Increase Your Year-End Fundraising Results With This Simple Step

Wouldn’t you like to have one simple step that will dramatically increase the return from your fundraising appeals?  Here’s a simple tactic that can have a major impact on your donors’ generosity.

Send a warm-up letter, postcard or email to donors right before the fundraising appeal letter goes out.

People will see the letter, postcard or email a few days before their appeal letter arrives in their mailbox. That way they’ll be primed and ready for the appeal letter when it comes. You are not sending it cold to them.

The direct mail guru Mail Warwick says that this is highly likely to increase the response from those who get the email or postcard.

What you are doing is “warming up your donors.” (see my other blog post on warming up before the ask.)

What you might say is this – “I want you to be the first to know that we are launching our year-end campaign next week.  Our goal is X. The theme is Y.  The deadline is December 31, and so on. . . .”

“You will receive a letter describing the campaign in a couple of days and I hope you will pay close attention and respond.”

This is clearly not rocket science, BUT it can make all the difference.

Try a “Two-Pronged” Appeal.

The first prong is the warm up - an email, a postcard, a phone call, or even a personal letter letting the donor know that they will be asked soon.

Then there is the appeal itself.  And then the followup, 3 weeks later if they have not responded. (The followup makes it a Three-Pronged Appeal, of course)

I used this strategy when I was a staff fundraiser, directing the fundraising program at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-CH.  (Go TAR HEELS!)

Here’s how I used this strategy:

I was brand new on the staff, and wanted to solicit our 110 Business Foundation members. This group of people had not been actively cultivated or solicited in the past. But they represented a significant pool of potential major donors.

So I create a very personal a warm up letter that went out about one week before I sent the appeal. The warm up letter was personally addressed, hand stamped, and was signed in blue ink by the most important member of the group.

It went something like this – (I’m giving you the summary, quick and dirty version:)

1.  “Thank you for your continued help and service on the business foundation board. You’ve helped the school in many ways . . .” (opening by referencing the donor, acknowledging and celebrating partnership, using the pronoun “you/your” in the first sentence.)

2. “We have an incredible opportunity right now with our new dean to take the business school to new heights. . .” (inspirational statement to evoke higher vision; inspiring donor to consider a new, higher level of performance for the school; using “we” to connote partnership again; establishes urgency with use of “right now.”)

3. “Next week you’ll hear from the dean himself about the new initiatives he wants to implement. . . ”  (preparing the reader to anticipate what the dean will say; sets up an expectation that something will follow this letter.)

4. “We will be asking you to consider a generous investment to help implement our new dean’s vision for the school. . . ” (letting them know exactly what’s coming and why; tells them what the ask will be for at the highest level of vision; uses “we” and “you” – never the third person – and speaks directly, personally to the donor.)

5. “I hope you’ll join me and be ready to make a generous gift at this very important time. (establishes that the letter signer has already made a generous gift; invitation to participate with the letter signer; “you’ll be ready” sets up expectation and primes donor for the ask next week.)

Well we sent out the appeal for a $2,000 gift the next week, again in a very, very personal appeal. (I usually don’t like to ask for anything over $1000 by mail, but with this warm up and personal appeal, I thought it would work.)

Wow, I couldn’t believe the results. We received gifts from people who had not given in years!

The warm up letter was a no-brainer. It was easy to implement. And it had a major impact on the success of my campaign.

I particularly like this for mini-campaigns or specific important segments of your list, such as soliciting your board or advisory board, or a special group of donors.

Try pulling out a segment of donors for this special treatment if you can’t do it for everyone on your donor list.

I think you’ll be surprised and pleased at your results!

If you want to raise more money this year-end,

be sure to join me next week for my webinar “Top 10 Strategies to Raise More Money This Year-End,” Wednesday September 22, at 1pm eastern time. If you want to capitalize on the time of year when people are most generous, join me to craft your most highly successful year-end campaign yet.

Almost half of charities receive from 1/3 to 2/3 of their annual contributions in December.  You need to take advantage of this important giving time of the year and be smart about your strategies. This is not the year to mess around. We all know how much is at stake.

I”ll share up-to-the-minute fundraising strategies that will help you raise the most in year-end fundraising this fall.  We’ll look at the latest research on web-based fundraising strategies, how donors are behaving in the recession and what they want to hear, what direct mail tactics work right now – and then we’ll apply all this new research to help you raise even more money in your year-end fundraising campaign. Find out more.

