Be Thankful for Your Donors

6643935221_7fb0c5195e_wThanksgiving is coming up and it’s a time of the year in the U.S. when we show gratitude to the special people in our lives. Your donors are special people and they deserve to be showered with gratitude.

This doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. But you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways to thank your donors and let them know they’re special.

Wish your donors a Happy Thanksgiving

Send your donors a special Thanksgiving message. If you can send a card or postcard, that’s great, but an email message is also fine.

Let your donors know how grateful you are to have them as part of your family. Share a success story and a photo or video. Your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message, especially when they’re being barraged with year-end appeals.

But don’t stop with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to show some #donorlove. The holidays, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day come to mind, but mix it up a little and find other times of the year to say thank you. In fact, you don’t even need a reason. Just thank your donors.

Whatever you decide, DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This is known as a thask and it’s guaranteed to deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Incorporate thanking your donors into your year-end fundraising campaign

Many of you are working on your year-end fundraising campaign. I know you’re trying to raise money, but you should also be showing gratitude. Does your appeal thank donors for their past or potential gifts?

Besides wishing your donors a Happy Thanksgiving, find other ways to show gratitude while you’re also sending appeals. This is especially important around #GivingTuesday and I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Be ready to thank your donors as soon as you receive a donation

Most of you know you need to thank your donors right away, within 48 hours if you can. This usually doesn’t happen or it’s done poorly. Every single donor, no matter how much they’ve given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card/letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting your fundraising appeal out. Perhaps you’ve recruited other staff or volunteers to help you.

You need to do the same thing when you thank your donors. Get your board, other staff, and volunteers together to make phone calls, write thank you notes, or include a handwritten note on a thank you letter.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Your donors deserve more than just the same, lame generic thank you letter.

I write a lot about thanking donors. Here are a couple of recent posts that cover ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

The Purpose of a Thank You Letter is to Thank Your Donors

How to Make Your Online Thanks Yous More Personal

The initial thank you right after you receive a donation is important. So is the next one and the one after that and the one after that….

Thanking your donors is not a one-time deal. You want to thank your donors at least once a month. Here are some ideas to show gratitude throughout the year.

  • Send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.
  • Send welcome packets to your new donors.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude.
  • Thank your donors in your newsletters and other updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without their support.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Thank your donors just because they’re great.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

This Thanksgiving and throughout the year, show some gratitude to your donors and make them feel special. Don’t they deserve it?

The Purpose of a Thank You Letter is to Thank Your Donors

Thank youYou would think the purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donors, but way too many of them have barely an ounce of gratitude.

As you work on your year-end appeal, you need to spend just as much time planning how you’ll thank your donors. Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last-minute to-do item and it shows.

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. The more you can do the better.

Thanking your donors is something you need to take seriously. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you letter.

Here are a few ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

Start planning now

Don’t wait until the day after your appeal goes out. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.

Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I love it when a nonprofit sends a handwritten thank you note. This is a rare occurrence, so if you do this, your thank you note will stand out in your donor’s mailbox.

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank-you party. 

Think about how much your donors will appreciate this nice gesture. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Steve,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. This will help us serve more families at the Parkside Community Food Bank. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past five years.

Phone calls are another personal way to say thank you

Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors  Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Linda, this is Jean Perkins and I’m a board member at Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an amazing letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an amazing thank you letter. Many thank you letters aren’t amazing and are mediocre at best. You’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

Remember, thank you letters are about thanking your donor. Keep that in mind at all times.  

Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization…. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something incredible.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like – As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years…. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And, don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel-good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

Your thank you letter needs to make your donors feel good about giving to your organization. Let them know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out are to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You! If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal. You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end, after you impress your donors with your letter, or include it on a separate page. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

 5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

How to write a donation thank you letter

How To Write Memorable Donor Thank Yous

Free Download – Nonprofit Thank You Letter Template

With fundraising revenue and retention rates down, you can’t afford to not do a good job of thanking your donors. In my next post, I’ll share some ways to improve your online thank yous.

Photo by Marco Verch

How You Can Write a Better Fundraising Appeal

28108457619_e48bd8944e_mWow, what happened to summer? How did it get to be September already?

We’re about to enter the busiest time of the year, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal. Hopefully, you’ve started planning your campaign. Now it’s time to think about writing your appeal.

Your donors will receive a multitude of appeal letters this fall and many of them will be the same old generic, boring appeal.

