Guest Opinion: Holiday giving presents opportunities, challenges for nonprofits

Phoebe KruegerAs we near the holiday season, bustling crowds and general good cheer abound. This time of year is typically associated with spending money on gifts for loved ones; for nonprofit organizations, the holiday season often results in an influx of charitable giving. A 2010 survey by Harris Interactive found that of the 85 percent of Americans who have donated to a charitable organization, 34 percent are more likely to make their contributions during the holiday season.

If managed appropriately, the increase in monetary donations during this time of year can offer nonprofits the ability to bolster their annual budgets and provide much-needed services to their community at a time when demand is high.

Understanding the organization’s fundraising cycle

Nonprofit organizations must act as good stewards of the donations they receive, ensuring that funds are available throughout the year for day-to-day operations and delivery of client services. Understanding the organization’s fundraising cycle, knowing when funds are most likely to be received and when services are most needed, will assist the nonprofit in managing cash flow on a yearly basis.

A well-established cash flow management system and a yearly cash flow projection are vital to ensuring the financial health of a nonprofit organization. The cash-flow projection should be based on the organization’s budget, taking into account when funds are likely to be received and expended. An accurate projection and cash-management system ensures that the nonprofit has enough funds to cover administrative and program costs and can anticipate potential cash flow difficulties.

With an increase in donations during November and December, nonprofit organizations should plan seasonal fundraising strategies accordingly to engage with donors during a time when giving is top of mind. Organizations should also provide donors with multiple outlets to give, including online donations, which, according to a study by Network for Good, typically experience a 40 percent increase in the month of December.

Having a solid understanding of the ebbs and flows of charitable giving allows organizations to better plan for and approach their fundraising strategies throughout the year.

Managing short-term volunteer engagement

Along with an increase in holiday donations, many nonprofits also see an increase in volunteers during these months. While additional human resources can assist the organization in delivering more services, the extra hands can also present challenges in the nonprofit’s capacity to train and manage new volunteers.

An organization can prepare in advance by assessing the operational needs that will accompany the holiday season. By establishing a strategy for volunteer management, the organization will know where to fill in the gaps and can place volunteers in the areas that best suit their individual skills.

Nonprofits must also be prepared for working with volunteers on a short-term basis and have a strategy in place to ease transition of administrative duties performed by volunteers post-holiday. A volunteer manager who is responsible for training volunteers, managing schedules and overseeing volunteer work, will help to ensure the best possible experience for the volunteer and the organization.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and with more than 32,000 registered nonprofit organizations in Washington and Oregon, donors have many options for where to allot their holiday donations. Nonprofits that have a strong understanding of their fundraising cycle and a strategy to manage the increase in both donations and volunteers have the ability to maximize these resources to ensure the most successful fulfillment of their mission.

Phoebe Krueger is a relationship banking expert and nonprofit services banking expert working out of Pacific Continental Bank’s Vancouver office. She can be reached at

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.