Ready – Set – Year-End Appeal


Ready or not, it’s September. Where did this summer go?  Fall is a busy time, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal.

Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue. There’s a lot to do to, so here are some tips to help you get started.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal in your 2014 fundraising plan (at least I hope you did) and perhaps you need to revise that goal.  If you haven’t set a goal, determine how much money you need to raise before you start your campaign.

Make a plan

Put together a plan for your appeal that includes a timeline, task list, and the different channels you will use.  Make it as detailed as possible.

When do you want to send out your appeal? In the beginning of November?  Figure out what you need to get done and how long it will take. You may need to recruit extra volunteers or get your materials to a mail house.

Update and segment your mailing lists

Make sure your postal and email mailing lists are up-to-date.  Check for duplicate addresses and typos.  Your donors do not want to receive three letters at the same time or have their names misspelled.  Also, segment your lists by donor group. Do You Need to Clean Up and Organize Your Mailing Lists?”

Show and tell

Find a good story for your year-end appeal. You’ll want some engaging photos for your letter and donation page, too.  Quotes can also enhance your appeal.  Show and Tell Time

Accomplishments and plans for the future

Your appeal letter should highlight some of the year’s accomplishments and state what you plan to do next year. For example, let’s say you run a tutoring 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.

Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference.

Letterhead, envelopes, and stamps – oh my

Don’t wait until the end of October to check your supply of letterhead and envelopes.  Make sure you have enough.  Perhaps you want to create a special outer envelope.

Even though many people donate online, you want to make it easy for donors who prefer to mail a check.  Include a return envelope and a preprinted form with the donor’s contact information and the amount of last year’s gift.

Stamps are more personal, so you might want get a bunch of nice ones to use.

Make donating online a breeze

Be sure your donation page is user-friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials.  Highlight your year-end appeal on your home page and include a prominent Donate Now button.

While you are at it, check your website for out- of- date information and broken links. Does Your Website Need a Tune Up?

You could set up a special page for your year-end appeal. The Top 10 Most Effective Donation Form Optimizations You Can Make

How does my gift help?

Create a set of giving levels and let your donors know how their gift will help people. Here’s an example.  Project Bread – Gift Information

Spread the wealth

Monthly or recurring giving is great way to get larger contributions.  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.

Create an attitude of gratitude

Unfortunately, thanking donors seems to be an afterthought for some organizations.  Don’t be one of them.

Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal. You need to thank your donors as soon as you receive their gifts.

Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a pre-printed letter. Now is a good time to create or buy some thank you cards, as well as finding board members and volunteers to make thank you calls or write notes.  Create a Thank You Plan

Keep showing the love

I know this is a busy time, but don’t skimp on your donor communication.  Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude.   Go the extra mile and create a thank you video or hold an informal open house.

I’ll be sharing more information throughout the fall.  In the meantime, what are you doing to prepare for your year-end appeal?

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