7 Way to Strengthen Your Year-End Fundraising Appeals

Here’s a guest post from a smart colleague of mine: Amy Eisenstein.  In her newsletter today, she gave us 7 ways to strengthen our end of year fundraising appeals.  (Check out her webiste:  Tri-Point Resources; she has lots of great information and an excellent newsletter.) Here’s a dynamite list of things you don’t want to forget!

Amy says:2

“I spoke to a group of almost 50 fundraisers this morning, from a variety of non-profits in Wilmington, DE, and only a quarter of them had started drafting their year-end appeal!

If you are like so many others who haven’t started your annual appeal letter, what are you waiting for? Time is running out.

You can’t be late with your appeal this year, because people with limited resources are going to give to the first organizations that come knocking.

1.      Create a timeline and work backwards.
When do you want appeal letters to land in mailboxes? Early November is ideal, but anytime before Thanksgiving will do. December is late!  The mail house will need a week, as will the printer. You probably need a week to write the letter, and a week for board members and others to write personal notes. (That’s a total of 4 weeks.)

2.      Contact vendors (printer and mail house) and get quotes.
Select your vendor and discuss timelines with them. Make sure they can work under your deadlines and understand the urgent nature of your appeal.

3.      Develop a concept and write your letter.
Include personal stories, client quotes, and photos, when appropriate. This is your opportunity to tell your supporters what you accomplished this year, and who you have helped. They should feel the tug at their heartstrings!

4.      Create a Business Reply Envelope (BRE)
Don’t send your appeal without one of these. Start saving ones you get in the mail as samples for next year. The reply envelope is another place to tell your story, such as your mission or more quotes. Ask for specific amounts, such as $25, $50, $100 and Other. Remember to collect donor information for your database, including address, phone number, and email address.

5.      Personalize, personalize, personalize.
–  Segment your list. Can you send different letters to board members, donors, non-donors, and lapsed donors?
–  Always use Dear Amy, not Dear Friend.
–  Ask board members, staff, and volunteers to write personal notes to people they know (and those they don’t).
–  If you can handwrite envelopes to your largest donors, you should.

6.      Use “live” first class postage.
This is not the time to use your bulk mail permit or postage meter.

If the envelope doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t matter how good your appeal is. Don’t let your appeal end up in the trash before being opened. First class stamps and handwritten envelopes exponentially increase your open rate.

7.   Follow Up
–  Before the appeal is mailed, write generic thank you letters. Have a system for how they will get out, as fast as possible.
–  Implement a thank you calling system. Ask board members to help make thank you calls.

A thoughtful thank you goes a long way in securing the next gift. Stand out this year as an organization that is extraordinarily grateful for the donations you receive!