The Most Important Word in Your Year-End Appeal Letter

I received an end-of-the-year fundraising letter last week. And it talked and talked about this wonderful organization and all the good work it has done. It went on and on to tell about its impact and its outcomes, making sure the hot buttons were all pressed.iStock_000009339939XSmallBut one huge thing was missing. It never referred to ME, the reader. Instead, the people signing the letter talked on and on about themselves, and their cause. It was a very ego-centric letter. It seemed self-interested and self-focused.What did the letter writers do wrong? There wasn't a single "you" in the whole letter.Not even a "thank you for everything you have done to help make us successful." And not, "you have beeen part of all our successes." And not, "as you probably know . . . "The letter writers missed EVERY single opportunity to refer back to me, the donor and reader. They focused only on themselves and their own agenda.My reaction?

Warming Up Your Donors Before the Ask Yields Higher Gifts

Yet another end-of-year fundraising strategy is here again on this chilly October day in North Carolina. I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are reading this.The year-end fundraiStock_000007359010XSmallising rush is upon us again. This is the time when most organizations raise most of their contributions. So warming up your donors before you ask them is a mighty smart move that can dramatically enhance your results. Here's how:1. First of all, I hope you have been communicating with your donors all year long, so they feel happy and connected to your cause.I hope you have been using postcards, emails, direct mail, personal letters, phone calls, newsletters, and your annual report to talk to your donors and treat them like friends. (And I certainly hope you are not relying on just a newsletter to carry communication this for you - studies show that donors think nonprofit newsletters are boring)2. Be sure your donors have been well thanked. If you need to, before appeals go out, hold a thankathon to your donors. Or hold a "this is how we used your money last year" phonathon to your donors.3. And here's how you prep them: As part of your appeal strategy, you should have several steps in the overall solicitation process.The first step should be a postcard, an email or a phone call letting the donor know that the campaign is about to launch. This preps the donor and helps them be ready for the appeal. The second step might be the appeal itself, with lots of additional followup steps that we will discuss later.But let's go back to the idea of a "warmup" postcard. Here's where you should put a smiling face or family who is being helped by your cause. Here's where you tell a story. Here's where you trigger the warm and fuzzy emotions.I love the idea of the postcard. You can also send an email with the photo, with a cheery message about launching the campaign and the wonderful things your organization does to help people.This kind of warm up can dramatically increase the gifts that your donors make when the appeal finally hits.Give it a try!

Three Ways to Kick-Start Your Fundraising Plans for the End of the Year

Here's a guest post this morning from Sandy Reese, of…

Reach Risk-Adverse Donors by Adding Credibility to Your Year-End Appeal

I am such a fan of Kay Sprinkel Grace. She is one of the ultimate fundraising gurus who I have followed for a long time. The highlight of my summer was hearing her in person at the Bridge Conference in DC this summer.So I wasted no time asking her to be a part of the 09 Year-End Fundraising Strategies Telesummit. And, as usual, she had some provocative and pithy ideas to share. (find out more. . . )Here's the deal: we have to know where our donors stand if we are going to successfully encourage them to contribute this year. So we need to drill down a bit into our donors' minds and hearts and understand their attitudes so we can craft the right kind of fundraising appeal. According to Kay ( and I do wholeheartedly agree), donors are feeling poor right now, whether they are multimillionares or not. So they are being more and more careful about their giving (and spending for that matter).Kay thinks the economy is starting to pick up. And she is also seeing that philanthropy is picking up as well. : ) So If philanthropy is starting to pick up, then this year-end is a golden opportunity to re-gain the fundraising losses we have seen in the past year.But we need to know how to talk to our donors.Right now. Responding to their current attitudes for fall/winter 09.Here's the issue - donors are less likely to take risks now. They are becoming more conservative. Gone are the days when a person might issue 30 checks at year-end, just because they cared a lot and also because they had ample income.Now, people are giving to fewer organizations - AND to trusted organizations.SOOOOO how do speak to your donors NOW? Remember that credibility is essential for your fundraising now more than ever. How do you establish credibility?Lots of ways:
  • track record - here are our results
  • transparency - how we are spending your money
  • who is on our board (what community leaders are standing behind us and our cause?)
  • 990 posted online
  • professional looking web site and marketing materials
  • good looking (ie, professional) fundraising appeal
  • longevity - we've been in business all this time
  • endorsements from well-known community leaders
  • funding from well-known sources (publicize this because it adds credibility)
Be sure you hit all these points somewhere in your web site and in your appeal. And you'll be more successful if you do.

