Why not declare November ‘Gratitude for Blessings’ month? This means finding opportunities to demonstrate gratitude.

Let me begin with how grateful I am for you, my readers. Whereas donors are the center of your nonprofit’s universe, you are the center of mine. You are the reason I write.  When I can’t share my ideas, it’s almost as if it doesn’t matter they exist.  I love helping people, especially people like you who are doing such important work to make our world a better, more livable, more caring place.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be of service.

Since I’ve found gratitude is often a two-way street, I’m going to give you something today. It’s BONUS time! Hopefully you’ll be sending one or more appeal letters or emails during these last two months of the calendar year. Yes? Here’s a Cheat Sheet to help you give them the once-over before you drop them in the mail or hit “send.” If it’s too late for this year, save this 16-Point Annual Appeal Checklist Worksheet for all the appeals you’ll write next year.

This is a Great Month to Show Gratitude

Thanksgiving is around the corner (at least in North America), so giving thanks is on peoples’ minds.  This gives you an opportunity to set the stage for your upcoming asks, by taking some time to show your supporters how much they mean to you.

If you haven’t connected much with your donors since you asked last year, waiting until you ask again this year is just plain RUDE. So, before you launch any Giving Tuesday or year-end campaigns, how about this?

Send your donors something nice!

Don’t just think of this non-appeal communication as merely a nicety.  If you do, you’re likely to push it to the back burner.

Understand gratitude communications are an essential pre-condition to your “sale.” It’s called ‘pre-suasion’ – leading with a ‘gift’ or ‘favor’ to positively incline people to say “yes.”

Gratitude Comes in Many Forms

Shower the people you love with love! There are lots of ways to show supporters the way that you feel towards them.

I’m sure you know how to do the standard thank you letter or email, but how about something fun, interactive or just plain unexpected?  For example:

  1.  “Share your Story” pages. If you have stories and/or videos on your website, make sure your donors notice them! This is a way to get supporters to quickly connect with you and your mission, preparing them to to be “ready” when they’re asked for a gift. Check out 4 Inspirational “Share Your Story” Pages That Will Knock Your Socks Off.
  2. The wins blog post and/or infographic.It should be fairly easy to put together a numbered summary of the good your donors made possible in the recent past.
  3. Thank you video. Suggestion: Make a gift to Charity: water and see what you get in return. Also see my Pinterest board: “Gratitude, Nonprofits Say Thanks.”
  4. A pledge (e.g., “To End Hunger;” “To End Inequality;” “To Keep Health Care a Human Right”).  The food bank where I used to work made October “Hunger Challenge Week” and folks pledged to eat on just $4/day to see what it was like to live on food stamps. Of course, when they were subsequently asked to give, they could empathize with those they would be helping.
  5. A short quiz to get folks more familiar with your work – and have a little fun in the process.  You can even have a prize drawing for all who participate.
  6. Transform #GivingTuesday to #GratitudeTuesday. Stand out from every other nonprofit, and flip the tables. Don’t ask for yet another gift during what is already an over-crowded asking season. Give the gift of thanks instead! (There are some examples if you click on the link to the article). Also make sure you’re prepared to follow up and keep these donors loyal.
  7. Make phone calls to targeted donors you hope to renew and/or upgrade. The phone is a more powerful tool than it’s given credit, and the human voice can be especially touching.
  8. Send personal emails to targeted donors you hope to renew and/or upgrade. Maximize every single day between now and the end of the year by sending out 5 completely personal, tailored emails/day to thank loyal, thoughtful and passionate supporters. Begin NOW!

Don’t Forget to Also:

1. Shower your staff and volunteers with love.

This is a season when we’re thankful for our blessings, and who are you most blessed by in your daily work life?  It’s easy not to see the gobble-gobble waddle right in front of our faces.  Don’t be a turkey! Here are a few ideas:

  1. Hand-write personal cards and stuff them into staff inboxes the day before Thanksgiving. If working remotely, mail them.
  2. Create a video thank you, and send it via email to everyone telling them the thing you’re most grateful for on this holiday is… them!
  3. If you’re working on-site, bring in a platter of fresh fruit with bagels or muffins for the staff/volunteer lounge every day for the week preceding the holiday – pumpkin spice if you must!
  4. If you’re working on-site, throw a lunchtime pizza party or afternoon ice cream social.
  5. If you’re in the office, put a sticky note on staff computer monitors, saying “thanks” and saying why.
  6. Leave token gifts like gift cards, movie tickets, or even just a few Hershey’s kisses on employees’ desks with a note that says, “Thanks for all your hard work. I noticed!”
  7. If you’re mostly working remotely, ask a local café to provide free coupons staff and volunteers can redeem for a beverage, pastry or ice cream.
  8. Show an afternoon movie (choose from this list?), and make popcorn. If everyone is still remote, schedule a virtual movie night where you can all watch simultaneously; gather together before or after to schmooze.
  9. Let everyone shut down early the afternoon prior to the holiday.

