BOO: Halloween is a Non-Profit Holiday

I just love this time of the year. The temperature outside is lovely. Trees are turning colors and putting on a show. Charity is coming into focus for millions of Americans. Last year approximately 174 million Americans donated approximately $50 billion to charities during the holiday season. While most resource development people will tell you this all starts with Thanksgiving, I contend that Halloween is when the starters gun goes off in my head.

I was reminded this past Saturday afternoon when two kids came to my door holding a small orange box and asked if I’d consider donating some pocket change to UNICEF. Not only do I have fond memories of doing the same thing as a child, but I realized that it might have been the very first time I ever solicited anyone for anything on behalf of a child.

My passion for charity and professional career path might have started all because of a UNICEF box more than 35 years ago.

This realization got me thinking . . . perhaps the year-end charitable giving season starts with Halloween and not Thanksgiving. If I am “stretching” this point, then consider this thought: “Perhaps, Halloween offers non-profit organizations a great opportunity to position itself for the season of charity.

Halloween can be a stewardship opportunity. In fact, non-profit organizations can turn most holidays into stewardship opportunities for their donors as I wrote in my post titled “Stewardship opportunity on Labor Day” which is one of my better read posts of all time. Go figure!

Here are just a few thoughts I have for how your agency can use Halloween to frame your case for support during the holiday season:

  • Host a Halloween costume party for your top 100 donors. Don’t solicit them. Just invite them to come to a free event, have some fun, and hear a few short testimonials about how your agency is using their investment from earlier this year to do good things. End everything by saying you hope they will consider reinvesting with a contribution to your year-end holiday mail appeal that is sure to appear in their mailbox in a few weeks.
  • Organize a phone-a-thon where volunteers call donors to whom you plan on mailing your holiday mail appeal. Use a “trick-or-treat” script that talks about how your non-profit doesn’t believe in “tricks” which is why you are calling with a Halloween “treat,” and then read a small snippet of outcomes measurement data that you’ve recently been collected. Thank the donor for helping your agency achieve that specific accomplishment and then end by saying you hope they will consider re-investing when your year-end holiday mail appeal arrives in their mailbox in a few weeks.
  • Simply organize a Halloween theme inspired stewardship mailing (e.g. a ghoulish looking impact report). Don’t ask for any money. Just communicate some return on investment information and thank them for their previous charitable contribution. This can softly frame your case for support in donors minds just a few weeks before you send a solicitation mailing.

As I said in my Labor Day blog post . . .

Many non-profit organizations struggle with stewarding their donors and instead become solicitation machines (which ironically burns out donors and creates a cycle of turnover). When I’ve talked to my non-profit friends and asked WHY, the most common answer I’ve heard is that time is a limited resource.

So, take a look at your stewardship calendar and ask yourself how you can do a better job of aligning these activities with holidays.

Does your non-profit organization have any fun and effective stewardship activities and best practices wrapped around holidays? If so, please use the comment box to share because we can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health! And oh yeah . . . BOO . . . Happy Halloween!!!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847|

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