It’s time to start sending out your appeal. Should you be worried?
Well, if you haven’t done the background work to make your letter successful, then YES. You should be worried.
What is that background work that makes your letter successful?
80% of your success depends on this
What does 80% of your success depend on?
Do you talk to your list more than once a year?
If yes, how often? Do your supporters hear from you once a month or more? If so, that’s a good ratio to start building a relationship with them.
Do you do more than one mailing a year?
If yes, how many? Kim Klein recommends sending 6 letters per year. To help remind people that you exist.
What is your list freshness? How do you add people to your list?
Are you consistently adding people to your list through speaking engagements and other means? If not, your list may grow stale and people may give less and less. You need to be constantly adding to your list as people move, finances change, and other parts of life intervene.
Have you segmented your list by last date of gift/amount of gift?
This is important. You need to send to the people most likely to give to you. If they haven’t given in over two years, chances are, they’re not going to give this year. Don’t waste your money mailing to people who aren’t giving.
How often do you send email newsletters to communicate with your donors?
If you say “once a year” or “once a quarter” or “never” then you are in BIG trouble. Donors want to hear how you are doing, what you’re up to, before the end of the year. They want you to make them feel special. Are you helping them see how much they have done for you? Are you appreciating them enough? If you don’t communicate through email then you may be guilty of taking your donors for granted!
How much do people open your emails? Do you have a 20-30% open rate? Better?
If you need help in getting people to open your emails, I have a free webinar recording that goes into detail about how to do that. Just go to my free stuff page to get it!
How much do people donate from other appeals and emails you’ve sent?
This is another gauge of quality of your current list. If people aren’t giving in other ways, your end of year appeal may flop, no matter how good your letter is.
Bottom line: Communicate consistently, more than once a month, and be donor centric, and you will keep and grow your donor base. Fail to communicate all year, and you won’t make it up at the end of the year!
Another thing that matters a lot is TIMING.
Timing: When you’re sending your letter-Are you sending more than one letter? How do you know when it will hit mailboxes?
Are you sending it before the end of November? If so, good! Did you know that it will take 2 weeks or longer if you send it bulk mail to get it to hit people’s mailboxes?
Are you tying this letter to emails? What is your strategy with that? Did you know that emails can really encourage people to give to you?
Are you sending emails to hit inboxes before December 25th? Then it should get out the door by December 10th at the very latest. Get cracking!
Are you using a live stamp or an indicia? According to the grand controls of many different successful national nonprofits, a live nonprofit stamp is more effective than a printed indicia. It may save you time, but is it losing you money? Why not split your list in half and try it two ways and see what response you get?
20% of your success depends on your letter.
What’s in your letter?
Are you asking board members and staff for their advice on your letter?
Do not do this. DO NOT DO THIS. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.
Why? Because they don’t know how to write appeal letters. That is *your* job. If you don’t know how to write an appeal letter, then get a consultant to write one for you. But if you want the best results, do NOT run the letter by your board. They are amateurs, and your letter needs to be read and vetted by a professional, not amateurs.
Picture it this way. Let’s say one of your board memebers is a surgeon. Is your fundraiser going to come in and tell them how to do that facelift? No?
Then likewise that surgeon shouldn’t tell your fundraiser or consultant how to cut up this appeal letter.
Okay, now that you’ve got control of the letter-
Does it sound like grantspeak? If so, take it out! It should sound like a letter to a friend.
Is it one story? More than one story will confuse your donor.
Problem to solution? Do you know who the enemy is in this story? Can you clearly show how your nonprofit helps?
Is there a compelling picture? A compelling picture is a closeup of someone’s face. Not a bunch of people turned away, or a bunch of hands or feet on the floor.
Do you have copy on the outside of your envelope? Does it engage the reader’s curiosity? Pity? Charity? The envelope can encourage your donor to rip it open or toss it in the trash. You need to get it right!
Want to learn more about how to write a better appeal letter?
Here are some articles to get you started.
And there’s my post on Guidestar.org, 11 Tips to tell a better story in your appeal letter
If you’ve got all of this figured out, excellent.
If not, I can help you with your communications plan and your letter.
Send me a message or give a call and let’s chat!