Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had a good friend named Sylvia. We swam on a swim team together. I was pretty much lousy at all sports – swim team included. Sylvia, however, had talent.

Sylvia was so much stronger and better than all of the rest of us in our age group that none of us could really give her a challenge. Near the end of any race, she’d look back at us and we were nowhere near her. She’d leave us way behind. So she’d slack off. There wasn’t any need to make a big effort. She would simply coast to a stop at the end of the race…and still win.

Sometimes the coach would give her a hard time about it telling her how many records she could hold if she just wouldn’t slack off at the end, but she wasn’t especially interested in records. She was swimming for the fun of it. We were just in grade school and she didn’t feel any pressure.

It can be easy to feel like Sylvia right about now. #GivingTuesday is behind us. The end-of-year appeal letter we’ve been rushing around to get in the mail has gone out. It might even be kind of quite around the office. But it’s not time to coast to a close just yet.

It might not be that some competitive record is on the line, but it may be that the balance of the organization’s annual budget is. Many nonprofit organizations run it close and sometimes the final numbers aren’t known until the close of the books a few weeks after the fiscal year ends. This might be a big deal to your organization. It’s possible that it’s a big deal to your organization and you’re not even fully in the loop. Sometimes Executive Directors don’t have timely financial information so they themselves don’t know where they stand right now. And sometimes they forget or choose not to communicate (though they should!) with their development directors about the status of the organization’s budget.

Even if this year’s budget is in the black already, it’s important to finish the year strong. Finishing this year strong will allow your organization to “bank” some reserves or cover any fiscal loss that it has suffered in recent years. The last few years have been hard for nonprofits. Many are still licking their wounds from the troubled economy from which we’ve been emerging. A surplus balance this year can help make amends for losses in the prior few years.

A surplus could also allow your board of directors to authorize deferred maintenance, travel (for example, for continuing education), or another investment in program. It might mean that more people receive service.

What You Can Do to Finish The Year Strong

The good news is that there are still things you can do to keep pushing toward the close of the year.

  1. Keep Communicating: Keep messaging your constituents through email and social media. Plan to email them every week (including this week) between now and year end. The last week of the year, plan to email them 3-4 times.

The Communication Schedule I Would Recommend:

  • Dec. 28 (message: not too late to give)
  •  Dec. 30 (message: last day to give tomorrow at midnight)
  • Dec. 31st – a.m. (message: remember tonight at midnight, last time to give for 2015 tax benefit)
  • Dec 31st – 4:00 p.m.(message: say good-bye to 2015. Last chance to donate. Thank you for all your support. You’ve made this a great year. We’re grateful for your gifts. You can make your final gift here:  [Donate now]).

2. Share IMPACT and credit: Share with your donors that their gifts make great things possible. Tell impact stories and introduce them to people who have benefitted from your programs.

3.  REMINDERS: Remind your donors that it’s not too late to give.

4.  Be Specific: Let your donors know how you will use donations.

5. Call:    Call and thank people who haven’t given yet in 2015 who gave in 2014.  Just say thank you.  Wish them a happy holidays.  Let them know you want their family to have a great holiday, that you were thinking of them.

Our swim team coach was good. With a little bit of direction, he helped Sylvia to understand how she needed to finish. She was quite an athlete and racked up the medals and the records.

Fundraising final efforts matter. We know that a lot of money is given in the final 3 days of the year. Let’s make sure that we stay top of mind for our donors during the closing days of 2015.

It’s not time to coast just yet. Keep swimming! Keep pulling through the water. Whether or not we “win” the race might not be on the line, but whether or not we take home the gold and ensure that the maximum number of people eat, go to school, receive health care, or have access to clean water may well be on the line. Press on!