Tree leaves are turning gold and red, lying in small piles on the still-green lawn. This pretty picture outside means it’s time to be inside planning your end-of-year solicitation letter!
A lot of gifts are made at the end of each calendar year. Here’s your checklist on making a great impact and standing out from the crowd:
- Clean up your mailing list. No list? Create one by listing everyone on whom you have an impact, from your board to your vendors. Now and in the past. Look up all their contact information. Be sure to use actual names, as you need to personalize each letter.
- Set a goal. You should always have a plan in mind. What if you raised $3,000 from this appeal? What would you do with it? Tell this to the donors. You also should keep track of the costs you incur from this project and strive for revenue that is much more than expenses.
- Tell a stand-out-from the-mailing-crowd story about the impact you are making in your community; use this as an opportunity to make a direct connection to your donors. This is not a regular ol’ letter. It can be short, listing facts about your successful year in bullet points. Or it can be long and include a photo or two. Consider adding in statements from a client about the quality of your services and programming or from a board member about the strong fiscal stewardship of your administration. Donors want to give to organizations that demonstrate good work.
- Make it easy to give. Include a donation envelope. This should be a staple item in your supply closet and included in all your mailings. A donation envelope has your address on the front and a tear-off section that allows the donor to easily fill in name, address, gift amount (suggest some levels!) or a place to write in credit card information. Can’t afford to do this? