I’ve taken to including a series of “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” for all sorts of fundraising and nonprofit marketing messages over the past several years. My purpose is not to shame anyone, but simply to provide educational moments offering example-based food for thought as you craft your own appeals, thank you’s, reports and more.
Here’s an old, brief post of mine written before I started the “Do’s and Don’ts” feature. I happened upon it while searching for something else, and it gave me pause. It’s simple, to-the-point and, alas, still relevant. Because I see these kinds of mistakes still being made. All. The. Time.
So, I thought I’d update a bit and re-share.
Why Do Fundraisers Who Should Know Better Keep Committing These Sins?
Maybe it’s because of the “monkey see, monkey do” nature of human beings. We see someone else do something and assume it’s good practice. Especially when they’re bigger than us and/or well regarded.
This ‘oldie but goodie’ I’m about to share followed on another post about the importance of making a good first impression with potential donors. With a renewal appeal, if you want to keep these folks, it’s equally important to make a good second impression.
Sadly, someone who should know better, did something that went above and beyond failing to make a good second impression. They actually made a bad one. This prompted me to call out the mistakes they made. I hesitated to do so because, as a nonprofit professional, I probably shouldn’t be criticizing a mailing from the premiere nonprofit philanthropy education center in the country. However, it’s said one should tell it like it is. If you see something, say something. So, I did. They may have completely cleaned up their act by now, and I hope so. I don’t know, however, because I stopped giving.
I don’t want you to let this happen to you!
The Sinful Renewal Appeal
“I can’t thank you enough for your support of IUPUI. The enclosed pocket calendar is just one small way to show our gratitude.”
“No matter what area or activity you support, please know that the whole university appreciates and values your contribution. I hope you will feel inspired to renew your gift today.”
Cardinal Renewal Appeal Letter Sins
IUPUI? Please stay away from jargon of all kinds. It simply fails to communicate. This acronym was used four times in the letter and eight times on the remit piece, yet never explained. I had to look it up. Earth to Mother Ship: Hello?
2. USELESS, EXPENSIVE STUFF
A pocket calendar? And it was hefty; about the size of a checkbook. Who uses a pocket calendar these days? Smart phone, check. Date book, check. Sierra Club wall calendar, check. Pocket calendar, they’re all going in the garbage. All I see, and think, is waste, waste, waste. Plus, it’s been shown that gifts perceived as expensive or unnecessary can actually crowd out the good feelings the donor had when giving. Because now they feel a portion of their gift was misused.
3. NOT MENTIONING PURPOSE
And what did I make the gift for? I certainly don’t recall and, apparently, neither do they: “No matter what area or activity you support, please know that the whole university appreciates and values your contribution.” I guess it’s nice to know they appreicate me no matter what I do or don’t do, but I’d really like them to show me they know me just a little bit.
4. NOT MENTIONING IMPACT
Inspired? There’s nothing remotely inspiring in the appeal. No personal stories of students who were helped, or professors who did amazing research, or what would’ve happened had they not received my gift. There aren’t even any statistics giving me a clue how many people they’re trying to help. What impact is my giving to them having??!! [Thus far, I’m inspired to make my next gift either to The Society for Prevention of Acronym Abuse or the Please Save Our Trees Fund].
5. NOT SPECIFYING AMOUNT
And how much do they want me to give? And for what purpose? They don’t say. Everything is generic. The remit envelope does give me a string of $$ choices, but no choices of projects (though I can choose the “IUPUI Fund for the Future,” whatever that may be).
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