Tag Archives: annual appeal letter

The Donor As The Hero

Donor as hero - Photo by Pixabay @Pexels

In my 22+ years in development, I have seen a lot of “new ideas” in solicitations:

  • Send the same letter to everyone, some people will give
  • Buy mailing lists!
  • Send the same letter to everyone along with an incentive piece like a notebook, return address sticker, or even a coin!
  • Every letter should be personalized
  • Letters should be personalized and have a specific ask
  • Offer a gift with certain donation levels
  • Not only personalize letters, but include a specific ask and list the previous year’s gift
  • Every letter should be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, and tell a story.
  • Did you forget to include a cute animal or child? Every letter has to be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, tell a story, and include cute pictures
  • Only send emails to people who contact you by emails
  • Forget letters, send everyone emails!
  • Don’t send too many emails
  • Send a combination of letters and emails
  • What do you mean you haven’t been using Instagram for solicitations?
  • Send letters, no one sends them anymore so you will stand out
  • Send postcards, no one even has to open an envelope to give!
  • Use twice as many “you” references than “we”, “me”, “our”, etc. in your letter

I could go on but, you get the idea. Maybe you’ve lived through many of these ideas. And they weren’t wrong for their time and the world lived in. So, what’s the latest?

The Donor As The Hero

How has the donor helped your beneficiaries?

“Your gift helped provide 3,248 meals for our community in the past year”

“Your $5,000 gift helped create 198 after school job opportunities for disadvantaged teenagers

“Your gift of $1,000, along with your fellow donors in the Foundation Society, created a mental health space for every one of the 12,838 people who walked through our doors last year. We hope you will help us continue to develop our safe space with a gift of $1,500 this year.”

Using the donor as the hero can highlight your best statistics while making the donor feel great. A win-win.

Now, just sit back and wait for donations. And the next big fundraising idea.

Or, if you would like help with your annual appeal and annual campaign, click here to set up a 30-minute free consultation

It’s Nonprofit Fundraising Crunch Time – 17 Ideas You Can Still Do This Year

Director of Individual Giving - Temple Emanu-El
It’s Nonprofit Fundraising Crunch Time 
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

The next 7+ weeks may make up 30 to 40% of your annual revenue. Here are ideas to help this fundraising crunch time!

#GivingTuesday There are many ways to encourage giving on this day – it is the unofficial start of the giving season so don’t let it pass you by.

  • Use social media to create a campaign
  • Create a match to encourage giving
  • Use it to thank donors who have already given this year
  • Highlight impact
  • Find more ideas by clicking here or Googling #GivingTuesday ideas 2021

Make calls (From you, your board, or your development committee)

  • Call LYBUNTS who gave last year above a certain level
  • Make thank you calls. It’s never too early to start stewardship for next year

Send emails (From you, your Executive Director, CEO or board chair)

  • Solicitations
    • We are all busy during fundraising crunch time but removing donors each time is best practice. If you can’t be consistent about updates (most CRMs will help), acknowledge that if they have already given, it might not have been recorded in the system yet.
  • Updates on the organization
    • Send these to everyone – especially those who gave earlier in the year. This will help with stewardship and offer another way to donate this year (always include a way to give in any email to your list).
  • Updates on giving this year
    • List your fundraising goal.
    • List the number of days until you reach the end of your match.
    • List their previous gifts and what you hope they will give this year.
    • List anything such as what a gift of various amounts will mean or anything you think will encourage someone to hit that donate button.
  • Send reminders
    • Many people wait until the last minute to give. Don’t hold it against them – make it easy for them
  • Send Thank you videos. What you do now will impact how your donors will feel in December.

Send letters

  • You can still squeeze in 2 letters by the end of year. But start planning today.
  • Tip: Use all the ones you are receiving as a template for what you like, what you don’t like, and what yours should look like.

Fundraising crunch time will be busy, but done correctly, it can boost your results significantly.

December Appeal Strategies – Should you follow best practices?

