Here’s a hospice appeal that I consulted on, that raised more than ever before for a hospice on the east coast. This person also took my year end appeals course and ran with it.
First off, my name is handwritten. I love that!
It reads, “Dear Mazarine,
You and I share something in common. We have seen what hospice can do.
Hospice doesn’t cure a person’s disease, but it certainly can offer healing. This healing has been able to happen in a new way, with the opening of the Hospice last year. November 18th marked the anniversary of our first patient at the home, and since that time we have been able to offer patients and their families and unprecedented level of care. None of which would have been possible without the support of our local community and donors like you.
While the vast majority of Hospice Care is still provided in the patient’s home, thanks to you we offer the full continuum of care.
Allow me to present just one of those stories. A story made possible by generosity like yours.
Coming to the Hospice had not been an easy decision for Kevin or his family at first. Kevin had three very challenging forms of cancer: cancer of the tonsil, tongue and esophagus. These had disfigured him severely and robbed him of his voice, but didn’t rob him of his spirit.
He remained active throughout his care and treatment-always hoping for a cure-to be there for his wife and six children-the youngest of which was still in college. But a setback with bleeding had brought him to Atlantic Health, and it became clear while there that further treatment was no longer an option. The bleeding was serious and not something the family could manage at home. The options were limited- discharge from the hospital was inevitable and this close knit family was put in a difficult situation of having to decide whether to place their father in a nursing home or try to care for his extensive health needs at home.
The quote reads, “The level of care was unbelievable. The Nurses and Aides were angels, the Volunteers were lifesavers. We could not have gotten through this without them. We will be forever grateful.” -Hospice family
The second page really gets me. It goes:
Our home became Kevin’s home on December 1, one day after his 60th birthday.
The Hospice was like a light in the dark. It offered a homelike setting with unlimited visiting hours, a large private room with space for his wife or children to stay overnight, the freedom to do the things he loved while still having 24-hour professional nursing staff right there for any emergency or care Kevin required. Kevin and his family made our Home their home for the next seven weeks.
Hospice is about memories.
People say it’s not the years in your life that matter, but the life in your years. Kevin and his family put a lot of life into those last weeks. They were able to enjoy one last Christmas with a fireplace, presents, and a real tree. They were joined at one point by 26 family members and loved ones. Children, grandchildren, and friends all came and stayed as long as they wanted. Kevin never lost his sense of humor and interacted with his family and our staff until the end.
Hospice is about having time to say goodbye. It’s not about the disease, it’s about the love.
Kevin and his family’s story is just one of the countless examples of those that have taken place here at the Hospice over the last year. One of Kevin’s sons summed it up best when he said, “No one wants to go into hospice, but by the end, we didn’t want to leave.” This had become home, and Kevin and his family had become part of our family. And the relationship didn’t end when Kevin passed. His family still visits often. His wife said, “Some people go to the cemetery to be with their loved one. I come back to the Hospice.” The family planted the Christmas tree from that last Christmas on the Hospice grounds and that part of their life will always be part of the Home.
Hospice may not be able to cure someone’s disease, but it can heal.
Kevin was able to continue to be himself, to finish his story with dignity and love and peace. His family was able to be his family without worrying about his care. Their grieving is different because they were able to have this time together in this way.
The home has been a dream come true- to my family- to my hospice family-and to countless families like Kevin’s. But the Hospice can’t survive without your help. The kind of care provided at the Hospice includes so many things Medicare fees and other insurance reimbursements just don’t cover.
Being a small not-for-profit has allowed us to be true to our mission and continue to offer unparalleled care despite the cost, but it requires a commitment from donors like you to help us maintain this level of care and quality.
The third page talks about what each level of gift will provide, and includes a PS and a picture of the hospice.
Their remit envelope includes a buckslip that asks for a monthly gift. It’s a nice touch.
What was incredible about this appeal?
It takes you through the anonymized story of someone going through hospice care, and helps you understand exactly why people come to hospice, and what the hospice does. But the key is the story. You wonder what’s going to happen with Kevin. Why the hospice meant so much to the family. And then by the end of the second page, you get it. You get why someone would not only want to go to hospice, but to have their whole family there.
How did this letter do? He wrote,
- Our 2015 Annual appeal grossed $14,085 as of 2/8/15.
- Expenses were $2,145.31 for a net of $11,950.69 compared to 2014 gross of $5,365 with expenses of $750 for a net of $4,615.
- Previous years were zero.
- 3,129 appeals went out with 135 returned, (4.35%).
- In 2014 we piggybacked onto the November newsletter for about 5,000 units with an additional 1,200 selected from Donor Pro. 78 were returned in 2014.
- Average donation in 2015 was $104.3 and $68.78 in 2014.
- 4.35% return is good particularly considering the errors we made (sent it out late, had hand addressed envelopes that could not be bulk processed, and postage paid stamp on remit envelope (which caused some negative reactions from donors)).
- $104.3 average donation is up over 50% over 2014. The only apparent reason is the effectiveness of the story.
- The filtering process in Donor Pro was very educational. We solicited everyone who had given over the last 4 years either multiple times or a single donation of $100 or more with the exception of our Bereavement clients or those who had suffered a loss in our program recently. This appears to have been very effective with many donors giving for the second time only.
- Volunteers were wonderful with the activity of both the thankathon in November and the envelope work having a real team building feel.
What would I improve about this letter?
The pictures- the first picture is an out of focus picture of a patient- I would put in an in-focus picture of a patient, just to help the reader connect a bit more with the subject of the story. I don’t think the last picture on the last page is compelling, it’s just a picture of their building. So I would take that out. Maybe instead have a picture of a staff member doing something nice for someone in hospice.
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