You can stand out if you take some time to write a better appeal. Don’t settle for the same old, same old. 

Make your first impression a lasting impression

First, you need to get your donors to open your letter. If you can’t get them to do that, then all your hard work has gone to waste.

Perhaps you’d like to include a teaser on the outer envelope. That doesn’t mean one that says 2019 Annual Appeal. That’s not inspiring. Instead, say something like Learn how you can help the Miller family move into a home of their own.

An oversized or colored envelope can also capture your donor’s attention.

You want to be both personal and professional. If hand addressing the envelopes isn’t feasible, make sure your mailing labels look clean, are error-free, and aren’t crooked. Use stamps if you can.

Create an inviting piece of mail.

Share a story

A good appeal letter should open with a compelling story. Focus on a person or family and not your organization. Your donors want to hear about the people they’ll be helping. For example, you could tell a story about how the Miller family moved from shelter to shelter before being able to move into their own home.

You could also share a first-person story from a client/program recipient.

Include a photo

Include an engaging color photo in your letter or on your pledge form. Photos can tell a story in an instant.

Here’s more information on creating stories and photos.

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

Next comes the ask

Ask for a donation at the beginning of the next paragraph (after the story). Make sure it’s prominent and clear. Also, ask your current donors if they can give a little more this year.

Phrase your ask like this – We’re so grateful for your previous gift of $50. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $75?

If you’ve been doing a good job of engaging your donors throughout the year, they shouldn’t mind if you ask for a larger gift. Including the amount of your donor’s previous gift is helpful since people often don’t remember what they gave before.

Make donor-centered front and center

Don’t make your letter all about your organization. Show your donors how they can help you make a difference and how much you appreciate their role in that. Make your donors feel good about supporting your nonprofit.

Share your success

Highlight a few accomplishments from the year and show how you plan to continue your good work with your donor’s help. Remember to stay donor-centered!

Personalization is key

Send different letters to current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, people on your mailing list who haven’t donated yet, event attendees, volunteers, and friends of board members.

Don’t send everyone the same appeal. The more you can segment, the better, but at the very least, you must do these two things.

Send a personalized appeal to current donors. Let them know how much you appreciate their support.

Also, send a specific appeal tailored to monthly donors, giving them the recognition they deserve. You can ask them to upgrade, too.

It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when I get a generic, one-size-fits-all appeal letter. Go the extra mile for your donors, so they’ll continue to support you.

Your appeal letter should also have a personal salutation and not be addressed to Dear Friend, which is really more like Dear Anonymous Stranger.

This may sound like a lot of work, but if you give yourself enough time, it should be doable. Personalizing your letters can also help you raise more money.

Make it easy for your donors

Include a return envelope with amounts to check off or an envelope and a pledge form. Show what each amount will fund. Do this on your donation page, too.

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

Some donors will prefer to donate online. Direct them to a user-friendly donation page on your website.

Donation Page Best Practices For Nonprofits; Tips for Great Donation Pages

Offer a monthly or recurring giving option

Monthly gifts can generate more revenue and improve donor retention. Encourage your donors to give $10 or $20 a month. If they do, you’re getting gifts over $100 each!

How to start a monthly giving program for your small nonprofit

Be careful and don’t send an appeal to your current monthly donors that invites them to become monthly donors. That’s one reason why they need their own appeal.

Your letter must be easy to read (or scan)

Use short paragraphs and bulleted lists, along with bold or color for keywords, but keep it tasteful. Make it easy to read and scan. Most people won’t read your letter word for word. Use a simple font and 14-point type.

It’s fine to go over a page, especially if you’re breaking up the text with a photo and short paragraphs, but I wouldn’t go over four pages. You can also add a quote or short testimonial. These can be powerful and it helps break up the narrative.

Think of your letter as a conversation with a friend

You can create a better appeal if you think of your letter as a conversation with a friend. That means not using jargon like at-risk youth and underserved communities. Be specific and use everyday language. Your goal should be for your reader to understand you.

Refer to your reader as you and use you a lot more than we. How to Perform the “You” Test for Donor-Centered Communications – Do You Pass?

Too many editors spoil the appeal

Your entire staff doesn’t need to be involved in writing your appeal. Generally, the more people you involve in writing your letter, the worse it becomes. Fundraising Consultant Tom Ahern refers to this as letter writing by committee.

