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Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail In Year-End Fundraising

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When it comes to the end-of-year fundraising, it’s important to have a solid plan.

August is the best time to knock it out of the park. Definitely have your plan going by Labor Day, latest! By plan, I mean lining out the program, assigning dates for printing and addressing, dates for mail drop, dates for emails, and a plan for the phone calls you will make to round out this fundraising push.

You can begin to warm up your donor asks by connecting with your past donors and giving them a halfway point update, letting them know about all the work you’ve completed so far this year. If you haven’t done this yet, summer is nearly over so get to it!

Be sure to plan the back end just as thoroughly as you plan the front end.  In other words, make sure you’ve planned enough time and enough staff to thank all of your donors. Engage your board to help make personal calls. When you find a donation in your mail or inbox, you can start the plan of action because it’s already all laid out!

Let’s not repeat mistakes from last year. How about your appeal letter. Do you bury the ask, put it way towards the end, make it hard to find? Remember, your donors will be skimming your letter, looking for the ask – they know it’s an appeal. So, get to the point and let them know why someone should give right now!

If possible, make your year-end appeal into a mini-campaign, with 3 letters and 3-6 emails. Here’s the setup:

  • First letter is the warm up. Tell us why we need to donate by outlining the challenge you’re seeking to solve. Lay out the problem as succinctly as you can. Ask donors to help.
  • Second letter become the strong ask. Make a strong case for what you’re doing to address the problem. Share a story and illustrate the impact that a donation can make on the problem. Add some urgency.
  • Third letter is a follow-up letter. This one could acknowledge that it’s a busy time for fundraising and you know they have several choices for where they contribute. You hope they’ll join you in the fight against, xyz. You can even say, “we haven’t heard from you yet!”.

Most importantly, each letter should look the same, with identical branding and messaging with stories that all go well with your mission, vision and values.

TIP #1: Write your letter. Then, edit about one third of the copy out! Be brutal about cutting flowery or jargon-y statements. They serve no purpose. At the same time, leave the crisis out of it. Communicate consistent messages throughout all of your communications throughout the year.
Again, make sure that all of your branding is consistent through the entire process, from your donation page, your shopping cart, your thank you messages, your automated email response, your social media – all of it!

TIP #2: Put your appeal story in your out of office auto-responder message and link it to your donation page. Make it memorable and something that will get noticed. You can instruct key personnel to do the same during the last quarter of the year.

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