Most people want to hold onto summer for as long as they can, but like it or not, September will be here before you know it.
Fall is a busy time for nonprofits, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal. You can still savor the rest of summer, but you also need to start planning for your year-end appeal.
Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue so you want it to be successful. 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 2018 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 launch your appeal? It’s an election year so keep that in mind if you have contested races in your state. You’re also competing with countless other organizations who are doing appeals.
I think earlier is better so try to aim for mid-November at the latest. Figure out what you need to get done and how long it will take. Keep in mind things usually take longer than you think. If you want to send your appeal by mid-November, make your goal the beginning of the month.
Also, how are you mailing your appeal? 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/can 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 that thanks to them, 85% of the students in your program are now reading at or above their grade level. Next year you’d like to expand to five more schools.
Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference, or can help you make a difference. Don’t brag about your organization.
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, monthly donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc. I’ve written about segmenting your lists a lot lately and will continue to do that because it’s so important. You should have more success if you can personalize your appeal letters.
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 their last 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.
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 offering 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?
Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal letter and write them at the same time. You need to thank your donors, and thank them well, as soon as you receive their gifts so have a thank you letter/note ready to go.
Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a preprinted 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. Put together a thank you plan to help you with this.
How are you continuing to show the love?
Even though you’ll be busy with your appeal, you want to ramp up your donor communication this fall. Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude. Pour on the appreciation! You could create a thank you video or hold an informal open house. Just don’t disappear until appeal time.
What are you doing to get ready for your year-end appeal?
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