By the time Q4 rolls around, the tendency in many industries is to breathe a sigh of relief and let your foot off the gas pedal a bit—it’s been a busy year, the holidays are around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about planning for next year.
Not true in the nonprofit space.
For those of us who rely on fundraising, we know how important end-of-the-year giving is, so we have one more priority on our lists before we close out the year—crafting the perfect year-end appeal letter.
First, let’s acknowledge that a great appeal letter requires advanced planning. And we’re not talking for just a few weeks. The printing and mailing alone will take 5–7 business days and the writing and design typically even longer. That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about your end-of-year appeal now, if you haven’t already, to maximize your impact and make it as effective as possible.
To help, we’ve listed five ways to help your year-end appeal get the job done and meet your fundraising goals.
1. Be sure your mailing list is updated.
Outdated addresses are the fastest way to ensure your year-end appeal stops before it ever starts. For the ultimate return on your investment, ensure your contact information is complete, clean and updated with the latest information from supporters both new and old.
At Firespring, we can add to your direct mail list, refine it or even purchase a new list entirely, but mailing to those who have supported you throughout the year will yield the best results. That’s why it’s vital that your list reflects your most up-to-date donors.
2. Get personal with your year-end appeal letter.
Make your annual appeal more impactful by personalizing it. You’re much more likely to respond to something that mentions you by name versus “Dear donor.” Or to take it a step further, mention personal details about their history with your organization.
With variable data printing, you can mention your recipient by name and even provide ask amounts based on their past giving. (For example, if Susie Q gave $10 earlier this year, ask if she’d be willing to chip in another $5, $10 or up her donation to $20.)
Pro tip: Use “you” language throughout. For example, instead of saying “we were able to give….” say “Your donation made it possible to give….” By substituting self-centric language for “you” language, it helps your audience feel more connected to the cause. Yes, they want to know you made an impact—but tell them how they made an impact through you.
3. Make it brief so it’s easy to read and scan.
Your year-end appeal hits mailboxes and inboxes when holiday cards are being exchanged and people are busy celebrating—that means it’ll be competing for your audience’s time. Keep it succinct and easy to read, or it may end up in the trash before your reader reaches the end.
Since you did a mountain of good in the past year, you may want to shout every one of those good deeds out from the mountaintops (figuratively). When you include too many details, though, you distract from the main reason you’re writing your appeal, which is the call to action. We’ll get to that in a bit.
So, make it easy for them to read. Include short paragraphs, bullet points, bolded text or italics—whatever you can to break up the text and make it easy to read for people who scan.
4. Include a clear call to action.
Make it very obvious what you want your reader to do by the time they’ve finished your appeal: You want them to give a certain amount of money by a certain date for this particular campaign, which will impact these individuals or support this cause.
Be clear, bold and compelling when it comes to actually making the ask. You don’t want someone to finish your appeal letter and wonder if they missed the point.
Pro tip: Be sure that your language is free of nonprofit jargon and that you’re using words that your constituents use—not industry speak. It’s easy to throw around terms and phrases that make sense to us, but don’t mean much to our audience. So put your donor hat on and read your appeal from the perspective of an outsider.
5. Make it easy for them to give.
Even the most moving appeal letters can’t be considered a success if it isn’t easy to give. Some donors prefer going entirely digital while others want to drop off a check or mail it in. Cater to all donors and make it easy to do both.
Simply provide a way to return a gift via mail, as well as online. You can print a URL and provide a link for your donors included in your direct mail piece. Plus, it’s a good idea to create a customized landing page for your end-of-year campaign to give an extra personalized touch. That way, you’ll be able to reinforce all of the great things you have achieved in the past year and highlight what another donation would mean for your cause.
BONUS: Segment Your Donor Lists
We said there would be 5 ways to make your year-end appeal letter better, but it’s your lucky day: We’re throwing you just one more piece of info to help you on your year-end appeal journey. For an added layer of personalization, segment your donor lists.
Segment your lists into categories such as those who have never given before, small one-off donors, recurring donors and donors who have donated large sums. This will help you perfectly craft the language to reflect their giving status and how they can continue to work with your organization in the future.
Your year-end appeal has the power to reel in new donors, reignite lapsed donors and nudge your current donors to give again—if you craft it right. Also, we understand that your appeal letter is just one part of your year-end campaign. So, we created a checklist and guide to help you keep track of all the moving parts to ensure that nothing in your end-of-year fundraising campaign falls through the cracks.
Download your free year-end fundraising checklist so you don’t miss a single thing as we close out this busy year.