A Comprehensive Guide to Your Year-End Drive, Part 3
The second year-end appeal letter is focused on donors who have not yet responded to the first appeal. The donor should receive the second letter on December 26. It is critical that you update your database daily as the mail comes in so that donors who responded to your first appeal letter aren’t solicited again. The outside of that envelope should be marked with a tagline that says: “We thought we’d try one last time. RSVP.”
Freshen up your second letter as needed with new highlights and, of course, state the status of reaching your goal. Also, remind the donor that hearing back by December 31 will allow them to take a charitable deduction in this year’s taxes.
Other Crucial Tips
In-person meetings and phone calls. The top 30% of your donors need a phone call or a meeting. They must be approached with a deep mindset to listen to their points of interest and to learn as much as you can about their connection with your cause and organization. Hopefully your database has notes on past conversations. This group of donors will bring 80% of the return for your year-end drive.
Special gifts. For the top 30% of your donors, it’s a nice touch to send them a holiday gift, but not a commercial gift. Send them a gift that is “value-aligned” with your mission. Here are examples of value-aligned gifts: a book related to your cause, a calendar with your client’s art, a magnet with a quote from your client, a bumper sticker about the vision of your work, a coffee mug with your agency’s name on it. These gifts create positive good will and generate sentimental feelings.
Large postcards. Once you send your year-end appeal letter out and 30 days have elapsed without a response, you should supplement it with a “We Miss You. May We Hear Back?” large postcard. This step alone can increase your donations by as much as 5%. The postcard and appeal letter should contain the website link where the appeal is posted and ask the donor to go there to read it and donate online.
The reply envelope. The United States Postal Service has a Business Reply Mail service and many nonprofits include a reply envelope where the upper right corner says, “No postage necessary if mailed in the U.S.” If you go that route, when the donor mails the envelope back to you, the nonprofit pays the postage. I used to advocate this method, but I have not seen it produce higher return rates, so I no longer recommend it. Instead, I suggest that you include a reply envelope where the donor puts his or her own stamp on it. Secondly, there’s a type of reply envelope called a “Kost Kut Envelope,” which offers a detachable form extending off the end of the flap. Your mailhouse will print your reply language right on the flap. This is a cost-saving step and avoids having a separate reply card, which often gets lost in the shuffle.
Costs: A typical price to send 5,000 direct mail letters is $2,775, about $.55 per piece, which includes nonprofit rate postage. However, at year-end, we recommend that you mail your pieces first-class.
Post your appeal letter online. Don’t forget to post your year-end appeal letter on your website, so donors can make their contributions online as well. Your “Donate Now” button should be prominent and visible on all pages of your site.
What strategies have been effective for your year-end appeal letters? Please let me know on our blog.
Laurence is author of "The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution," the first book on fundraising ever published by the American Management Association. He is chairman of LAPA Fundraising serving nonprofits throughout the U.S. and Europe.