Some Observations From the Year-End Fundraising Season

We’re right in the thick of year-end fundraising season. If you have a campaign underway, I hope it’s going well for you, although it may be too early to tell.

A good fundraising campaign is more than just sending out a bunch of appeals and hoping the donations come in.

I get a lot of appeals, some from organizations I support and some from ones I don’t. I’d like to share a few observations from the year-end fundraising season.

Most of what I’m going to cover focuses on organizations I already support. For those I don’t, I’ll just say your generic Dear Friend letters aren’t giving me a compelling reason to give. And that includes your triple match offer. That said, organizations I already support aren’t pouring on the inspiration either.

Fundraising is not a transaction

Don’t get me started on the transactional aspect of #Giving Tuesday. I was barraged with email appeals, many of which were not that different from the ones I received the day before on Cyber Monday.

Most of my gifts are monthly donations which automatically renew, so I didn’t make that many gifts on #GivingTuesday. I thought I was making donations, but some organizations viewed it as a transaction.

One organization’s landing page looked like this.

************************************************************************

THANK YOU!

You may print this page for your records. A receipt has also been emailed to you.

ORDER INFORMATION

Your Transaction has been Approved!

Merchant: xxx

Description: Donation for Specific fund

Email: agreen…

Name: Ann Green

Company:

Phone: xxx

Street Address: xxx

City: xxx

State: xxx

ZIP Code: xxx

PAYMENT INFORMATION

Amount:

Transaction ID: 61419346676

Payment Method: Visa  xxx

Date/Time

QUESTIONS?

If you have questions or need assistance with your donation, call  xxx or email us at xxx

************************************************************************

The thank you email they sent included the subject line – Transaction Receipt from xxx

Ugh! I made a donation not a transaction. Whatever software they’re using seems to be geared towards purchases, not donations, and that’s a problem unless they include a warm, heartfelt message with their “auto-receipt.” That didn’t happen. All I got besides Thank you for your support, was a generic description of what the organization does.

Another organization sent a transaction receipt and let me know  – This order is now complete. Transaction approved! I also received a couple of “donation receipts.”

Can we please stop using the word transaction? There’s nothing wrong with including a receipt, but that’s not the only thing you should send.

Create an amazing thank you landing page and an equally amazing thank you email and put the receipt at the end.

Four Ways to Improve Your Thank You Redirect Page to Retain More Online Donors

A little less generic communication, a little more segmentation

Actually, a lot more segmentation. Only a handful of the appeal letters I received thanked me for my past support. One letter opened with Words cannot express how grateful I am to have you as part of our team.

Most of the email appeals were just generic requests. The ones I received on #GivingTuesday made a big deal about it being #GivingTuesday. I wish they would have made a bigger deal about recognizing me personally.

One organization did acknowledge the gift I gave a year ago on #GivingTuesday, even though it was a monthly gift that automatically renews.

What I would like to see first is organizations saying thank you for being a donor, and don’t bury that at the end of the letter. Make it prominent.

Next, as someone who makes mostly monthly gifts, I want to be acknowledged as a monthly donor. These donations automatically renew, but it’s fine to ask for an additional donation or an upgrade.

After thanking me for my generous support as a monthly donor, one organization asked if I would like to make a special gift this month or increase my regular pledge. Another organization sent a request to increase my gift by $1.00 a month. Unfortunately, those are the exceptions not the rule.

It will take a little more work, but send different appeals to potential donors, current donors, and monthly donors.

Keep telling your stories

I’ll end on a more positive note. The appeals that stood out included stories, as well as photos.  One that caught my eye was a first-person story from a boy named Jacob. In his handwriting (most likely), Jacob recounts his battle with leukemia – When I was 4½, I was told that I had leukemia. For 2½ years, I went through a lot of bad stuff…… Another story came from an animal therapy dog named Tova who made a request to Help Me Help More Humans.

Taking a creative approach is much better than bragging about your organization or opening your letter by saying you have a challenge match, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but opening with a story would have been better.

If you’re not raising enough money or keeping your donors this year, you may need to look at fundraising as more than a transaction, segment your donors, and share some good stories.

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What Comes Next

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I imagine most of you have sent out your year-end appeal. You may think your work is done for now, but it’s not.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to keep your donors for a long time.

Fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about building relationships and making your donors feel good about giving to your organization.

Some of you may already be doing what I’m going to suggest below. Kudos to you! But I can guarantee some of you aren’t doing these crucial relationship building steps.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

The key word here is good. A good thank you is not the same boring email or letter you’ve been using for way too long. A good thank you is also not something you send weeks after you’ve received a donation.

