Success in having major gift prospects comes from having a good annual fund. In order to have a good annual fund you need to engage your donors. One of the most productive and strategic ways is through annual appeals for nonprofits. We all have been and will continue to be bombarded with direct mail solicitations and it is an essential way of communicating with prospects and our donors. We as a society have become sophisticated in recognizing when an annual appeal feels generic and not connected to the organization or its donors.
As a fundraiser, I completely understand that we can not send individual fundraising letters but I think there are some helpful tips to keep in mind in developing that award winning appeal.
Being creative is probably the best thing you can do. I have said in the past that “coloring outside of the lines” is a good thing and makes us stand out. When you are beginning to draft your letter you need to remember who you are communicating with. Be willing to try something new and don’t fall into the pit fall of always following nationwide best practices. Don’t get me wrong, incorporating best practices is not a bad thing but if it is primarily based only on developing a formula then you will lose your audience.
Being unique can also be a big asset in producing an appeal. Ask yourself, “How can we present this differently than the other non-profit down the street?” Asking yourself what phrases and buzz words make my institution different is another great way to start.
Sometimes just being personal can be the key. There used to be a time when we would go to our mailboxes and receive a nice long letter from a friend. It warmed and captured our hearts. We need to instill this from time to time with our appeals. Not every appeal is the same so our letters should not be same as well. Start with something personal that will garner an image in your reader’s head. Think of the emotion you are trying to create with your audience. This will help drive the feeling of your letter and how you want to convey that message.
Finally, what level of gift are you directing this for? Is it for the $1 – $500 donor or is it the $500 – $1,000 donor? If it is the later, then don’t give them the option to give you $50. Make that first request $500. If you want me to give you $500 then ask me for $500 and give me the reason why I should give the $500. Let them know what $500 will do. Remember annual fund donors want to know how their money is being spent just like our major gift donors.