Three Strategies That Will Engage Women Donors' Hearts and Their Wallets

I'm wildly interested in what Margaret May Damen had to say about appealing to women donors in her 09 Year-End Strategies Telesummit interview with me last week. iStock_000006752189XSmallAfter years on the big-time university fundraising scene, I know all too well how so many development folks focus waaaaay too much on the men. I know I used to do it too.But now, take a look at her statistics: According to the Harvard Business Review, 84% of all women make ALL the financial decisions in their households. My oh my. Too many development officers are missing the boat if they are talking to men.Here are Margaret May Damen's top three strategies to engage women donors' hearts AND their pocketbooks.
  1. Gather a group of top women donors across generational divides. Ask themiStock_000000258399XSmall for their best ideas on how to succeed with your mission. And ask them to be the pebble in the pond. To go out there and tell the story of what our organization is doing. Ask them to increase their gifts by 10-20% - not for a dollar goal but for a specific need. And then ask them to go out and ask two or three other women for the same thing.
2. In your next newsletter - put a photo or a testimonial in it from a female donor. There are TOO MANY photos of men in our materials - and it matters to women! Why are they being left out?3. Call your female donors and ask them outright - for a specific need, not a general goal: "Our students need meals - with another $100 from you we can buy 20 more meals. Can we count on you?"

What Exactly Will Motivate Women to Give This Fall?

Hi! I'm a bit behind in my goal of one-blog-post-per-day on year-end giving strategies during the month of October - because of a heavy travel and event schedule last week. BUT, watch out, I'm getting caught up this week. So be prepared for an onslaught of strategy ideas this week!It's time to talk about the ladies. And why women are likely to be the demographic group who can put you over goal this year. In the Year-End Fundraising Strategy Telesummit interviews, Margaret May Damen, founder of the Institute for Women and Wealth, shared some fascinating information about how to appeal to women donors this fall.She said thiStock_000007802393XSmallat women definitely give for different reasons than men, and outlined how to create an appeal that will speak directly to a woman's interests. (Women actually buy cars differently than men too!)According to Margaret May, women give for both pragmatic and passionate reasons.
  • Pragmatic: Women want to give to fund a certain specific outcome or result. They are less likely to make general unrestricted gifts than men are. Damen says that women want to know what the results of their giving will be. They've had to run businesses and households and can be pretty exacting when it comes to expecting a return on their investment.
  • Passionate: Women also respond very well to emotional appeals. Damen says that we need to "speak female" and talk to the heart. The facts need to elicit feelings. Instead of: "be a benefactor for $100, and an angel for $1000;" try something like this: "buy 5 bags of food and save three dogs;" or "$50 will buy three kids lunch for a week."
Damen says that men's talk is more like report talk. this is what we do and how well we have done. She says that women's talk is more about rapport - how it feels and what it's like. Men are more about getting a job done. Women are more about the best way to get the job done - the process as much as the results. Women like to build a relationship before buying or giving. They want to know you and feel comfortable with you.And talk about "community" in your fundraising appeals. Concepts like the "greater good" are especially important to women. Fundraising can sometimes seem too self interested, and this doesn't appeal to women. They would rather hear how the project connects and supports the overall community.Language like this generates trust and compassion, which can help open the hearts of your generous women donors. And it will help you raise a lot more money to help your cause.

Plan to Use Multiple Channels for Your Year-End Appeal to Raise More Money

How can using multiple communications channels dramatically enhance…

On-Line Gifts Can Put You Over the Top in the Last Days of December

In our 09 Year-End Fundraising Strategies Telesummit interviews,…

Focus on Individuals if You Want to Reach Your Year-End Fundraising Goals

I missed yesterday's blog post because I was heading to Harrisburg, PA to deliver the keynote speech for today's Central Pennsylvania AFP Conference. (What a great crowd of fundraisers they are in south-central Pennsylvania!) So now I'm going to catch up!After my keynote and two workshop sessions, I got Kim Klein on the phone for the last interview in the 09 Year-End Strategies Telesummit. As usual, Kim was on target with some eye-opening comments that will help us all.Who's going to pull us out of the recession? Kim wants to remind us that it is really going to be individuals (not corporations,

Year-End Strategy #4: How to Talk To Your Donors About the Economy

The recession is on everybody's mind, right? Surely it's on yours.…

How to Segment Your Donors for Year-End Fundraising Success

Hi! Here's Year-End Fundraising Strategy #3 for the third of October.Looks like I just may be able to make my goal of 31 days - 31 blog posts on year-end strategies. I've gone through my notes from all the 09 Year-End Strategy Telesummit interviews and have organized them into categories that I think you'll find very, very useful.Just as a preview, here are some of the topics I'll discuss in October to help you reach your year-end fundraising goals: (Of course you can find out ALL the strategies by downloading the Telesummit expert interviews when they are posted on October 9):
  • how to talk about the economy so it doesn't backfire;
  • how to prep your donors for the ask;
  • 15 parts of the right appeal letter;
  • a followup strategy that will double your results
  • how to use social media to support/enhance your year-end fundraising;
  • creative ways to ask and receive;
  • lots of roles for board members that will help you raise more money
  • last minute strategies for the end of December;
  • how to make sure your face-to-face asks are successful.
Today, however, we are still in planning mode.iStock_000001923167XSmallWe have about 10 weeks to zoom in on our year-end fundraising goal and there's no time to waste. Let's start with segmenting your appeal list. You'll want to plan different appeals to different sections of donors.The whole idea of segmenting is to help you personalize your appeal to your dear, wonderful donors. You divide your donor list into groups with similar characteristics. This allows you to create a more customized appeal that reflects the personality profile of that group of donors.Let's just think about all the ways you might want to segment your list.

