Like most of you reading this post, I have started to receive year-end annual appeal letters. Unlike most of you, I read them in detail. Among other things, I look if I am being asked for a specific amount or not. I notice whether they are asking me to increase my contribution from last year to 125% of my last gift, 150% or even 200%? I pay attention to the hand-written note on the bottom and whether it was signed by a real person. But now that is not enough, now I also notice if they seem to know whether I am a former board member or a long time supporter.
Do you segment your annual appeal personalization? You should.
Yes, I have started to focus on whether those personal notes show the organization knows who I am, or if they write the same two sentences to everyone. And I am not alone. This idea falls into annual appeal donor segmentation which is a great way to steward donors. And while those standard sentences allow you to say that your personalized it, it definitely does not capture the spirit of an individual note.
Of course, it would be very difficult for you to know each donor well enough to write something 100% specific. That is where donor segmentation comes in.
How do you segment your annual appeal personalization?
- Decide who should get a personal note. It would be great if everyone on your list could get a handwritten note but if you have ten board members and thousands of letters, it doesn’t seem realistic. Instead, create segments of donors/prospects who should get an extra touch. That could include major donors (whatever your threshold is for personalization), current and former board members, and friends/family of board members/staff. People who feel they should be known or might benefit from a little extra touch.
- Create a few sentences that can be used for each category but couldn’t be created for everyone.
For a former board member: “I know you are no longer sitting here with this us but I hope you will always remember how important organization YYY is to the community. Thanks for your continued support.”
For friends whom you have encouraged to donate: “I love signing these letters for friends who know why Organization XXX is so essential to the Boston community. We hope you can increase your support this year to $X,XXX!”
For a donor who gave a one-time gift in honor of someone: Thank you for supporting Jack Smith during the marathon. We hope you have learned about some of our impactful work and will consider supporting us again.”
- Set a time to personalize. I know of one organization that took time out of an early November board meeting, another that planned a night and offered wine, and a third that asked people to stop in during a certain week and spend an hour (or less) signing. Whatever it takes to get people signing and feeling good about the process is the way to go.
And remember, the more you are able to segment, the more personalized you can be. The more personalized you can be, the higher the response rate will be.
All of this comes with a caveat. If segmentation, personalization or any other recommendation comes means not sending the letters for weeks, forget it all. It is more important to send out generic letters on time than not send out letters at all.
Of course, we hope your plans are a bit more ambitious than that. Please let us know what you and your organization did and how it turned out. We may feature your story in an upcoming issue of the newsletter as a “best practice.”
Learn more about improving your Annual Appeal