Erica Waasdorp

How to Promote and Close Monthly Giving In Your Fundraising Appeal Letters

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5 Tips for Making Your Donors Love You

Your donor has just sent in another gift! Hurray! So you reply…

112 Tips to Help You Raise More Money by Mail

Here's a guide that can help your direct mail fundraising appeals…

Where's the Emotional Hook in Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign?

We all talk about the need for a visual and emotional "hook"…

How To Be Sure Your Donor Actually Opens Your Year-End Fundraising Letter

Take a look at this stack of mail. Big Stack of Mail Isolated on White When will your donor even sort through all this stuff? Will your donor even notice your appeal letter? And what are the chances that your donor will actually open your letter? Let's see if we can stack the deck in our favor and increase the odds she'll open and read our letter. Let's tell a story: Here's Jane Smith, a long-time friend of the SPCA (insert your cause here!). She's harried. She's late to pick up her kids from after school care, and now she's rushing to the grocery story to get some dinner. It's a cool autumn evening, and Jane's hugs her sweater tightly around her as she drives home. She walks in the door, throws the groceries on the table, and heads to the mailbox to pick up the mail. She distractedly flips through masses of mail - junk mail, political ads, newsletters, bills - you name it. Will YOUR ENVELOPE attract her attention? Let's go on with the story and see what happens. Jane's busy but something in the mail stack catches her eye. It's an envelope in an odd color.Colorful envelope - 6 It stands out. She picks it up and sees that it's your return address. Then she notices that there is a REAL STAMP on the letter. Gosh, this must be a special letter. It has been hand stamped. Jane knows that this is no junk mail piece. It's something meant especially for her. Then she notices that several board members she knows have personally written their names above the return address. It looks a bit messy with three signatures up there, but she can immediately tell that this is indeed a special letter, meant for her alone. She thinks, "how nice of them." Finally, she notices that her address is hand written. Someone has taken the time to hand address her letter, and she feels pleased and complimented. Clearly this is a special communication to Jane. Calling hello to her husband as he walks in the door, she stops walking and OPENS YOUR LETTER. THEN SHE READS IT! : ) Moral of the story: 1. Use a bright colored envelope. 2. Use a real stamp. 3. Have someone personally write their name above the return address on the front or back of the envelope. 4. Hand-address the envelope. You can take it a step further and have something specially printed on the outside of the envelope. That also can encourage someone to open your appeal. Try these and you'll be surprised with more attention from your donors and more responses with donations.

The Magic Secret to a Dynamite Fundraising Letter

I bet you are starting to receive year-end appeal letters like…

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!

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.

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

How can using multiple communications channels dramatically enhance…