In my 22+ years in development, I have seen a lot of “new ideas” in solicitations:
- Send the same letter to everyone, some people will give
- Buy mailing lists!
- Send the same letter to everyone along with an incentive piece like a notebook, return address sticker, or even a coin!
- Every letter should be personalized
- Letters should be personalized and have a specific ask
- Offer a gift with certain donation levels
- Not only personalize letters, but include a specific ask and list the previous year’s gift
- Every letter should be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, and tell a story.
- Did you forget to include a cute animal or child? Every letter has to be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, tell a story, and include cute pictures
- Only send emails to people who contact you by emails
- Forget letters, send everyone emails!
- Don’t send too many emails
- Send a combination of letters and emails
- What do you mean you haven’t been using Instagram for solicitations?
- Send letters, no one sends them anymore so you will stand out
- Send postcards, no one even has to open an envelope to give!
- Use twice as many “you” references than “we”, “me”, “our”, etc. in your letter
I could go on but, you get the idea. Maybe you’ve lived through many of these ideas. And they weren’t wrong for their time and the world lived in. So, what’s the latest?
The Donor As The Hero
How has the donor helped your beneficiaries?
“Your gift helped provide 3,248 meals for our community in the past year”
“Your $5,000 gift helped create 198 after school job opportunities for disadvantaged teenagers”
“Your gift of $1,000, along with your fellow donors in the Foundation Society, created a mental health space for every one of the 12,838 people who walked through our doors last year. We hope you will help us continue to develop our safe space with a gift of $1,500 this year.”
Using the donor as the hero can highlight your best statistics while making the donor feel great. A win-win.
Now, just sit back and wait for donations. And the next big fundraising idea.
Or, if you would like help with your annual appeal and annual campaign, click here to set up a 30-minute free consultation
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
- Is it better to have one, two or three mailed
- 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
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: