Tis the season for appeal letters, emails, text messages, and even a video or two. To have the best giving season, or as best as it could be in 2020, then you want to be sure you avoid these top 10 giving season mistakes. Here are the top ten errors that you could make:
- Not asking for the gift. Far too often, organizations dance around the actual ask in their appeal letter. In fact, sometimes, they just don’t even make one. What is the sense of sending out an appeal if you don’t make an ask?
- Not using personalized gift strings. Is every donor the same? I think not. Wasn’t a gift pyramid once upon a time an actual thing? Aren’t we trying to move our donors up that giving pyramid? Why wouldn’t we include personalized gift strings with the intent of advancing people’s giving continuously? Otherwise, you have a dying fundraising program.
- Talking all about you (or your organization). Is it me, or is it you? But do organizations do a lot of talking about themselves? Donors don’t care about all that stuff. They want to know if they give to your organization, what impact will their giving make on someone else’s life? They don’t care about how good you are or how you have the best staff in the whole world or how you are celebrating your 25th anniversary — end of story.
- Not having alternatives to offer prospective donors. What? No alternatives for anything? Just a one-size-fits-all approach to donor relations? Well, with that kind of thinking, you won’t go far. Personalize, personalize, personalize everything about your appeal letter, and be sure to offer donors alternative things to donate to, alternative ways to donate and any other alternative that you can think of to meet your donor’s motivations.
- Not segmenting your donors for your campaign. Again, the one-size fits all approach. You may even be using a “Dear Friend” letter. Segmentation is critical. Donors are unique beings and deserve to be treated as such. Not segmenting donors into different categories places them all in the same bucket. Is that what we want for our donors? Don’t we care enough to segment?
- Filling a letter/email with fluff. It’s like packing peanuts in a moving box. Lots of air, protection from an ask — otherwise, dull and boring and to be disposed of. Same thing. Lots of useless, meaningless phrases, jargon and sentences that do not make the ask. Don’t let your letters fill the recycling bin.
- Not “warming-up” the list before asking. In fundraising, this is like going from zero to 60 and then slamming on the breaks. Or it is like going to the ATM day after day and not checking your balance, and then one day being told that you are out of funds. You are not updating your donors about their impact through giving to your organization and you’re leading from one ask to another — do you think your donor base is the bank of giving?
- Writing a letter by committee, an internal committee. I cringe even typing No. 8. Just don’t allow others internally to take your professionalism away. Why were you hired? Because of your expertise. Don’t allow other “experts” to claim they know best and diminish your hard work.
- Not asking for the gift soon enough. Hidden, deep down in the “fluff” is where you finally find the ask. Sometimes, even in the last and final paragraph after the donor has skimmed most every other. Ask early, and ask often. After all, it is an appeal letter, and it is the very reason you are writing to your donors. Don’t be shy.
- Not asking your donors because you only ask one time per year. If I had a penny for every time I hear, “We can only ask our donors once a year.” Do not make assumptions for your donors. Just because you only want one appeal a year or only give once a year, don’t assume that everyone is just like you. Ask often, get more. Ask once, and get once.
And there you have it. My top 10 list of giving season mistakes you should not make this year.
As a “top-in-the-field” Certified Fund-Raising Executive, who has been billed as one of LinkedIn’s top philanthropy voices of the year, Robin Cabral has the skills and experience to focus your efforts, drive your results and enhance your ability and confidence through easy-to-understand and informative strategies, tools and templates.
Helping fundraisers just like you excel and succeed in their careers through her unique programs, her approach is customized for those new to fundraising, wanting to excel in their new fundraising job or role, or advance in their career. She serves both fundraising professionals and executive directors alike.
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