Fall is around the corner and I am already getting calls for help with year-end giving. Needless to say, this year’s campaign will be different thanks to COVID-19 which has resulted in nonprofits sending requests for funds since the pandemic began.
That said, people who like to give at the end of the year will be making their giving plans so nonprofits need to make giving easy.
Here are a few tips from columns I’ve written over the years on this topic.
Give serious thought to the theme and message of the letter. Be sure it’s about achievements made possible by donor gifts rather than a message about scarcity and the never-ending need to fund your operations. Donors respond to urgent human needs, not organizational needs.
Once you’ve identified the message, be sure to carry the theme to your website, newsletter, and social media channels. Donor research confirms younger donors like to channel hop which means they open the direct mail letter and go online to give. Add a button to the home page that matches the theme of the appeal.
Develop a social media campaign to connect friends and fans to the stories that demonstrate why your mission is important and worthy of support. Ask social media followers to help spread the word about making a year-end gift. Report results in real time to build momentum and greater support.
Consider asking one or more loyal donors to match all gifts received up to a certain amount. Major donors will feel good they aren’t solely responsible for reaching the goal and everybody loves to double their money. Matching gifts encourage more donors to give, no matter the size of the gift. This is a great strategy if you choose to participate in Giving Tuesday.
Carefully consider who signs the letter. A grateful recipient, dedicated volunteer or a community leader writing a heartfelt appeal for funds is a much more effective asker than a paid staff person. Only use one signature instead of two. Two signatures gives the impression neither person wrote the letter.
Always pre-address the return envelope with the address of your organization. Adding a first-class stamp is not a necessary cost. Donors willing to send a check for $25 are also willing to pay for the stamp.
Add pictures of people, preferably tight shots that show faces. Use headlines and underlines to draw attention to sections of content and include plenty of white space.
Focus your message on feeding one hungry child rather trying to feed hungry of starting children. Most donors cannot give enough money to help everyone, but they can help one person. Avoid cramming the letter with lots of facts and statistics but rather focus on one meaningful statistic that says it all.
Avoid jargon. Phrases like developmentally appropriate, transitional housing, and case management make sense inside the organization but may not be clear to donors. Use everyday language to talk about the mission in ways anyone can understand.
Personalize the letter as much as possible. Insert first and last names, a correct salutation, and if possible, the amount of their last gift.
Do not wait until the bottom of the last page to ask for a gift. Readers will skim the letter so ask early and ask often.
I have said this before and will say it again: longer letters raise more money. I know it seems counter intuitive but if you want to improve your results, add another page in order to tell a better story. Cramming a heartfelt message in two or three paragraphs to keep it to one page is less likely to grab the reader’s attention and therefore, they will be less likely to give.
Always include a post-script. According to direct mail research, the P.S. is the first thing people read followed by the signature.
Don’t underestimate the power of four letter words. No, not those four-letter words! I’m talking about positive four letter words that are packed with emotion and impact like soar, save, hero, rise, bold, goal, able, peak, team, heal, guts, grit, zest, zeal, gift and give.
Finally, ask board members and key volunteers to call donors you haven’t heard from. Let donors know their support matters, especially now.
Between now and the end of the year, many worthy organizations will be sending letters and asking for donations. Your appeal has to stand out from the crowd. Using some of these tips will help improve results.
Notes on Nonprofits is produced by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting and Kelly Otte, MPA, who is on sabbatical. Send your comments, questions and fundraising success stories to email@example.com.
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