Your best writer should craft it and then turn it over to your best editor. Whoever signs the letter (your Executive Director?) can take a quick look at it, but don’t send it to a committee.

If you don’t have someone on your staff who can write a good fundraising appeal, then hire a freelancer or consultant to do it.

Besides weakening the content, involving more people takes extra time.

Keep that good impression going

Repeat your ask at the end of your appeal. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.

Be sure to add a PS. People often gravitate to the PS as they scan the letter, so include something that will capture their attention. Here you could emphasize monthly giving, ask if their company provides matching gifts, or thank them for being a donor.

Get your pens out

Include a short handwritten note, if you can. Make it relevant to each donor, such as thanking her for a previous donation or letting him know it was nice to see him at a recent event. Hand sign the letters in blue ink.

Are you ready? Spend some time writing a better appeal letter that will capture your donor’s attention and bring you the donations you need. Good luck!

Read on for more advice and resources on writing a better fundraising appeal.

10 Steps to Create a Fundraising Appeal Letter That Brings in the Money

Six Ways to Punch Up Your Fundraising Appeals

Direct Mail Fundraising: 5 Strategies for Every Nonprofit

Write the Perfect Donation Letter (+ Examples & Template)

FUNDRAISING LETTER TEMPLATES

 

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

7803683540_76d8f5f45d_zHow often do you use stories when you communicate with your donors? Most likely, not enough. That’s a mistake because people respond better to stories. 

Imagine your donors opening an appeal letter or newsletter and glossing over a bunch of mind-numbing statistics as opposed to being captivated by a story about how the Mason family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own.

Donors want to hear your stories

You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but that shouldn’t stop you. Keep in mind that donors want to hear your stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

The past several months have been tough for Janet and her three young kids. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s house, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family. Everyone was stressed out and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Janet and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Work with your program staff to create stories that will help you connect with your donors. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Who are you helping?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference or How can your donors help you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. Instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she has a brother with autism or he knows what it’s like to arrive in the United States as an immigrant.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. 

4 INSPIRATIONAL “SHARE YOUR STORY” PAGES THAT WILL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything.

 Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Brenda doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Tell your donors the stories they want to hear. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Here are some great resources to help you tell your stories.

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling (30+ Tips)

How To Create A Culture of Storytelling in Your Nonprofit

 

Creating a Thank You Plan Will Help You Stay Focused on Gratitude All Year Round

2503278977_df634081d6_mHave you seen the recent posts from the Agitator blog about thanking your donors? It’s worth reading, as are all Agitator posts. They cite a study where thank you calls didn’t result in an increase in donations.

Thanks, But No Thanks

This prompted a flurry of responses, all in support of thanking your donors, including this one by Penelope Burk, whose research has shown that thank you calls can increase future donations.

Just Do It? No. In Fundraising, You Have to Do It Right

Some donors may not care if and how they get thanked, but most people want to feel appreciated. Perhaps these thank you calls didn’t make a difference since some people don’t like phone calls. These calls were made three to six months after the donation, which is way, way too long afterward. It should have been more like three to six days.

Maybe these calls were done poorly and someone was just robotically reciting from a script. Donor thank yous are often done poorly, so it may not be surprising that your generic thank you email didn’t resonate with your donors.

If you want donors to respond positively about how you thank them, then you need to do a better job of it.

This is a good time to revisit the importance of having a thank you plan. Thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both. Many organizations just thank donors after they receive a gift and then go into hiding until the next fundraising appeal.

Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. It’s something you need to do throughout the year. Creating a thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round.  

Here’s what you need to include in your thank you plan.

Plan to make a good first impression with your thank you landing page

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s often just a boring receipt rather than something that makes a person feel good about making a donation.

Open with Thank you, Debbie or You’re amazing! Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve. Put all the tax-deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email

Set up an automatic thank you email to go out after someone donates online. This email thank you is more of a reassurance to let your donor know you received her donation. You still need to thank her by mail or phone (see below).

Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Give some thought to the email subject line, too. At the very least make sure it says Thank You or You made a difference today and not something boring like Your Donation Receipt or Donation Received. And please don’t use words like transaction and processed.

7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails

Email Thank You Letter Examples for Donors

Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone

I’m a firm believer that every donor, no matter how much she’s given or whether she donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to her or receives a phone call.

Try to thank your donors within 48 hours or within a week at the latest. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.

