Whether or not you have completed your year-end giving plan, here are some tips that may help, courtesy of consultant Gail Perry.
Gail offers five must-dos for your message, four must-dos for your ask, three overall strategies (click here for more on the tips) and 10 ways to ruin what otherwise may be a successful campaign.
First, the message:
- Use the word “you” frequently, including in the first sentence of your appeal. This will help get your reader’s attention.
- Make sure your message is easy to read. “Use short, concise sentences and paragraphs,” Gail wrote. She recommends no more than six or eight words per sentence and no more than three sentences per paragraph. Vary sentence and paragraph length for variety and interest. Use at least 12-point type for easy reading.
- Write conversationally, like you’re writing to a friend.
- Start with a story. Here’s a sample from the great Jerry Panas:
“I only today realized how desperate the need is in our community for a center for the homeless. I was walking home the other night and it was bitterly cold.
“You know how desperate it can get in Minneapolis in February. There were dozen–yes dozens–of homeless curled up in cardboard boxes.
“I simply couldn’t believe it. I was all bundled up in a muffler and heavy coat and I was shivering with cold. I don’t know how these folks can survive. And it wasn’t only men. Mary, I saw women and children. It broke my heart.”
5. Show numbers that explain how you are fulfilling your mission.
- Be clear that your letter is an appeal for support, not a newsletter or end-of-year report.
- Include a suggestion that the donor’s gift may be matched by his/her employer.
- Provide a link to your website. Even if the donor mails a check he/she probably will want to check your story on the web.
- Be specific about what your organization needs and what you will do with the gift.
A few overall strategies:
- Let your grandmother read your letter. See if she likes it.
- Gifts from previous donors are easier to get than gifts from new people, so go all-out for donor renewals.
- Follow-up your direct mail appeal with an appeal using a different channel, such as email.
Finally, here’s what not to do–Gail’s top 10 list of “ways to sabotage your year-end fundraising effort:”
- Your letter is hard to read (“ponderous sentences, long paragraphs, and no white space”).
- Your letter is all about the organization and not about the donor. Remember the magic of including “you” in the letter.
- You buried the ask inside a paragraph or at the end of a sentence.
- You didn’t include a reply envelope.
- You didn’t update your website.
- You only sent out one appeal.
- You didn’t follow up on the phone.
- You didn’t email non-donors the last two days of December.
- You didn’t send a prompt, personal and warm thank you.
- You didn’t have board members thank donors by phone.
For more about Gail’s “Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your Year End Campaign” click here.