December appeal strategies are on every nonprofit’s mind at this time of year. Questions keep popping up like:

  • Should your annual appeal letter be a one page or two?
  • Is it better to have one, two or three mailed letters?
  • What is the best time to send the letters?
  • Are there certain envelopes or return address features we should be considering?
  • What –and how many–categories should we use on the response card this year?
  • Should you send six follow up emails or three?
  • Is a letter more impactful if it comes from the nonprofit’s executive director, a beneficiary or a board member?
  • How do you incorporate social media beyond #givingtuesday?

And this is a list of generic questions.

If you don’t have a nonprofit consultant on retainer (let’s be in touch if you would like to change that), there are different ways you can answer your questions.

December Appeal Strategies Due Date

Best Practices for December Appeal Strategies

I find that best practices have to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. An international health NPO may not be dealing with the same type of supporters as a community religious organization.

Rely on your board, your staff, your beneficiaries, and your donors for advice.

Calling donors to thank them may not increase future donations for Public Television stations who outsource their calls, but may increase donations for your organization. How will you know? Ask the people making the calls if they are getting through to people? If they are getting through, are they having conversations? If they are having conversations, what are the recipients saying?

Those six emails may be expected from a large organization, but if you know the person sending the emails, it feels different. I have heard a donor wonder whether the sender will be insulted if they delete them all or don’t respond.  Will sending that many emails increase donations or simply increase “unsubscribes?” 

Can you afford to send your entire list 2 mailings? Your organization’s budgetary needs have to be considered as do previous response rates. Can you segment the list to major donors, those with highest upgrade potential and those who have responded via mail in the past and send it only to those individuals? We know that some people get the letter and then give online. But, that also means you will have an email address for them and can potentially take them off the (snail) mail list altogether.  How will you know?  Ask them.

This article may have asked more questions than it answered, but that is because there is no one answer for all nonprofits. Call up a few donors at different levels and ask them how they feel about different types of solicitations. Send a quick survey to the nonprofit’s board as well as to a select group of donors. Ask the staff what they have heard in the past. Use your resources to improve your December annual appeal and you will see the benefit. It will deepen relationships, engage prospects, and, hopefully raise more money for your nonprofit.

For year-round annual appeal tips consider reading:

Or download 37 Nonprofit Tips to Ensure a Strong Year End

We All Want To Know Why Nonprofit Strategic Planning Is Sexy

Nonprofit Strategic Planning Is SexyNonprofit strategic planning is sexy in the same way nonprofit governance, feasibility study reports and finding the perfect candidate is sexy. Oh wait, I didn’t mean sexy. I meant amazing for my nonprofit or energizing for my organization.

The title of this piece was offered by Portent’s Content Idea Generator.  And I’m pretty sure it shatters the notion that, “there are no bad ideas.”


Your nonprofit may be finding something similar when you are brainstorming for ideas. Whether it is annual appeal letter suggestions from a donor (whom you thought would be helpful), gala ideas from a board member(s), or elements of a case for giving from staff, not all ideas should carry the same weight. Of course, donors (including board members), volunteers as well as staff need to be treated respectfully – whether their ideas are used or not.

Hopefully your nonprofit has criteria to evaluate some ideas.

Establish a:

  • Mission, vision and values statement(s) as an outcome of a strategic planning process. Nonprofit strategic planning may not be sexy but it is a great guide for determining new projects or whether to continue old ones.
  • Theme for your fundraising for the year or season. e. community achievements, the impact of music, the teachers at our core, etc.…
  • Call for ideas in specific areas. Focus in on areas that need suggestions, ways for people to provide their thoughts and an understanding of what you are looking for. This is a great way to see what people are thinking and can be used as a stewardship opportunity.
  • Provide suggestion guidelines. If you are asking for thoughts, a list of general, or specific “rules” the organization follows will eliminate some of the ideas you have to shut down immediately.
  • A committee to make decisions. We don’t want you to create committees ad nauseum. But at times, an ad hoc committee can take the decision making away from an individual. And, help eliminate prickly conversations that can feel personal.

And this isn’t even venturing into the pressure nonprofits feel from donors referenced in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy Article. From sexual harassment issues to donor suggestions that are clearly off-mission but will provide the donor a benefit, nonprofits are finally realizing that not every idea is a good idea.

Look for a less sexy, but more thoughtful, strategic planning piece in the near future.

