Many scoff at family holiday newsletters that blather on: “We visited the Grand Canyon . . . We’re proud Dana made honor roll again . . . We’re happy that Fred got that promotion . . . We . . . We . . . We . . . ” Look closely. Do your year-end appeals resemble these?
With year-end giving just around the corner, non profits are gearing up for the busiest season ever. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the percentage of budgets earned for some organizations can literally make or break them in this economy. It doesn’t help that indications are not looking favorable for donors to increase their giving this year, so it’s important to strategize as best we can, making every appeal count.
Similar to those family newsletters, year-end appeals from many organizations too often end up taking the tone of “Here’s what we did/accomplished . . .” and ending with “Now, we want/need more money – how about $XXX?”
It’s not you, it’s me
This doesn’t have to be a bad approach, actually – IF the donor is involved and can be made to care. Just as most people aren’t intrigued by your 500 Grand Canyon photos posted on Flickr, they likewise won’t pore over the board retreat minutes. What did you accomplish, though? It’s very important that the impact of your organization’s work be demonstrated.
How can I, the donor, make a difference? While statistics are helpful (e.g., “Your gifts allowed us to serve 15% more clients this year”), it’s also essential to tell an individual’s story, to personalize how real people are being helped by your organization in tangible ways. Too often, problems seem insurmountable when they are about statistics rather than individuals with names and faces.
Don’t Take It Personally
In addition to crafting the message for the donor’s perspective, it’s also essential that the campaigns are targeted with the donor’s preferences – rather than the organization’s – in mind as well. An integrated, more holistic approach, combining mail and web campaigns is better, since they support one another. Too many non profits assume that a certain demographic “won’t want web/phone/mail,” due to their age, etc., but unless they have opted out, assumptions shouldn’t be made – and personal preferences shouldn’t be attributed to an entire population.
Just Do What I Tell You
Nearly all organizations will send out direct mail appeals, but most of them won’t do enough to boost the potential giving by driving this traffic online. Average gifts online are typically larger than those by mail, and including a direct hyperlink in mailings can increase overall donations when done properly.
By the same token, once donors arrive at organizations’ websites, some of them will happily complete their transactions satisfactorily, while others will find the experience frustrating or confusing. It’s important to understand that the online donor expects immediate gratification – and provide a convenient experience.
Remember, too, that the phone can be a very effective tool – whether you’re calling to solicit, or simply to thank donors afterward. Having well trained callers with prepared scripts is crucial – not because they need to read everything word for word, but so that they are aware of their purpose in calling. It’s more important that they be at ease and knowledgeable.
You Wouldn’t Understand It Anyway
Time spent now preparing for these year-end efforts is time well spent. Once the campaigns – and congratulations – are over, spend some more quality time analyzing each of these campaigns in detail to see which aspects were more successful. Whether or not they made more overall funds, each of them had parts that had ups and downs, and they warrant investigating.
For example, I tested a spring mailing with a 50/50 split to see if it warranted continuing to print the signature and hyperlink in blue on the letter. This time, half were black, half were blue. Oddly enough, people responding to the mail by donating online gave more in response to the black hyperlink and signature than the blue. However, the mailing’s total response (mail and web income) was 34% greater with the blue signature and hyperlink.
You may find details you didn’t know about acquisition vs. renewal, etc. buried in your data that will help you refine your future appeals. The more you learn about what your constituents respond to, the more you’ll be able to give it to them.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong