Bliou Enterprises

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Under Pressure – REALLY!

October 18th, 2010

“We really, really, really, REALLY need you to donate THIS year, because . . .”

•    Our goal is –
•    Our budget shortfall is –
•    Our clients’ service needs have increased by –
•    My raise/performance review/job depends on it

(Ok, maybe you wouldn’t put that last item in your appeal, but if you craft it with that type of desperation on your mind, it can come across, nonetheless.)

It’s true that most organizations make the largest amount of their income during the last six to ten weeks of the year, so there is an urgent need to make these appeals particularly compelling – and successful.

Just as desperation doesn’t help the job candidate succeed during an interview, neither will it help the non profit woo a potential donor.  As with any sales pitch, we must always keep in mind:  How will the donor benefit by saying yes?  What do we have of interest that is an asset?

Keep in mind that also, like the job candidate, your organization is competing with many, many others for those year-end dollars.  It’s all the more crucial that you stand out from the crowd with a persuasive campaign.

What, then, can you do to accomplish all of this?  There are no guarantees, certainly, but several things can help tilt the odds in your favor – and these tactics apply throughout the year, not just in the final two months:

Identify Your Advocates/Evangelists

Who are the strongest supporters of your organization’s work and its mission?  Ideally, these people already sit on your board and committees, but perhaps they have recently sent in a note or email with a contribution, feedback to a newsletter article, or they post more frequently than others on your wall?

Determine those who stand out and ask them to tell their stories.  Promoting testimony of people who have been inspired, served, helped, etc. by your organization is one of the most meaningful ways of asking others to contribute in your appeals.  This can mean direct mail, photos, email, video and social media . . . or a combination of several.

Don’t Apologize For Soliciting

•    “I HATE to ask, but . . .”
•    “You probably wouldn’t want to, but . . .”

Do your appeals seem like this?  Is your ask located some place at the bottom – hiding – unlikely even to be noticed?

If you really are accomplishing the fabulous things that your evangelists are bragging about – and are proud to be a part of – then what you are offering is a chance for your supporters to help make MORE of that happen!  Why would you apologize for that?

Your appeal should have a tone of excitement, where you want to share the news and invite them to be a part of the magic!

Make Donating Easy

Once they’ve decided to give, make certain that it’s not a laborious process  to do so.  If the donor gives by mail, does the reply card fit in the envelope?  Does it list various ways to donate (online, credit card, check)?  Is the direct mail package encouraging online giving, to boost the average gift?

If the donor decides to give online, how convenient is the process?  How many clicks does the procedure take?  Does the donor feel that the online donation was philanthropic, or did it resemble a “shopping cart” transaction?

It’s important, of course, to make all donors feel welcome and eased through the donation process, but this is particularly true for new donors, who may never return if they believe that it is too cumbersome.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

EVERY gift, regardless of size, needs to be acknowledged in a timely manner.  If you don’t have an acknowledgment policy, create one.

Various organizations may have gifts of $A and lower receiving an email thank you, while gifts in the $B – $C range get a formal letter, and $D – $E are personally called, then $F and above have scheduled visits, and so on.  Whatever is appropriate for your organization may be different from another, but the policy is essential, so that all donors feel appreciated.

Be certain that your acknowledgment language includes not just how appreciative you are for the gift, but tangible examples of what their gift will help accomplish, or projects that your organization is working on currently, so your donors feel that they are an important part of your mission.

Applying these strategies isn’t foolproof, of course, but they are a means of taking you closer to the donor’s perspective and away from, “Well, what shall we try this year to make goal?”

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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