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Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your Year End Campaign

There’s nothing more important this fall than your year-end fundraising effort. The next six weeks is the time when many nonprofits receive most of their contributions.

And there is so much at stake right now.

This year, more than ever, you’ve got to engage donors in your opportunity and ask them to join you – in a smart, effective and compelling way.

I first created this list in 2011 and am updating it now for 2012.

Please don’t make these mistakes!

Here’s my  top 10 list of ways to sabotage your year-end fundraising effort.

1.  Send a letter that’s hard to read.

. . . with ponderous sentences, long paragraphs and no white space.  This fails the “easy to read” test, which is the first hurdle for your reader, who is skimming your prose for the highlights only.

Check out my list of 153 Ways to Raise More Money by Mail for guidelines on writing an effective letter.

Ditch the lofty tone and be casual, friendly to your reader.

2.  Send a letter that’s all about you – not all about the donor.

Check out what a donor-centered letter really looks like.

3.  Bury the ask deep inside a paragraph.

. . . or at the end of a sentence. Your reader must be able to easily find out how much you are asking for and for what purpose.

Put your ask in a stand alone sentence so it stands out.

Make it plainly clear what you are asking for – and ask cheerfully!

4.  Don’t include a  reply envelope.

You’d be surprised how many organizations leave out this VITAL component – you have to make it easy for people to give.

5.  Don’t update your web site.

Studies show that donors – even those who give by writing a check and sending it in the mail – will most often check out your web site to research you before they give.

And your website MUST look professional and up-to-date! And it must convey credibility and legitimacy.

Donors will get your paper letter and then go to your website to give. Be sure they are welcome!

6. Only send out one appeal letter.

This is disaster for many campaigns.  Studies show that one letter will typically get a 15% response – NOT enough to make your year-end goal.

Other studies show that you can increase the ROI of your campaign by 20% by adding an additional appeal in a different media channel.

Your donors are too busy and need repeated reminders. And no, it is not tacky to keep reminding them!

7.  Don’t do phone followup.

Some consultants say that a followup phone call can possibly double your results.

8.  Don’t do an email push to non-donors the last two days of December.

A majority of on-line donors give in December and most of them are on the last two days of December.

NOW is the time to get your online donation process working smoothly.

9.  Don’t send a PROMPT, warm, personal thank you immediately to your donors.

And “warm, personal” does not mean “on behalf of the board of directors we thank you for blah blah.”

This impersonal bunk doesn’t warm your donor’s heart.

A warm thank you uses the words “we” and “you” and is conversational in tone – not institutional.

Penelope Burk’s all time favorite thank you letter begins like this: “You must have heard the cheers in our halls when we received your generous pledge.”

10. Don’t have your board members call donors to thank them.

They need to call within 24 hours of the gift’s receipt.

Penelope Burk’s landmark studies showed that when board members made this type of followup call, then subsequent gifts from the donors rose by 39%!

Bottom Line:

Avoid at all costs, these mistakes.

Create a dynamite year-end campaign that brings in the urgently needed resources you need!

And if you’d like my help to create a year-end appeal letter that will open your donor’s hearts and wallets – I can help you. Find out more here.

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

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  • Karen

    Thank you for your excellent advise each week. I’ve been using your strategies for two years now. This is my third major fall fundraising campaign using your tips. THANK YOU! We have grown tremendously in this time and i’m grateful for your help.

  • Pingback: Tips for a winning year-end fundraising strategy | MVDP Oregon

  • gailperry

    Hi Karen – hope those tips are helping you raise tons more money! Keep me posted!