Tips for Making Your Year-End Appeal Rock!
I remember my first direct-mail appeal like it was yesterday. I was a mere two weeks into my first fundraising job when, during the course of an interview with our best volunteer, Patrick, I learned that the organization's annual appeal was only weeks away.
"If you can get this annual campaign back on the right track, you'll be our savior," Patrick said.
The organization's annual membership campaign had been outsourced to a succession of different agencies. The resulting product was slick, expensive … and one hot mess. Members of the community were angry, and the campaign had steadily lost donors and dollars for the previous five years. And I had about six weeks to create a turnaround.
I scrapped the full-color circular (who reads those things?) and developed a simple direct-mail package based on sound marketing concepts.
So what happened?
That appeal, my first ever, increased individual giving by a full 25 percent, while reducing costs by 31 percent. What's more, we brought in more than 100 new donors with our follow-up piece, without renting a list.
Tis' the season when nonprofit organizations around the globe are busy planning their year-end direct-mail appeals. For small-shop fundraisers constrained by limited resources, getting out a direct-mail appeal on a budget can seem like an insurmountable task.
Never fear, you can actually have an edge over the larger organizations with their agencies and design teams. Here are a few simple tips to shine:
1. Before you even begin to write, get outside of your internal world. Yes, you know your organization inside and out. Your donors don't have to. All they need to know is your impact — and how they can make a difference. Spend some time sitting down one on one with a few key players — a board member, a staff member and, yes, a donor. Why does what you do matter? Tell that story!
2. Remember, your donors are the heroes. Draw them in. Use phrases like: "You have already made so much possible." "Through your generosity today, we can …" "The power is in your hands."
3. Keep it personal and donor-focused. Yes, I know that you're probably constrained by technology. I too have worked in organizations using Windows 98 (and it was not 1998). It may take more effort, but you can personalize those letters. There's no excuse for a "Dear Friend" letter. Ever.
4. Get your board involved. Are you familiar with lift notes, those extra pieces of paper slipped into a direct-mail package to lift response? Lift notes used to considerably boost response to direct-mail pieces. Donors may be more savvy these days, but they still respond to the personal touch.
As you segment your organization's database for your fall appeal, began polling your board members and volunteers for possible connections with donors. Schedule appointments in advance for them to come in to write personal sticky notes for those donors they have personal connections with.
Go big! Go bold! Think of going with oversized Post-it® notes in neon colors, using brightly colored ink.
5. Remember that you're not writing a college essay. You're writing to a friend. Write from the heart. Aim for the jugular.
6. Create a plan for follow-up. Now is the time to write your thank-you letter. Better yet, create a welcome kit/"pass it on pack" featuring ways donors can share the word about your organization to their friends and families.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.