November 15, 2022 | Main Spotlight: How to Build a Meaningful End-of-Year Fundraising Initiative | By: Hannah Davis, Development Manager at Downtown Florence |
Photo courtesy of Downtown Florence.
End-of-year fundraising is a great tool, if planned appropriately, to bolster year-end programs, fill year-end gaps, or even create a contingency cushion for next year’s budget. Downtown Florence
, an Accredited Main Street Program in South Carolina and 2023 GAMSA Semifinalist
, took on a unique end of year campaign specifically designed to fill a holiday community demand and fund a popular downtown business program sustainably.
Many years ago, a local civic organization created and offered a holiday ornament each year representative of a historic landmark, either lost or memorable, which was beloved and coveted annually by community members. The original creator of that program retired and moved away from the community, leaving a decades-long void in the commemorative local holiday memorabilia niche. Fast forwarding to 2021, our Downtown Florence Main Street Program was presented with a unique challenge. The program’s popular downtown holiday window decorating contest grew tremendously, which necessitated the identification of a unique and sustainable funding source with which to offer cash prizes and recognition to winning businesses based on public vote.
Step 1: Identify your why
Fundraising, just like any other Main Street project should be mission driven. In our case, we had a problem—how do we sustain a popular holiday competition with our business owners and make it resilient to the ever-changing corporate sponsor landscape? We also wanted to ensure that the fundraiser we chose to implement was aligned with our Main Street program’s mission—in this case, we are highlighting and preserving through our ornament key downtown historic landmark structures, which helps us meet our historic preservation goals within our workplan.
Step 2. Collect input and make your plan
Ensuring that stakeholder input is heard and valued adds to the success of a program. We found through our surveying and discussion with community members that an ornament program was beloved and connected so many families to their hometown. There was a sentimentality that we felt we could directly address through the revival of this program, while also meeting our funding goals for year-end.
Step 4. Make it easy
The potential barriers we identified and were sensitive to were the cost of the product for the community—we wanted to ensure we made money and covered our up-front costs, but also make the ornament accessible for nearly any budget; and ensuring that ordering the ornament was convenient, easy, and that we offered shipping. We worked with our local post office to determine the cost of shipping and built a flat-rate option into the cost of the ornament if it needed to be shipped. We believe that this enhanced the giving process, and we even experienced additional donations to keep the program going beyond the first year.
Step 5. Deliver the goods
Finally, it was time to deliver the ornaments to the community and we used every available outlet to get them into the hands of holiday shoppers. Our Main Street program sold the ornaments online through our website, in our office, and we even participated in our weekly farmers’ market through the month of December. Not only did this plan move the ornaments, but it also allowed us the opportunity to engage with the community sharing what the Downtown Florence Main Street program does, how to support us, and why our work matters.Interested in starting your own end-of-year fundraising program?
Please feel free to reach out to me, Hannah Davis, with any questions at 843-678-5912 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. Happy holidays!