a finding a data integration platform that will address all of these issues naturally, and along the way – save time, reduce errors, and expedite business processes. Think about a technology solution that does all of the following:

  • Takes gift, payment, and other transactional data from any online source and brings it into your Development system’s CRM expeditiously, without creating duplicates.
  • Takes offline gifts, e.g., checks received from a direct mail program or telemarketing pledges, and records them into your CRM swiftly and correctly.
  • Allows organizations to acknowledge donors accurately and with alacrity.
  • Transmits all these gifts, from all these sources, from your Development CRM to your Finance system quickly, accurately, and able to be posted in a timely fashion. This helps ensure that bank reconciliations are not delayed and so that year-end financial reporting is correct, complete, and timely.

If a finance director knew she could rely on integration technology to address both the volume of year-end gifts and the fragmented nature of these gifts, I think there’d be fewer sleepless nights . . . and a lot less stress during a time of year that’s supposed to be joyful and welcome.

Planning Ahead

Year-end 2022 is right around the corner. As you plan for 2023 and look ahead to what year-end 2023 is going to be like, think about the cost-benefit of integration technology that can help save time, prevent errors, support donor stewardship, and ensure more timely business processes. It’s the season to be jolly, after all, not to kept up at night.

Stu Manewith, CFRE
Stu Manewith, CFRE joined Omatic Software six years ago and serves as the company’s Director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy. In that role, he is Omatic’s nonprofit sector domain specialist and subject-matter expert and is responsible for actively promoting and demonstrating Omatic’s position as the nonprofit industry’s leading partner in the areas of data health and integration. Prior to Omatic, Stu spent 13 years at Blackbaud, working with Raiser’s Edge, Financial Edge, and Blackbaud CRM client organizations as a consultant, solution architect, and practice manager. Previously, Stu spent the first half of his career as a nonprofit executive, fundraiser, and finance director, working in both the healthcare and arts/cultural arenas of the nonprofit sector. He holds business degrees from Washington University and the University of Wisconsin, and he earned his CFRE credential in 1999.