I recently had an opportunity to read a couple of my fellow npENGAGE bloggers’ posts that offered tips for year-end appeals.  Marc Pitman’s Eight Steps to Writing Successful Fundraising Appeals provides a fantastic step-by-step process for writing a great appeal letter, while Michael Quevli’s Dare to Be Different  encourages creativity in your annual giving efforts.  I was thrilled to learn some new tips–proof that you really can teach an old dog new tricks!

I cringed, however, as these also made me recall a few of my fundraising flops.  Most, fortunately, were committed when I was a novice Director of Development trying to keep too many balls aloft.  And, while I know I haven’t been alone in my blunders, perhaps sharing them will help others avoid similar pitfalls.

Missing In Action

Are you missing gifts from significant past donors who typically have given by now? If so, make sure that your best intentions haven’t gotten the best of you.  If you have pulled names from your annual fund mailing because you plan on meeting with them personally, get a letter out to them today!   If you do get together with them later in your fiscal year, fantastic!  If they are a legitimate prospect, they aren’t going to turn down a visit just because they already mailed a check.  But, they are very unlikely to mail you a check if you don’t ask!  I found the source of a $12,000 annual giving shortfall one year when I realized many $1000+ donors hadn’t been solicited.  Trust me, you do not want to explain that one to your boss!

Low Ball Lucy

Have you given past donors too much of an opportunity to give less this year than in the past?  Your response vehicles and ask arrays should accommodate your gift request.  If a donor gave $250 last year, do not send a response card with a $50 option.  Customizing your response vehicles to coincide with your ask amounts can significantly reduce decreases in giving.

Speaking of Response Vehicles…

Send one!  In the words of Mark Pitman, sending an appeal without a reply device “is a waste of time.”  Obviously this probably isn’t your intent, but trust me, in the scurry of year-end activities, it can happen!  Whether are working with a direct mail firm or getting the mailing out the door yourself, make sure all pieces are included.  Leave nothing to chance!

Timing is Everything

Take the post office seriously when they tell you how long mail can take this time of year.  If the focus of your appeal is giving before December 31, it won’t make much sense to the prospect if it arrives January 2.  It simply makes you look like a very poor planner. Think about how you respond when you get a newsletter filled with dates and events that have already passed.  It doesn’t give you a very good feeling about the sophistication of the organization.  Plan ahead, and get that schedule firmed up now for any last minute mailings.

These may all seem like basic common sense—and, in fact, they are.  But, as most seasoned development professionals will admit, things get crazy this time of year. With a little planning and attention to detail, you can ensure year-end success rather than year-end disaster!

Do you have your own OMG story to tell?  Come on, ‘fess up! I would love to hear it!  Send your “experiences” to laura.worcester@blackbaud.com.

Happy Holidays!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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