Here’s what I’m building into the presentation:

  • how to incorporate face to face asks in your year-end campaign.
  • what to do the last two days of the calendar year to maximize your on-line giving window
  • how to craft the most powerful year-end appeal letter
  • The right way to ask – your language, timing and tone for this fall’s giving environment.
  • How to talk to your donors about the recession and your organization’s challenges.
  • What CEO’s and board chairs need to know about this year-end for 2010.
  • The one factor that will increase your year-end gifts.

If your organization wants to raise as much money as possible this year end – at a time when it has never been more urgent or needed – then please join me next week. You can find out more about the webinar here.

I’ll be providing a Year-End Fundraising Implementation Workbook with the webinar. You’ll get the audio file, my slide show and the workbook when you register. The early bird price is only $64 if you register before Monday at midnight – when the price will go up to $84.

  • Abe Essig

    A great tip; will use it for our year-end campaign. Thanks!

  • Daniel Kroger, OFM

    Gail, The warm up letter is a good idea. When I know folks personally I like to make a phone call. Dan Kroger

  • Cherylyn McRae

    Love your web site and tips! This one is extremely timely given that we are prepping for our Fall Online Appeal. The idea of a “warm up” email is intriguing and one that I will be talking to my team about – I enjoy trying new ideas and thinking outside of the box. Being the new Development Director I get the chance to “stir things up” a bit…Thank you!

  • Julie Taylor

    Thank you! What a great idea! I plan to send out a “warm and fuzzy” note or card in the next week to our Major Donors. Our solicitation letter goes out October 1st and then a week later they will receive a beautiful invitation to an exclusive preview party showcasing one of our local documentarys. This strategy will allow us to sandwich the ask between two non-solicitious touches. If we get even one response at $1000+, we have more than covered additional mailing costs!

    Thanks, Julie

  • Norman Reiss

    Thanks for the tip – another example of how integrated offline and online can improve fundraising results.

  • susan bales


    wondered if you’ve read dan pallotta’s new book, “uncharitable.” it is fascinating and represents to me another step in changing the world! i am thinking a lot about his message and just need another person’s (non-dust jacket) view. i may try to employ some of his thinking in an international engagement i’m currently working.

    thanks so much,

    managing partner
    bales consulting group, llc
    202.302.1736, 910.398.8364

  • Fred Mayovsky

    The idea of a personal PRE-event postcard is a wonderful idea. And I so like the personal touch of a STAMP rather than a machine franking. Will the recipient really notice the difference? Or rather, will the personal touch of a stamp PLUS the handwritten signature of the MOST IMPORTANT PERSON make a difference to US in the Development Office and OUR feelings of involvement? Fred

  • Vernona Dismuke

    Our organization has never used direct-mail soliciations before. These ideas make me feel better about our first attempt. I have sour memories on the bogus organizations that bombarded my grandmother with emotional appeals for money. Sad to say, they worked.

  • Pat Nathan

    Where have you been all my life Gail? Love the direct, clear and almost formulaic approach. I am going to encourage all of my “sisters” ED’s to sign up for your newsletter.

  • Geri Klepfer

    I am new to all this fundraising stuff. Our non=profit is very new and very small. We don’t have a lot of volunteers and no staff! Finding your resource website…getting your newsletter…I’m hoping this all helps in our efforts! Thanks, Gail!!

  • Gail

    Susan, I am ordering “Uncharitable” today. Found out about it last week. I think it could be a momentous book to our sector and I can’t wait to read. Let’s keep in touch and talk about it.

  • Jehan El-Jourbagy

    From the first time I came upon your website, I was impressed with the helpful information and inspired to reach out in new ways. I am working on a fundraising letter, and I constantly refer to your suggestions for guidance. Thanks for the straight-forward and practical advice.

  • Jocelyn Ault

    Thanks for being timely and giving one hint that could make all the difference in the world.
    The goal of constant communications with donors sounds overwhelming but with these kinds of ideas, it becomes easy to implement. We need to constantly find meaningful ways to connect without an ask. This is great.

  • susan bales

    gail, thanks for the initial check on pallotta’s “uncharitable.” we’ll definitely need to talk more after you’ve read it. i’d like to design and try out a pilot effort to see how it works in industry.

    a bit of practice always helps find the tough points and there’s nothing to loose for my client.


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