Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Mailed Fundraising Appeal Strategy

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoHere comes my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature, where I share with you something arriving in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity.’

Today we’re going to review a year-end annual direct mail appeal strategy.

We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open this letter?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about the mail package? The letter? The remit?
  5. What looks not so good about all these package elementsl?
  6. Would it inspire you to give?
  7. If yes, why?
  8. If no, why?

First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Really take the time to notice what you like and don’t like.

I promise you’ll learn a lot more this way. We learn best by doing.

Seriously, I mean it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Carrier Envelope

Appeal Carrier Envelope

Some identifying information has been removed for purposes of confidentiality. I’m not here to shame. Just to teach.

  1. Would you open this letter?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?

I’ll wait…

Have your answers?

Okay!

Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?

Let’s begin!

What’s wrong or right with this envelope?

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Will Your Year-End Fundraising Be Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?

Lightening storm

Are you thinking “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Kaching!?”

Oh, dear.

That’s akin to making the holidays all about the commercial aspects, and losing sight of the season’s wonder, awe, gratitude, love, and warmth of community.

Yes, many nonprofits raise the lion’s share of their annual fundraising goal in the last few months of the year. In fact, December accounts, on average, for 31 to 50% of all contributions from individuals. So, you’re to be forgiven if you’re excited to see the money come flowing into your coffers.

But, just because it’s solicitation time does not mean it isn’t cultivation/stewardship time.

It’s not just about the money.

Ever time you communicate with donors you need to show the love.

How you spread love through your mission-focused work.

How you love your supporters.

How love, not money, is at the heart of all philanthropy (philos/love + anthro/humanity).

Even though you’re ramping up fundraising activities this month, you can’t lose sight of your donor. And what’s in it for them if they give to you. So, ask yourself:

  • How will donors feel when they receive the year-end missive you’re sending?
  • How will donors feel when they say “yes” to your appeal?
  • How will they feel immediately after they give?
  • How will they feel later — a month, two months, three months, six months and 12 months after they give?

Do you come across as being only about money?

You may if your year-end fundraising looks mostly like this:

  • Help us meet our fundraising campaign goal.
  • Help us raise $XX,XXXX (money) before the year ends.
  • Grab your tax deduction before December 31st.

Such admonitions are all about you, your deadlines and money.

They are things people think about with their brain, not their heart. With their reasoning, not their emotions. WIth the part of their brain that makes them give a token or habitual gift, not a thoughtful or passionate one.

And once the gift comes in, then what?

Do you simply take the money and run?

If a donor makes a gift and you simply dispense an automated thank you, and nothing more, that’s not a donor relationship.  That’s a transaction

If you get all ATMy at this time of year you’re going to lose these donors by this time next year. Or you won’t get them to give more. Or tell their friends how great you are. Or do any of the other things that donors do when they love you.

One-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow. In fact, a whopping 80%+ of first-time donors won’t give again.

Transactions won’t help you next year or the year after that.

No. You’ve got to transform the transactions into something longer lasting.

You want donors to feel terrifically warm, fuzzy and inspired after they give to you.

Yes, you’re going to ask — maybe multiple times — at this time of year. But to get the desired response – and feeling — you still have to ask the right way.

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Nonprofit Strategy: Three Things to Cleverly Finagle

Whiteboard planning sessionOkay, I recently let folks know I’d “finagled” a discount for them. After one reader told me the word “finagle” means “to obtain something by devious or dishonest means,” I sent an apologetic “Ruh Roh” email. I received a lot of forgiving feedback. Thank you! Many of you kindly supported my initial use of the word “finagle.”  Apparently, there is more than one definition.

Susan sent me this:

finagle (third-person singular simple present finaglespresent participle finaglingsimple past and past participle finagled)

    1. (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by indirect, complicated and/or intensive efforts.

finagle a day off work

    1. (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by deceitful methods, by trickery.

finagled his way out of a ticket by pretending to be on the way to a funeral, distraught

I think the word has come to mean “using super-human negotiating skill to obtain a superior result

Terry sent me this:

I thought you meant “obtain (something) by indirect or involved means.” I always felt it was sort of clever or creative negotiations to get something done when it seemed like it couldn’t be done. 

