The best year-end appeal letter in the world means nothing if it’s never opened! Many non-profit appeals are on the same timeline, with a big push at the end of the calendar year. This means there is a lot of competition for attention and donation requests in the mailbox. Whether you’re sending physical mailers, emails, or ideally both, all your effort is for naught unless people actually open them.
Here are some quick tips on how to stand out:
- Physical Mailer: Envelopes should be eye-catching, try something branded or pop with a colored envelope. Stylized address labels or a uniquely sized envelope may help stand out. Created a stylized letter with lots of white space, larger font, and photos to keep the reader’s attention after opening the letter. These simple tricks may sound silly or frivolous but they can make all the difference.
- Online Appeals: For your online annual appeal, shine a spotlight on projects that are most meaningful to your donors in the subject line. Shorter is better for email campaigns. Incorporate compelling images and use photo captions to help tell your story. Include a clearly marked “Give Now” button, and link directly to your online donation page. Email is a crowded space, so make sure your email appeal is punchy, personal, and timely.
So you’ve got their attention ……. Now what?
How do you turn attention into donations?
5 Steps to success for your fundraising annual appeal:
1. Explain the Problem, Tell a Story, and Be Easy to Read: Tell a story throughout the letter to demonstrate the problem. When you tell your story, introduce conflict and the way your donor can help. Since most readers scan letters and emails, use bold font, underscore words, bullet points and other writing devices to make your appeal easy to scan. For those who do read your appeal, you want it to be easy for them to read. Ideally, you should write at a 6th grade level, which makes it easier for your reader to process the information. Be sure to ask for a specific amount of money within the appeal. Donors want to know the goal in mind. And don’t bury the lead! Ask early and ask again at the end of your letter.
2. Make It Personal: Perhaps the best way to convince donors that your annual appeal is worthy of their support is by building a strong personal connection with them. Bring the donor to the forefront of the campaign. Keep in mind some of these strategies you can use in your appeal to connect with readers:
a. Thank them for previous giving. Before starting with your appeal this year make sure all of your donors have been thanked and updated on the impact of their gift from the previous year.
b. Address them by name. if you fail to address readers by name, they’re likely to discard your annual fund appeal as a form letter or junk mail. Always use your readers’ names throughout the appeal (in your salutation, the body of the letter, and in your sign-off).
c. Add a handwritten P.S. or note (bonus points if this is written by someone who knows the donor).
3. Be donor-centric. Segment the mailing list into categories and create different versions of the letters to strengthen bonds between your nonprofit and your donors. Grab your letter and a green and red marker. Circle the words “you,” “your” or the donor’s name in green. Circle the words “we,” “our” or your organization’s name in red. You want as many green circles as red ones to make the letter feel personal.
4. Make Donating Easy: If sending out physical appeal letters, include a return envelope with paid postage for donations. If you’re soliciting donations via email, include a link to your online donation form on your website. On your website homepage create a pop up box to donate or a top bar appeal for the year-end campaign. On social media update graphics and post about the appeal frequently directing donors to the donation page on your website. In any case, go the extra mile of listing what each dollar amount will do for your organization.
5. Use multiple channels: Your fundraising campaign should be across every communication channel for the organization. Response rates and donation amounts can increase with the more channels you use. A successful campaign incorporates direct mail, email, social media, and direct outreach will deliver better results. Make sure your appeal campaign looks cohesive across all channels as well with consistent fonts, colors and graphics for easy recognition.