It’s annual appeal time at nonprofits everywhere. These next few months will bring in large portions of fundraising revenue for many organizations–on average more than 30%. While we hope your letters are already written, it might not be too late to make a few donor-centric updates before you hit the print button.
Here are 11 Annual Appeal tips for your upcoming letters
- Use “YOU” more than “we.” “We” is inclusive but “you” provides the reader with the benefits. For instance, “Together, we can wipe out food insecurity.” Or, “You can help wipe out food insecurity and provide food for one family for one month with a gift of $250.”
- Ask for what you really want in the P.S. It is the copy that is read first and last, make it count.
- Generations GenX and older like stories, younger generations want emotional facts. Gen Y and younger prefer concrete facts. Combining the two isn’t easy but the easiest way to do this is with the P.S. or the list of giving options. Explain, simply, what $250, $1,000 and $5,000 could help the donor achieve (please note I did not say what your nonprofit could achieve).
- Stick with one voice. Once everyone has revised the letter, make sure the person signing the letter re-writes it so it sounds cohesive. Frankenstein letters may make all of the authors happy, but they are incredibly unappealing to your prospects and donors.
- Use bullets, short paragraphs, italics and bolded type to draw the eye to particular pieces of content.
- Consider personalizing giving ranges. You can base this on the donor’s previous giving history and use either the largest gift or the last gift as the first option. Then, offer 150% and 300% as the next two. Statistically, people often tick the middle option and it will reinforce your suggested donation in the letter.
- If you are in the middle of a capital campaign, reference it. We almost forgot this one recently on a letter we wrote for a client. If someone gave a gift to your capital or endowment fund, this is a great opportunity to once again acknowledge their generosity another time. And to recognize that you are asking them for money above and beyond their capital campaign gift.
- Don’t try to do too much in one letter. If you try to make sure everyone sees a highlight about a program they like or are involved in, it will dilute the message. If this is your only opportunity to reach this audience, include a brochure. Don’t make your annual appeal letter a brochure.
- Keep it to one page. There is rarely a reason to go to two pages. Take out a few bullet points, shorten a quote, or decrease the font size to 11 point (don’t go smaller if you have anyone over the age of 30 on your list) but keep it easy to glance through. You may think you will be providing more information to glance through if there are more pages, but unless someone is already engaged, they are not turning the page over. If they are engaged, you don’t have to fit it all into one mailing.
- Include personal notes whenever possible. Have board or committee members write notes for anyone above a certain a giving level. The notes don’t have to be long but they should be in a blue-colored pen. If you are going to take the time to write a note, make sure it is obvious.
- Have your systems in place. Yesterday, I made a small, first time donation to an organization. There was no connection to this article, I had been considering a gift and saw the reminder emails to help them reach their goal by the end of their fiscal year end of October 31st. However, it was only after I completed the gift that I noticed the little notification at the top of the screen letting me know the site was not secure. That good feeling we all get after hitting send disappeared in an instant. I called them and (hopefully nicely) let them know that they had a major problem.I can’t say this enough–TEST YOUR SYSTEMS–on a regular basis. Things happen and if you don’t notice that something went wrong you are going to lose:
- donations that don’t go through correctly (don’t expect a donor to try a second time)
- donors that want to help you (and may not again in the future)
- creditability (very hard to be regained)
A simple $10 donation once a month on the nonprofits’ credit card will give you piece of mind. It may go through without a hitch for years on end, but the one time it doesn’t will make those nominal credit card fees seem like a very small price to pay.
This list is not comprehensive, but it will give you 11 steps in the right direction. Follow these tips and you can increase the return on your annual appeal letter. And remember, just because you have been doing the appeal the same way for years, doesn’t mean there isn’t room, and need, for improvement.
Want to read more about how you can improve the results of your annual appeal?