Get Organized – Start Preparing For Your Annual Appeal

Photo by Howard Lake via Flickr

September is here.  Have you started preparing for your annual appeal?  

Many nonprofits rely on fundraising for a good portion of their revenue.  It’s never easy to raise money and an uncertain economy makes it even more challenging.  You need to invest time in creating a great fundraising campaign.

Here are a few ways to get started now.

Stories
In previous posts, I’ve written about the importance of gathering stories to use in your fundraising and marketing materials.  Your fundraising letter should start with a story.  Find a compelling one to use in your annual appeal.

Pictures
I’ve also written about creating a set of great photographs.  An engaging photo will enhance your appeal letter, online donation page, or pledge form.  You know the saying “A picture is worth a 1000 words” – It’s true.

Here is more information about creating stories and photos. 


How much money do you need to raise?
I hope you have a fundraising plan for 2012 that includes how much you need to raise in your annual appeal.  If not, you need to determine that before you start your campaign.  You can state your fundraising goal in your appeal letter and on your website, if you would like.

Accomplishments and plans for the future
Your appeal letter should highlight some the year’s accomplishments and state what you plan to do next year.  Focus on the people you serve and show how you are making a difference with your donors’ contributions.  For example, let’s say you run an afterschool program for high school students.  Share your success of reaching your goal of serving X number of students.  Next year you would like to expand and serve middle school students, as well.

Donating online  
Many more people are donating online now.  Make sure your home page highlights that your annual appeal is underway and includes a link to your donation page.  Your donation page needs to be user friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials.  

Here is more information about putting together a great donation page. 
Giving levels
Create a set of giving levels, if you don’t already have them.  What does $25, $50, and $100 fund?  Project Bread’s online form (below) gives concrete examples of how donations at each giving level can provide food to hungry families.
Monthly giving
I also recommend setting up a monthly giving program (both online and offline).  This is a great way to get larger contributions.  Promote it in your appeals.  Some people might balk at donating $100 or more, but if you present it as $10 a month ($120 a year!), it sounds more feasible.

Keep your current donors happy
Finally, your best bet for contributors to your 2012 appeal are your current donors, and you want as many of them to renew as possible.

I hope you having been showing gratitude and keeping your donors updated on how you are making a difference all year round. Continue to do that.  Keep your newsletters and other updates donor-focused.  Start highlighting some of your accomplishments and future plans now.  And, don’t forget to say thank you.

Also, some of the people who subscribe to your newsletter or follow you on social media are not donors (yet).  If you impress them, maybe they will become donors.

I’ll be writing more about annual appeals throughout the fall.  In the meantime, what are you doing to prepare for your annual appeal?
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