Year End Strategy #1: Hold a Thankathon Before You Solicit Your Donors

Today marks the first of a series of posts on end of the calendar year fundraising strategies. During the month of October, I will be posting a great strategy idea each day. 31 days - 31 strategies - all designed to help you achieve your end of the year fundraising goals.First, I'll be discussing what you should do BEFORE you send your end of year solicitations. Then we'll move on to messaging and solicitation strategies especially designed for the rather unusual environment that we find ourselves in for fall 2009.telephoneEnd of year strategy #1: Hold a thankathon before you solicit your donors. If you really want to prep your donors for their end of calendar year annual solicitations, then thank them for their past gifts, involvement, support, help first.Try holding a mass thank-you session. Bring in your board members, or your volunteers, staff or other donors. Get on the phone and call your donors to thank them for everything they have done to help the (children, students, elderly, poor, hungry, prisoners, sick etc).Don't thank them for helping your organization be successful. Instead thank them for the impact they are making in the world.

Focus on "Friendmaking" to Take the Fear out of Fundraising

Could fundraising be as easy as picking flowers? Maybe!I frequently tell my clients and audiences something rather revolutionary: that I'd rather have a "friend" of my organization than a donor. At first everyone is startled. Then they sit back and consider what it would mean to have "friends" rather than donors.What will friends do for you? They will introduce new people to the cause and bring new friends on board. They will spread the word. They'll help you in any way they can. And when the going gets tough, where are they? They are right there with you at your side.And will your friends contribute money?

Prevent Donor Attrition and Keep Your Donors

I had the pleasure of interviewing Simone Joyeaux, one of the great fundraising gurus of all time, this morning for the Telesummit on Fall 09 Fundraising Strategies.When I asked Simone to comment on the difficult giving environment for this fall, she said it was really a "wake-up call" to us. Fundraisers have been able to get away with poor fundraising practices in the past because of a booming economy and plenty of donors. But now, when donors are cutting back, our bad habits are coming home to roost.Simone mentioned several bad habits and poor practices that are driving away donors. In fact, she noted that two out of three first-time donors DON'T make another gift! And that we are in a "donor retention crisis" right now with so many of our current donors slipping away because of bad fundraising habits.Did you know that it costs up to 10 times more to secure a NEW DONOR than it does to retain a CURRENT donor? So where do you think we should be spending our time, energy and our focus?Donors think we are treating them like "ATM machines," says Simone. When we go to them for money, money, money, they resent it and reward us by dropping off.

How to Evaluate a Board Meeting

It's a great idea to evaluate every meeting or committee meeting that you hold. But you want something painless and simple, that will actually encourage people to participate.One organization I belong to has breakfast speakers once a month, and members pay to come for breakfast and the speaker.This organization sends an email to all attendees immediately after the meeting, asking them to fill out an evaluation survey on SurveyMonkey. They get good, not great, response on the survey.Another board that I serve on solicit evaluations immediately after the meeting. In our board packets, there is a convenient evaluation form to fill out. Here's what's on the form:Share your thoughts about the board meeting:Meeting room?Stick to the agenda?Liked the agenda?Did we miss anything important"People were prepared?Reports clear and helpful?Cordial, team-like discussion?Appropriate use of our time? (meeting began and eneded on time?)Any other comments?Anything we could improve?In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge our organization faces this year?What were your big take-away's from the meeting?

A FIrst Class Strategic Planning Process

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I am the chair of a board governance committee charged with creating a strategic plan this year. (lucky me!).And I am determined to create a compelling, engaging, even exciting planning/visioning process that everyone will actually enjoy!Here's the process that I've sketched out this year:September: 1. Board Self Assessment Survey 2. Set strategic planning timetable and processOctober: 1. Form Task Force 2. Identify our organization's stakeholders 3. Determine if and how we want to get feedback and input from the stakeholders 4. Create a plan/process for receiving their feedbackNovember board meeting: 1. Discussion of board self assessment survey data and determine any action items that need to be taken 2. Vision discussion with full board - what is our vision for our organization. How much money would it take to achieve our vision? (this is a "high impact - big picture" discussion that can draw additional people and resources to a big vision, as opposed to starting with "what can we accomplish within our resource constraints?")DecemberJanuary and Feb: Focus groups of key players/stakeholders discussing what is our vision and how much money would it takeMarch: WHERE ARE WE? 1. Complete environmental scan at a board meeting. 2. Provide input from the stakeholder focus groups that were conducted in Jan and Feb. 3. Conduct SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.April - May - June: WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO? 1. Based on all info and data gathered to date, create several scenarios of LL's future. 2. Assess each scenario re its pros and cons 3. Determine the right path for LL's future and set goals.July - August - September HOW DO WE GET THERE? 1. Staff and committees create plans for accomplishing the goals. Plans will include objectives, tactics/strategies and who's responsibleWhat do you think? Want to comment?