December appeal strategies are on every nonprofit’s mind at this time of year. Questions keep popping up like:
- Should your annual appeal letter be a one page or two?
- Is it better to have one, two or three mailed letters?
- What is the best time to send the letters?
- Are there certain envelopes or return address features we should be considering?
- What –and how many–categories should we use on the response card this year?
- Should you send six follow up emails or three?
- Is a letter more impactful if it comes from the nonprofit’s executive director, a beneficiary or a board member?
- How do you incorporate social media beyond #givingtuesday?
And this is a list of generic questions.
If you don’t have a nonprofit consultant on retainer (let’s be in touch if you would like to change that), there are different ways you can answer your questions.
Best Practices for December Appeal Strategies
I find that best practices have to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. An international health NPO may not be dealing with the same type of supporters as a community religious organization.
Rely on your board, your staff, your beneficiaries, and your donors for advice.
Calling donors to thank them may not increase future donations for Public Television stations who outsource their calls, but may increase donations for your organization. How will you know? Ask the people making the calls if they are getting through to people? If they are getting through, are they having conversations? If they are having conversations, what are the recipients saying?
Those six emails may be expected from a large organization, but if you know the person sending the emails, it feels different. I have heard a donor wonder whether the sender will be insulted if they delete them all or don’t respond. Will sending that many emails increase donations or simply increase “unsubscribes?”
Can you afford to send your entire list 2 mailings? Your organization’s budgetary needs have to be considered as do previous response rates. Can you segment the list to major donors, those with highest upgrade potential and those who have responded via mail in the past and send it only to those individuals? We know that some people get the letter and then give online. But, that also means you will have an email address for them and can potentially take them off the (snail) mail list altogether. How will you know? Ask them.
This article may have asked more questions than it answered, but that is because there is no one answer for all nonprofits. Call up a few donors at different levels and ask them how they feel about different types of solicitations. Send a quick survey to the nonprofit’s board as well as to a select group of donors. Ask the staff what they have heard in the past. Use your resources to improve your December annual appeal and you will see the benefit. It will deepen relationships, engage prospects, and, hopefully raise more money for your nonprofit.
For year-round annual appeal tips consider reading:
- What Would You Do With 1,000 New Donors?
- Assessing Your Nonprofit’s Donors and Prospects: Annual Fund Segmentation Strategies
- Set New Fundraising Goals for the Year? Make Sure You Have the Resources to Succeed