Making End-of-the-Year Appeals More Appealing

Last week, we asked if you were changing your end-of-the-year appeal as a result of the economic downturn. It seems that many of you are. According to our survey, 75 percent of respondents are planning on changing their appeal. The most commonly cited change that respondents plan is to make reference to the down economy in their appeal, albeit subtly. One respondent said his/her nonprofit would be “making gentle reference to the economy,” stressing to donors that the down economy is “why we need your support now more than ever.” Another participant said, “We have added language acknowledging the dreary economy” and are “reminding the donor of the hope our program brings to families and the increasing need” they are facing.

Several other respondents are taking the opposite approach, focusing on a more upbeat appeal that doesn’t center on the economy. One participant said: “No sob stories!” Instead, the group will “tell a positive, uplifting story about how giving returns 100-fold to the donor.” Stressing the importance of an upbeat approach, another participant said, “We are making our year-end appeal more positive. Showing our partners that they have helped all year and that we are on a good footing. No negatives or desperation.”

Other things you’re doing to change your appeal include sending it out earlier and to more people, hiring a professional to write it and using electronic cards to eliminate the need to buy paper cards and stamps.

Here’s what we think:

1. Do send your appeal to more people, but only after weighing the costs. How much will postage and printing cost if you send out more letters? Don’t buy lists of names—do have board members open their address books and see if there’s anyone else you can send a letter to that has a personal connection to your organization.

2. Do mention the economy, but like many of you said, don’t make it sound hopeless. Frame your economic concerns in terms of the increased number of clients you are providing services to (if you provide direct services, that is), and focus on the big picture.

3. Consider electronic options. Every nonprofit should have a place for online donations on their Web site, but not all nonprofits should send electronic end-of-the-year appeals. When trying to decide if you should go electronic, think of your donors and your mission—if your mission is environmental, go electronic; if not, decide how your donors would feel about a less personalized electronic letter—it might not be worth the printing and stamp costs that you save. It’s also possible to mix these approaches by sending paper letters to larger donors and electronic letters to potential or smaller donors.

4. If you do go the paper route, play up the personalization. Don’t lose out on your chance to connect with donors on an individual level by having board members personalize the letters with a handwritten comment or thank you. Always follow up with a call to those who donate.

5. Let donors know exactly what their money can do. For example, tell them that 15 dollars can provide 10 meals at your shelter or 100 dollars can buy 20 Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. Do make sure that you phrase these questions so that donors know they are hypothetical, and that any money they donate will be a general donation to your nonprofit.

6. Position your nonprofit as the most important place to give. With the economy as bad as it is, donors are being bombarded with requests for food, clothing and cash donations. Talk to your donors about why they should make donating to your organization a priority.

7. Thank before you bank. Send out a thank-you as soon as you get a donation, before you cash the check. If you let donors donate in honor of another person (always a good idea), send both parties a thank-you note. This lets the recipient know where their gift is going and gives you a potential new donor to add to your database.

If you’d like to know more about how to make your end-of-the-year appeal more appealing, or how to work on your fundraising for the rest of the year, call us at 303.477.4896. We’re here to help.

If you haven’t yet taken our three-question survey about end-of-the-year appeals, click here to take it. And click here to see the results and what other groups are doing.

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2 Responses to Making End-of-the-Year Appeals More Appealing

  1. Emily Loose says:

    We’ve decided to modify our year-end appeal slightly – sending just letters to those who donated $50-100 at any point in the past 2 years, and letters & a small year end gift to those who gave over $100. The idea is to cut down on our cost sending the appeals out, while still reaching a large group of people!

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