Sam sent me this:

I always thought it was someone who could manipulate circumstances to achieve some goal. No adverse implications. No criminal intent. Just clever in being able to make something work that really shouldn’t have worked.

And there were more. I thank you all.

You made me think.

And not just about negotiation (which is a subject unto itself), but about being clever. And thoughtful. And about what it takes to obtain superior results.

All good outcomes require a little positive finagling to get there.

Lots of things can be good and bad at the same time.

For example,

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Last Minute Strategic Year-End Email Appeal Tips

DecemberStudies show one-fifth of all charitable giving happens in December. For some organizations (maybe yours?), it’s as much as one-third. Year-end fundraising is not chopped chicken liver!

While you absolutely should be using multiple fundraising channels to get best results, right now whatever you’ve got planned for offline is pretty much cooked. So your best bet for boosting year-end results is digital.

What do you have planned online between now and December 31st?

Did you know more than 20% of all online giving for the entire year occurs on the last two days of the calendar year? Among digital strategies, email rules. According to M+R’s Benchmarks Study, email was responsible for 15% of all online revenue for nonprofits.  For over a decade, the last week of the year – and particularly the last day of the year– have been huge for online fundraising.

To boost your year-end fundraising success, you need to craft an email offer your donor can’t refuse.

How will you best convey your offer?

In a nutshell, you need three things for any fundraising offer:

  1. Problem you’re addressing — made real and relevant to the prospective donor.
  2. Solution you’re proposing to address the problem – with your donor’s help.
  3. Ask showing how the donor can help– the specific purpose and amount of the gift you’re requesting.

It’s really that simple, but let’s get a little more into the weeds so you’ve a better idea how to execute these three offer components.

1. How to describe the problem.

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How to Help Donors Give Astutely Before Year-End

Wishing you a prosperous new year

Do you want to risk not receiving generous gifts you could have otherwise received, just because you failed to go the extra mile to share relevant, useful and even critical information? Or because you just did the most basic things, failing to do what would have made your communications really stand out?

The Genuine Job of the Philanthropy Facilitator

Your job as a philanthropy facilitator is to do everything in your power to make giving to you as easy, joyful and rewarding as possible.

Everything.

Do you?

Doing everything means

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Don’t Blow Your Post-Holiday Opportunity to Thank Your Nonprofit Supporters

Thank you note writingFor good things once a year is not enough. Why do so many of us only eat turkey once a year?  Or pumpkin pie? I’ve no idea! It’s surely not rational. These are special foods we value and take great delight in. Yet we get into a bad habit of thinking on auto pilot. If it’s not Thanksgiving, the idea of roasting a turkey or making cranberry sauce doesn’t even enter most or our heads. Why are we missing out on an opportunity for greater joy and satisfaction?

Don’t do this with your valued supporters!

It’s not rational to thank your donors only annually.  They keep you going all year long. They deserve your gratitude all year long as well.

What better time to thank supporters than today, after a holiday filled with gratitude?

Seriously, I’m not kidding. Today! (Or early next week works swell).
Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) is over. There’s a natural let-down for many.  Wouldn’t it be lovely for your donors and volunteers to get a call from their favorite charity? A call that simply expresses gratitude? 
            Joe, how was your holiday? I just called because in thinking over the week-end about all for which I’m grateful, I realized I’m grateful for you and all you do to make our community a more caring place. I just wanted you to know how much your support is appreciated. Thanks(for)giving.
My hunch is there’s nothing better you could do with your time today. Or early next week if you’re taking some personal (or shopping the sales?) time today.

All the “strategies” in the world can’t substitute for a genuine, personal connection that comes from the heart.

Connect!  Express your thanks! Don’t let weeks and months go by. Don’t wait until you’ve got a perfectly crafted letter, email or insert piece. That’s called procrastination, or “letting perfect be the enemy of the good.” Sometimes, timing is everything.
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Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year.

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.

Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgivings, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company. This year the company may be in real life for the first time in a while, so the gratitude for shared connection will be stronger than ever.

But not all connections are with family and friends.

A lot of connections for nonprofit workers are with donors, volunteers, clients and co-workers.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

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13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

"Thank You You Are Essential" signWhat do you spend more time on? Asking or thanking?

The lion’s share of nonprofits spend more time asking. It’s a BIG mistake. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not here to shame or blame you. Of course you have to ask. The number one reason people don’t give is they aren’t asked. And …

The number one reason donors don’t give again is they aren’t properly thanked!

You may think you have a proper thank you letter template. But, if your thank you looks like this, it’s not helping you bond with your supporters.

TYPICAL THANK YOU LETTER TEMPLATE

Dear [donor name],

Thank you for your generous donation of $[donation amount] to [nonprofit name].

Your donation is making a difference. Because of your $[amount] donation, we are able to [impact of donation].

[this paragraph usually gives a general description of what the organization does]

Thank you again for your contribution! [nonprofit name] relies on the gifts of donors like you to make a difference.

Sincerely,
[name and title]

Look familiar?

Wah, wah, wah (sad trombone).

Most thank you letters are simply boring.

This could come from almost any nonprofit. They’re generic, not specific.They look like a form letters.

You can do a lot better, and it’s not hard.

To Retain Donors, Stand Out from the ‘Get Go’

Believe me, most donors aren’t sticking around. Your own retention rates may be better or worse than average (do you know them?), but generally only 19% of new donors give again. For ongoing donors, it’s just 45%.

The time to nip this in the bud is now.

Did you know a study from Charity Dynamics and NTEN found 21% of donors say they were never thanked at all? My hunch is some of these supporters did receive something from you, but it was so perfunctory they didn’t really take notice. Maybe you just send a receipt. Or took them to a thank you landing page; then called it a day. Or maybe they received a brief, formal email that confirmed the gift, but didn’t make them feel particularly special.

If you don’t have a killer thank you letter prepared to send to the folks you hope will be giving to you between today and the end of the year, now is the time to right this wrong.

If you thank well you’ll see retention rates increase significantly.

In fact, research from Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 70% of donors reported they would increase their giving if they received what they needed from you.

Brilliant, warm, authentic, personal communication stands out and leads to renewals. And this is a much less expensive strategy than new donor acquisition, which costs from $1 to $1.25 to raise a dollar. Whereas renewing a donor costs only 20 cents on the dollar.

By now you may be thinking: Sounds good, but how do we stand out? There must be some specific strategies that incline donors towards giving again, but what are they?

Today I share my top secrets with you. They’re simple and foolproof.

Ready?

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Giving Tuesday: Don’t Take the Money and Run

Man running with money

The absolute worst thing you can do the day after Giving Tuesday is nothing.

As tempting as it is to let out a sigh of relief that it’s over, resist that temptation.

It’s not time to relax yet.

Nothing comes of nothing.

And a huge part of your goal with Giving Tuesday should be to strengthen your bonds with donors.

That’s the real something you’re after.

It’s not just about the money you raise today.

Your goal with any fundraising strategy is to retain and, ultimately, upgrade these transactional donors. The name of the game in the business of sustainable fundraising is lifetime donor value. [Here’s a great book on the topic: Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value.]

Run towards, not away.

Treat Giving Tuesday as a Special Event

Like it or not, Giving Tuesday is a ‘special event.’ With all the pre-planning and post event strategies events embrace. And I don’t really like it, which is why I recommend #GratitudeTuesday as an alternative.If you’re on board with a traditional #GT strategy however, you’ll likely put a fair amount of planning, resources and time into this event. This involves the attention of more than one staffer and/or volunteer. And it sucks time away from almost everything else in the week(s) leading up to it.

It can be a real drain.

Your job is to put a stopper in that drain so all your hard work doesn’t simply swirl down the drain and disappear. Would you work super hard to create a delicious soup you simmer over the stove for hours, maybe even days, and then take one little taste before you pour it out and start all over again with a new one? Endless work. And no one really gets to enjoy the meal.

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