Why Every Board Member Should Write An Annual Appeal Letter

board write an annual appealHere is a great (and relatively short) exercise to encourage donor-centric thinking among your board and/or committees. Use this with anyone and everyone you can.  In addition to a new way of thinking, you can improve donor retention and have new ideas about what to write in your donor appeal letters for the coming year.

The “Why every board member should write an annual appeal letter” exercise

Take 15 minutes at a board meeting and ask everyone present (whether board member, volunteer, or staff) to write a donor-centric, annual appeal solicitation letter.  And include the following instructions/reminders:

  1. These letters will not be sent out right after the meeting, so don’t worry about grammar or structure.
  2. You are looking for their point of view and what they think are the reasons people give to the annual fund- not wordsmithing or perfection.
  3. Strong donor-centric letters include:
  • The word “you” whenever possible
  • The benefits for the prospect and why it will be beneficial for the reader to give to this nonprofit (not why the nonprofit should be a recipient)
  • Creating connections for the prospects and the organization
  1. Consider whether a story should be featured and, if so, whose story should it be?
  2. Think about who is writing and signing the letter.

This exercise will help you:

  • See what motivates the board members to donate their time and money
  • Generate board awareness of what the development team is focused on each day and what works.
  • Determine what your board views as donor-centric
  • Find new ideas for your letters
  • Create connections between board members and staff (and maybe even uncover some hidden development skills among your volunteer leadership)

Should this be homework to bring to your next meeting?

You may want to tell your board members that you will be doing an exercise about fundraising letters and stories so they can consider ideas ahead of time.  But, the majority of volunteers will not sit down ahead of time to write anything out.  If some people do, it will be the people who already feel comfortable writing and excited about fundraising. This exercise is about generating ideas from everyone, because that is what will help your nonprofit look at fundraising in new and different ways.

And new ways to look at your fundraising will help you raise more money. Which, of course, is always the goal.

Email me  if you would like our help in facilitating your next board meeting or retreat.

Fundraising Campaigns of One

Campaigns of OneDo you have that guy on the board who always wants detailed statistics for ever discussion? What about the woman who insists every fundraising piece should have cute kids (even though they are just one part of the population served?) Or, maybe you have somebody who thinks social media is the universal solution to all problems?

While these people may irritate you, they are not wrong to ask for what makes them more comfortable.

Assuming you are following best practices and have 100% board participation, board members are valuable donors of time and money. And, each donor will want something specific before they commit again and again. And you want board members to continue to give long after they rotate off of the board.

Fundraising and development is about creating campaigns of one.

This is true whether you are sending an annual appeal letter to thousands or having a one-on-one meeting with a $100,000 donor.

Each person reads a letter, sees a social media post or hears a solicitor and thinks the same thing, “do I want to give to this nonprofit at this time?”  One person will want statistics to understand the full picture.  Someone else will want cute pictures. And still another person will think Facebook is the best way for her to support the nonprofit.

As fundraisers, we have to consider how to appeal to people where they are, not where the organization is. 

Campaigns of One for Thousands

Campaigns of one may seem hard when you are mailing thousands of letters. It is more work, but it’s far from impossible.  Segments lists, whenever possible. Your database probably tracks whether someone has supported teen programming or attended Sisterhood events. See how many segments you can create. Then, write a letter that can change for each segment. You can change one or two sections of the letter to focus on a new mentoring program or a new service for the elderly. Something that might not have broad appeal, but appeals to those individuals.

If you have not tracked donor priorities in the past, change your systems to be able to track moving forward. Then, ask development staff, the executive director and members of the board to look at your top 50, 100, or 200 donors any relevant information.  You will be surprised how much knowledge you have that is not being collected in any formal way.  Then, segment those letters.

Individual Solicitation Meetings

It should be obvious that these meetings should be tailored to personal interests.  If you don’t know a prospect’s interests be prepared on a variety of fronts.  And then ask them.  Most people will be happy to tell you what they are interested in. Especially if they believe you are really interested in the answer.

It is ironic that donors who want to give to others are working in their own self-interest, but that is the way of the world. Consider everyone as an individual – a campaign of one– and you will strengthen your fundraising results.

Interested in changing the way you talk to donors? Email me and we can help you create an individualized plan.