Here is a great (and relatively short) exercise to encourage donor-centric thinking among your board and/or committees. Use this with anyone and everyone you can. In addition to a new way of thinking, you can improve donor retention and have new ideas about what to write in your donor appeal letters for the coming year.
The “Why every board member should write an annual appeal letter” exercise
Take 15 minutes at a board meeting and ask everyone present (whether board member, volunteer, or staff) to write a donor-centric, annual appeal solicitation letter. And include the following instructions/reminders:
- These letters will not be sent out right after the meeting, so don’t worry about grammar or structure.
- You are looking for their point of view and what they think are the reasons people give to the annual fund- not wordsmithing or perfection.
- Strong donor-centric letters include:
- The word “you” whenever possible
- The benefits for the prospect and why it will be beneficial for the reader to give to this nonprofit (not why the nonprofit should be a recipient)
- Creating connections for the prospects and the organization
- Consider whether a story should be featured and, if so, whose story should it be?
- Think about who is writing and signing the letter.
This exercise will help you:
- See what motivates the board members to donate their time and money
- Generate board awareness of what the development team is focused on each day and what works.
- Determine what your board views as donor-centric
- Find new ideas for your letters
- Create connections between board members and staff (and maybe even uncover some hidden development skills among your volunteer leadership)
Should this be homework to bring to your next meeting?
You may want to tell your board members that you will be doing an exercise about fundraising letters and stories so they can consider ideas ahead of time. But, the majority of volunteers will not sit down ahead of time to write anything out. If some people do, it will be the people who already feel comfortable writing and excited about fundraising. This exercise is about generating ideas from everyone, because that is what will help your nonprofit look at fundraising in new and different ways.
And new ways to look at your fundraising will help you raise more money. Which, of course, is always the goal.
Email me if you would like our help in facilitating your next board meeting or retreat.