Is the end-of-the-year really that appeal important?
Should I be thinking about it now? In March?
To those questions, we answer a resounding YES.
Given a charitable organization has the potential to raise up to 1/3 of its annual giving at the end of the year, the concept you create, people you target, words you choose, your design, the accuracy of your database, and your method of delivery are all definitely worth the time and creative thought- throughout the year. Are you stewarding your donors and your prospects so that when you do ask, they are ready to respond positively?
People are bombarded with mailers and emails so it is critical to stand out and capture the reader within the first 3 seconds. Similar to a political mailer that is attempting to persuade the reader to cast a vote, the purpose of fundraising solicitation is to get the reader to take action, which in this case is making a donation.
Your road map and theme for the year should be leading you to positive results throughout the year and culminating in a record year-end appeal.
What Should It Say?
Your appeal should strive to:
• Tell a unique powerful story.
• Have clarity.
• State urgency.
Your letter should be simple, succinct, and emotional.
Include these five elements:
1) A powerful opening line that will set the stage. Make a statement or ask a question that will grab the reader’s attention.
2) Tell a story that pulls at the reader’s heartstrings.
3) Present a current problem and your organization’s solution that could be executed with financial support.
4) Present your offer to the donor (donate at ______ level by ________) with the benefits (we will add your name to the donor wall, you will get a free mug in the mail, your donation will be matched…) as the call to action. In the last couple of lines, include a deadline and be specific with exactly what and how you want the donor to act. The Call to Action needs to have a sense of urgency around responding right away (The match will not last after Dec. 15th).
5) Always use a POST SCRIPT with an emotional message.
How long should your letter be?
However long it takes to highlight your organization’s mission and accomplish the above five elements. Think about accompanying your letter with a video to bring to life your words on the page. Additionally, always supplement your letter with a social media program. This process should begin in early October to receive donations in December.
How do you create an emotional, simple, and succinct piece that pulls at the heartstrings?
Use short sentences. Tell an emotional, human story about one individual. Donors reading your letter can’t save the world, but they can relate to one individual or a family. Fancy adjectives and industry lingo doesn’t make a piece compelling and can turn readers off. Being human, emotional and concise makes it powerful. Tell your story, simply and clearly. Trim the fluff that you don’t need to describe that one individual’s experience to get to the heart of your story.
The letter should be donor-centered and personal. Use words like “you” often to speak directly to the reader and engage them. It should also explain how their past support has helped your organization overcome some hurdles if appropriate. The letter should speak to their hearts, and not their brains. If people read nothing else, they almost always will read the opening line and the P.S. It should not look or read like a formal letter but more like a personal letter.
Add pictures of people, preferably tight shots that show faces. Use headlines and underlines to draw attention to sections of content and include plenty of white space.