You want your donors to feel good about making a donation. A handwritten note or phone call is always better than a letter, but if you only have the means to do a letter, make it awesome.

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

The retention rate for new donors continues to be abysmal.

One way to help ensure people will give again is to create a welcome plan, which will provide you with ways to let your new donors know how much you appreciate them.

If you specifically welcome your new donors, you’ll stand out because most organizations don’t do this. Make sure your welcome plan consists of ways to communicate throughout the year and not just the initial welcome message. The following post has more helpful information on welcoming new donors. Nonprofit Retention: All Donors Aren’t Created Equal

Make your current donors feel special, too

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years? These are your valuable donors.

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

Make a plan to specifically recognize your long-term donors.

Send holiday and New Year’s greetings

The holidays give us the perfect opportunity to reach out. Send holiday and New Year’s greetings by mail or email. Do not include any type of ask with this. If you need to send fundraising reminders, make that a separate message.

Don’t hold back on your other donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end fundraising, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication. Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep going

Your first New Year’s resolution should be to communicate with your donors more. Many nonprofits seem to go quiet between fundraising campaigns. Don’t be one of them.

Keep reaching out to your donors – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on how they’re helping you make a difference.

Think of other ways to do something special for your donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help you with this.

Image via ImgCop.com

Show Some Gratitude to Your Donors

Thanksgiving will be here soon and it’s a time of the year in the U.S. when we show gratitude to the special people in our lives. Do you extend this same gratitude to your donors?  It often doesn’t seem like it.

Nonprofit organizations tend to treat thanking their donors as an afterthought. But you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways you can show some gratitude to your donors.

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

While gratitude is often front and center around Thanksgiving, that shouldn’t stop you from showing some #donorlove at other times of the year. The holidays, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day pop up as natural times to show gratitude, 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

You’ve all heard 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.

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Give Your Online Donors The Recognition They Deserve

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 and done 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.
  • Give a huge shout out to your donors in your newsletters and social media 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. Don’t they deserve it?

How Will You Welcome Your New Donors?

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One of your year-end fundraising goals may be to get new donors. That’s fine, but a better goal is to keep these donors. The retention rate for new donors is a dismal 23%. Put simply, over ¾’s of your new donors won’t donate again.

There are many reason donors don’t give a second gift – some you can control, some you can’t. One of the biggest reasons is poor or nonexistent donor communication. This is easy to fix, and if you put some time and effort into it, you can rise above other organizations who seem to like to ignore their donors.

Show some #donorlove by putting together a welcome plan for your new donors.

Start off with an extra special thank you

Don’t send your new donors that tired old, generic thank you letter that doesn’t acknowledge that they’re new donors. You have to do more. Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk says that first-time donors who receive a thank you call are more likely to donate again and give at a higher level the next year. Get together a group of board members, staff (especially your executive director), and volunteers to call your new donors or send them a handwritten thank you card.

If you can’t make phone calls or send a handwritten card, send a thank you letter that specifically recognizes that someone is a new donor. You could also add a handwritten note to a thank you letter welcoming your new donor.

*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any embarrassment.*

Next, send a welcome package

A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media. Your welcome package can include a warm introductory message and a brochure or fact sheet.

Send separate welcome packages to one-time donors and monthly donors. You could invite new one-time donors to become monthly donors. For monthly donors, send different messages to brand new donors and existing donors who’ve become monthly donors.

How to Retain First-Time Donors With Your Email Welcome Series

Why welcoming new donors is so important

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

Who are your new donors?

Get to know your new donors better. Include a short survey with your welcome package to find out how they heard about you, what issues are important to them, and if they prefer print or electronic communication. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

Give your donors the gift of appreciation and impact

I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary. You want donors who care about your work, not getting a free tote bag.

Instead of spending your resources securing premiums, invest in creating thank you cards or making a welcome video.

What donors really want from you is to feel appreciated and know how they’re helping you make a difference.

This is a year-round effort

Don’t let the welcome package be the last time your donors hear from you until your next appeal. Use a communications calendar to help you plan to stay in touch throughout the year.

The biggest hurdle you’ll face in donor giving is getting a second gift. Once donors make a second gift, they’re more likely to keep giving, although not always. Making your new donors feel welcome and staying in touch throughout the year will help you keep your donors for a long time.

Here’s more information on the importance of treating new donors well.

How to Get First Time Donors to Give Again

3 Ways to Make a Lasting Impression with First-Time Donors

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

7c3e1-4759535970_a0d6f918dfMany of you may be working on your year-end appeal, which is great, but have you given any thought to 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.