2. Plan your year-end e-appeal series.

Your year-end online strategy is not only important, it’s critical. You don’t want to blow this year-end chance! Did you know many nonprofits receive as much as 50% of their annual contributions from October to December? In the U.S., roughly 30% of all donations happen in the month of December alone. As much as a full third (33%) of December gifts occur on the 31st of the month! 10% of all annual giving happens in the last three days of the year. Nonprofits raise up to 31% of online revenue in December. You simply cannot afford to make your online appeal strategy an afterthought.

Plan to send one email on each of the last three days of the calendar year. They don’t have to be that different. They just have to be sent. People are busy this time of year, so you don’t want to miss them!

Most nonprofits don’t send enough email. Plan to send enough online appeals to maximize your chances (three between December 26 and January 31 is recommended, with two to four additional in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas).

3. Take a hard look at your Home Page and Donation Landing Page.

Do they mirror your campaign?  Tell a story? Inspire?  What would a donor think, feel and/or want to do when she lands on it right now?

  • Is it intuitive to use?
  • Does the donor get taken off of your site with links to non-donation pages?
  • Do you make it easy and straightforward to give?
  • Are there too many fields to complete?
  • Are there too many options from which to choose?
  • Do you offer a gift string that makes the donor’s options clear?
  • Do you clarify what the gift will pay for?
  • Do you offer a recurring giving option?
  • Can your donor make a gift in honor or memory?
  • Do you let folks know how to give offline should they so choose?
  • Do you have a contact email and phone number should they have questions?

DO THIS NOW: Make a donation to your cause and see what your experience is.  Better yet, ask a friend to do so. What needs to be changed? Look at some of your competitors to get a better idea of what works/what doesn’t. Decide what you like. Now’s the time to bring in your IT department, marketing department, web manager or an outside vendor to fix what needs fixing.  Then don’t forget to test your new pages before you go live.

TRUTH: A lot of people will visit your website at the end of the year for the sole purpose of making a donation. Be sure you’ve made it compelling, and easy, to do so!

4. Tweak your mail appeal to assure you’re putting your best foot forward, not leaving money on the table.

Here is a quick fundraising letter outline:

  • Compelling image with caption: Done well, this may convey the entire story you want to tell — a good strategy since some readers won’t look beyond this. (e.g., Yaline desperately wants to be able to smile.)
  • Opener sentence: Capture attention quickly; demonstrate why you’re writing to the donor (e.g., Every night Jimmy goes to bed hungry, and his mother hears his cries.”)
  • Ask: Begin with something short and sweet (e.g., Will you lend your support?).
  • Describe a problem: Don’t make it too big or complicated. (e.g., Single working mothers desperately need this afterschool program to keep their jobs.)
  • Explain why the donor’s gift is needed now. (e.g., Without your support, Victor will be evicted by the end of this month and end up on the street.)
  • Ask again (e.g. Please consider renewing your support this year with an increased gift).
  • Tell a story: Demonstrate the problem with a narrative about one person, animal, place or thing as an example. (One to four paragraphs.)
  • Suggest a specific, realistic solution: Help the donor visualize the change that happen when they give. (e.g., Your gift will rescue oil-covered birds. )
  • Ask again with specificity as to amount and purpose (e.g., “Will you consider a gift of $500 to feed a family in your community for a month?”).
  • Remind the donor of cherished values their gift will enact. (e.g., love, justice, caring, equity, truth, compassion).
  • Thank the donor for caring.
  • P.S. Ask again and include urgency so the donor is persuaded to act now. (e.g. “Your $500 gift made before December 31st will be doubled – making it possible to feed TWO families for a month!”).

NOTE: Check your letter against the 16-Point Annual Appeal Checklist BONUS (above).

5. Proactively manage your major donors who’ve not yet given this year.

Don’t simply wait for the gift to arrive. Get on the phone and remind them how much their support means. Ask them to give, and offer to facilitate their giving. Can you take a credit card over the phone? Would they like to give from a donor advised fund? Can you help by giving them instructions to make a gift of appreciated stocks? Might they want to make a direct, rollover gift from their IRA, and can you help tell them how to do this?  Be sure to embrace your role as a philanthropy facilitator!

Go forth. Center on your donor. Nudge happiness. For you and for them. Gratitude has two sides. Happy November!

To your success,