You may think fall is a long way off. We just celebrated Independence Day in the U.S. and temperatures are creeping into the 90’s.
Don’t let that deceive you. September will be here before you know it. 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. Get a jump start on your appeal and start planning it now. Use this checklist to help you get started. Of course, you can use this for fundraising campaigns at any time of the year.
How much money do you need to raise?
You may have already set a goal in your 2016 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.
Do you have 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 your appeal? At 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.
Do you have a good story and photo to share?
Find a good story for your year-end appeal. You’ll want some engaging photos for your letter and donation page, too. Quotes from clients will also enhance your appeal.
How did your donors help you make a difference?
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. Let your donors know how with their help 80% of the students in your program are now reading at or above their grade level. Next year you’d like to expand to four more schools.
Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference.
Are your mailing lists in good shape?
Make sure your postal and email mailing lists are up-to-date. Check for duplicate addresses and typos. Your donors don’t want to receive three letters at the same time or have their names misspelled. Also, segment your lists – current donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc.
Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?
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 produce a special outer envelope. You may also want to create some thank you cards.
Even though many people donate online, you want to make it easy for donors who prefer to mail a check. Include a pledge envelope or 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 to find some nice ones to use.
Is it easy to donate online?
Be sure your donation page is user-friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials. Highlight your year-end appeal on your homepage and include a prominent Donate Now button.
While you are at it, check your website for out-of-date information and broken links.
How does a donation help the people you serve?
Create a set of giving levels and let your donors know how their gift will help.
Do you have an incentive to entice donors to give a larger gift?
Instead of premiums, see if you can find a major donor who will match any upgrades. I know of an organization that used this as an incentive to get new donors.
Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?
Monthly or recurring giving is another way to get a larger gift. 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.
How will you thank your donors?
Don’t skimp on this. Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal letter. You need to thank your donors, and thank them well, as soon as you receive their gifts.
Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a pre-printed letter. Create or buy some thank you cards (see above) and start recruiting board members and volunteers to make thank you calls or write notes.
Are you showing the love?
Even though you’ll be busy with your appeal, you want to ramp up your donor communication. Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude. Pour on the appreciation and create a thank you video or hold an informal open house.
How are you getting ready for your year-end appeal?
Photo by James Stoneking