Instead of sending a generic, boring thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Making thank you calls or writing thank you notes is something your board can do. 

Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may also want to conduct a short training. Make sure to get your team together well before your next fundraising campaign so you’re ready to go when the donations come in.

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Tanya Lewis and I’m a board member at the Northside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We’re seeing more people coming in right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.

If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization, we thank you for your donation of…. Open the letter with You’re incredible or Because of you, Michael won’t go to bed hungry tonight. Create separate letters for new donors, renewing donors, and monthly donors.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, mention that. Make sure all letters are hand signed.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donations.

In addition, write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal letter. Make sure they’re ready to go as soon as the donations come in. Don’t wait three weeks.

20 Engaging Ideas for Donation Thank You Letters

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because as I mentioned before – thanking your donors is something you must do all year round.

Use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors. Try to say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Send cards or email messages at Thanksgiving, during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or mix it up a little and send a note of gratitude in June or September when your donors won’t be expecting it. Try to send at least one or two gratitude messages a year by mail, since your donors will be more likely to see those.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without your donors’ support.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.

Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors

Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. If you treat them well, maybe they’ll treat you well the next time you send a fundraising appeal.

Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle – Make Your Messages Stand Out

4698746521_0f3d47dd0f_mInformation overload is an understatement right now. We’re bombarded by messages of all kinds from many different sources.

How can your nonprofit keep up with all this? You want to communicate with your donors, but you don’t want your messages to get lost in the shuffle. It won’t be easy, but here are a few ways to make your messages stand out.

What’s your intention?

What’s the purpose of your message? What do you want your reader to do? Maybe it’s to donate, volunteer, attend an event, or contact her legislators. Maybe you’re sharing an update.

Think from your reader’s perspective. What would she be interested in or what would make him take action?

Keep it simple and stick to one call to action.

Choose the right channels

Most likely you’ll use more than one channel to communicate. Pay attention to the channels your donors are using and focus your efforts there.

Email is often the primary way nonprofits communicate and there’s a reason for that. It’s fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone has an email address. You can quickly get a message out to a lot of people. Also, unlike social media, it’s something you can control. You don’t have to rely on a social media algorithm to hope your message ends up in your donor’s feed.

But email has its drawbacks. People can get hundreds of emails a day plus messages from other sources such as social media. It’s easy for your messages to get lost in this melee. I often don’t read all my email. I usually scan through the burgeoning list to see what looks interesting. That, of course, depends on if I even have time to look at my email.

Some email messages, such as a fundraising appeal or an event invitation, you’ll probably need to send more than once. Try not to send messages to people who have already responded.

You can also go multichannel. For example, include a link to your e-newsletter on your social media platforms.

While you’ll likely use electronic communication pretty regularly, don’t discount direct mail. Your donors are more likely to see these messages. We get far less postal mail than electronic communication. Also, a person can put a piece of mail aside and look at it later. Don’t count on that happening with any type of electronic communication.

Get noticed right away

A good subject line is the key to getting someone to open your email message. If he doesn’t bother to open it, all your work has gone to waste.

Give some thought to it. Instead of Donate to our Spring Appeal or May 2019 Newsletter, try Find out how you can help Michael learn to read or Thanks to you, Dara won’t go to bed hungry tonight.

For postal mail, consider an engaging envelope teaser or a colored envelope with a stamp. You don’t want your letter to look like junk mail.

Keep it short

Your next step is to get your donor to read your message. Keep her interested. With email, yours may be one of hundreds she’ll receive that day, along with whatever else is going on in her life.

Make your messages short, but engaging, and get to the point right away.

Keep this in mind when you send your e-newsletter or updates. You might want to consider a two-article newsletter twice a month instead of one with four articles (and it’s unlikely your donors will read all four articles) once a month.

Given the cost of direct mail, why send a six-page annual report when you can wow your donors in an instant with an infographic postcard?

Photos and other visuals can be a great way to stand out, especially on social media.

Make it easy to read and scan

Besides sending a short message, use short paragraphs and lots of white space, too. Your messages need to be easy to read (and scan) in an instant. Don’t use microscopic font either.

Be personal and conversational

Write directly to your reader using clear, conversational language – no jargon. Address your message to a person – Dear Janet and not Dear Friend.

Segment your lists so you can personalize your messages. For example, you’ll create different messages for current donors, potential donors, and monthly donors.

