One Size Doesn’t Fit All

A mistake some nonprofits make is to send everyone on their mailing list the same annual appeal letter. You have different relationships with these individuals, so you need to personalize your letters as much as possible. Don’t worry, you can use some of the same content in all your letters. 

Know your audience. Spend a little time going through your records to get information on your donors and segment them into different groups.  A good database will help with that. 

Here are some ideas for segmenting your lists and ways to personalize letters for different donor groups.

Current Donors
You will have the most luck with your current donors.  Ideally, your donors will donate again and give a higher amount. This may not happen if you haven’t been engaging with them throughout the year.

Let these donors know how much you appreciated their previous gift and include the amount of that gift.  Donors don’t always remember what they gave last time and you want to help them out so they don’t have to spend time searching their records. 

First Time Donors
The biggest attrition comes between the first and second gift.  Show these donors a little extra love right now.  You don’t want them to slip away.  You could send them a special thank you email or postcard showing them how they helped you achieve X.

Lapsed Donors
Don’t write off these donors yet, especially if they have donated within the last few years.  Let them know you miss them and want them back.

At some point, you’ll want to go through your list of lapsed donors to see which ones you should keep following up with.

Event Attendees
If someone has attended one of your fundraising or cultivation events, mention how great it was to see her at that event.

Something else to keep in mind – After you hold an event, be sure to send thank you notes to all attendees.

Volunteers
Volunteers are another potential donor group.  After all, they should be passionate about your work.  You’ll have better luck if they feel appreciated.

Some volunteers may not have the means to give or feel their time is their gift, but they might be able to get their friends or parents to donate.

Other Supporters
If you are sending an appeal to someone who has never donated to you before, don’t thank him for a past gift. 

You may be sending appeals to newsletter subscribers or social media followers who are not donors.  Here you can thank them for their interest or find some other way to connect.

You may have also traded or bought mailing lists, which will not bring you as much success as you will have with current donors and supporters. Try to find a connection between their interests and your organization.

Handwritten notes
You’ll want to include a short handwritten note on all of your appeal letters.  Use some of the same personal information you have gathered.  If it’s impossible for your organization to create different letters, then tailor these handwritten notes to each donor.

Be personal
Again, don’t send out a generic annual appeal letter.  One size doesn’t fit all.

Here are a couple of more ideas to help you make your donor communications more personal and other ways you can segment your lists.

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