Thanking your donors is something you need to take seriously. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you letter. Take thanking your donors to the next level. Here’s how.

Start planning now

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. 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.

Impress your donors with a handwritten thank you note

I’m a big fan of handwritten thank you notes. They will stand out in your donor’s mailbox. How often do you get a handwritten card?  

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. Your donors will love it. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Kate,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. This will help us serve more students in our tutoring program. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past four years.

Phone calls will impress your donors, too

Another more personal way to thank your donors is with a phone call. 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 Jeff, this is Tracy Saunders and I’m a board member at One Community. 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 awesome letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an awesome thank you letter. Many thank you letters are mediocre at best, so you’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

This sounds obvious, but thank you letters are about thanking the donor. 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.

Let your donors 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. 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.

20 Engaging Ideas for Donation Thank You Letters

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

Something else you need to do is send different letters to different types of donors. Do not send everyone the same letter.

I’ve broken it down into four basic categories, but you could include others, if relevant.

New donors

The retention rate for first-time donors is abysmal. One of the reasons is poor communication. You can help boost your retention rate by making your new donors feel special.

New donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter welcoming them as donors. Invite them to connect with you in other ways such as signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, or volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome packet by mail or email. I’ll write more about welcoming new donors in the coming weeks.

New monthly donors

Brand new donors who opt for a monthly or other recurring donation get the same special treatment mentioned above. Welcome them to your family of monthly donors. Perhaps you have a special name for your monthly donors.

Current donors

One of the biggest hurdles nonprofits face is ensuring first-time donors give a second time. If they keep giving after that, they’re showing their commitment to your organization. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

Your current donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter letting them know how much you appreciate their continued support. If they’ve upgraded their gift, acknowledge that, too.

Current donors who become monthly donors

Your current donors who become monthly donors are also showing their commitment to you. They get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter thanking them for their continued support and for joining your family of monthly donors. From now on they should get specialized appeals and other communication targeted to monthly donors. More on that in a future post.

Yes, this will take extra work, but it will be worth it if you can boost your retention rate. Start working on your thank yous now so you’ll be ready to roll after your appeal goes out.

In my next post, I’ll write about how to do a better job with your online thank yous.

More thank you resources

Stewardship Techniques to Build Donor Relationships

Donor Stewardship: Create Lifelong Donors in 10 Steps

How to Write an Appeal Letter that Stands Out

2651935525_8caf84f515_mLabor Day has come and gone. It may still feel like summer, but fall is coming up quickly.

Fall is a busy time of the year, especially for nonprofits who do a year-end appeal. Hopefully, you’ve started planning your appeal. Now you need to think about writing it.

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 make yours stand out by giving some thought to it. Here’s how.

Make a good first 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 2018 Annual Appeal. Instead, say something like Learn how you can help Jessica learn to read.

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

Start your letter 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 Jessica struggled with reading until she started tutoring sessions with Lisa, a local college student.

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.

If You’re Making a Difference, You Have Stories to Tell

A Picture Really is Worth a 1000 Words

Then you need to 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.

You must be donor-centered

Don’t make your letter all about your organization. Show how your donors can help you make a difference and how much you appreciate your donor’s 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!

Make it personal

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.

Your appeal will stand out if you can personalize it. 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.

Go the extra mile for your donors, so they’ll continue to support you.

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

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

11 Donation Form Best Practices to Inspire Your Online Fundraising

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!

The Elements of a Successful Monthly Giving Program

Warning – do not ask your current monthly donors 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

One tip for good writing is to 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. 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.

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

Leave a good lasting impression

Repeat your ask at the end of the letter. 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?

Stand out with an appeal letter that will capture your donors’ attention and bring you the donations you need. Good luck!

Read on for more advice on writing an appeal letter that stands out.

Don’t Make These Mistakes with Your Year-End Appeal

Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes In Your Fundraising Appeal Letter

How to Write Superior Nonprofit Fundraising Appeals: Avoid Jargon

[INFOGRAPHIC] How To Write An Annual Fundraising Appeal Letter

How to Plan for Your Year-End Appeal

43513744192_77ab3289ba_mMost 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.

An Annual Appeal Fundraising Timeline You Can Use

Creating a Framework for Your Annual Fundraising Campaign

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.

If You’re Making a Difference, You Have Stories to Tell

A Picture Really is Worth a 1000 Words

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.

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

The Essential Elements Of An Online Donation Form

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.

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

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.

Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

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.

Making the Most of Monthly Giving

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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