Don’t cast a wide net

It’s important that you send your message to the right audience and your audience isn’t everyone.

You’ll have more luck with a fundraising appeal when you send it to past donors or people who have a connection to your cause. The same is true for event invitations or recruiting volunteers.

You may want to reach out to as many people as possible, but that won’t guarantee you’ll get more donations or event attendees. Segmenting and engaging with the right audience will bring you better results.

Be a welcome visitor

If you communicate regularly and do it well, your donors should recognize you as a reputable source and are more likely to read your messages. If all you do is blast them with generic fundraising appeals, well good luck to you.

Make sure people know your email is coming from your organization. In the from field, put DoGood Nonprofit or Lisa Wilson, DoGood Nonprofit. If you just put a person’s name or info@dogoodnonprofit.org, people may not know who it’s from and ignore your message.

Only send email to people who have opted into your list. Otherwise, you’re spamming them. Some people will choose not to receive email from you, and that’s okay. The ones who do are interested in hearing from you. Give people the option to unsubscribe, too.

Even though people only get a few pieces of mail a day, most of it’s junk mail. You never want any of your letters, newsletters, or postcards to be perceived as junk mail.

It’ll take a little more work, but it’s possible to make your messages stand out so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.

 

Let’s Skip the Formalities

14125863156_9a20cd1a47_mWhy is it that so many nonprofit newsletters, annual reports, and even fundraising letters sound like a Ph.D. thesis? Why are they so formal and impersonal? It often seems as if someone likes to show off their big vocabulary.

Unfortunately, when you do this, there’s a good chance your donors will lose interest. It’s hard enough to get them to look at your messages in the first place. Make it easier for them by dialing down on the formality and being more personal.

Here’s what you can do.

Write in the second person

All your fundraising letters, thank you letters, newsletter articles, etc. should be written in the second person. Pretend you’re having a conversation with your reader. Keep that person in mind when you write and think about what they would want to read.

Seeing the World Through Your Donors’ Eyes

Use the word you much more than we. When you’re having a conversation with someone, do you spend a lot of time talking about yourself? I hope not.

Use language your donors will understand

Quiz time. Which sounds better? a) food insecurity or b) a family choosing between buying groceries or paying their heating bill? How about a) at-risk youth or b) high school students who might not graduate on time?

I hope you answered b for both questions. Jargon is confusing, and even if your donors know what the word means, it’s boring and impersonal. The second two examples give a clearer picture of the need your donors will help you meet.

You May Love Your Jargon, But Your Donors Don’t

Mistakes were made when you decided to write in the passive voice

I’m not a fan of the passive voice because it weakens your writing. Like jargon, it distances you from what you’re trying to say.  

Another quiz. Which one sounds better? a) Over 5,000 meals were served at the Riverside Community Center or b) Our volunteers served over 5,000 meals at the Riverside Community Center. What was your answer?

In addition to using the active voice, use strong, active verbs and avoid adjectives and adverbs. Say depleted instead of really tired.

You want your readers to take action whether it’s donating, volunteering, or reading a success story. Active language will help with that.

Back to school time

Write at a sixth to eighth-grade level. You’re not dumbing down; you’re being smart because you’re making it easier for your readers.

Don’t use a lot of fancy words. It makes you sound pretentious. You don’t want your readers to have to hunt for a dictionary. Most likely they won’t, and they’ll miss out on what you’re trying to say. Your goal should be for your donors to understand you.

Now, forget what you learned in English class. It’s okay to start a sentence with a conjunction and use sentence fragments.

Do some serious editing

It’s important that you take time to edit before you send your messages. Check for passive verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to see if you need them. Also, be on the lookout for jargon and SAT vocabulary words. Can you simplify?

Read your content out loud. Do you sound like a friendly person or a robot?

Readability programs such as Flesch-Kincaid (this link contains examples of other readability programs, as well) might be useful because it determines grade level and finds passive sentences. I’ve never used the Hemingway Editor, but some people like it. None of these are perfect. It’s best if you can get into the habit of producing clear, conversational writing.

Always think of your readers

Your donors are busy. They don’t want to slog through a newsletter that looks like a legal brief. Skip the formalities and give them something they’ll enjoy reading.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR NONPROFIT WRITING MORE CONVERSATIONAL

8 Tools to Be a More Effective Nonprofit Writer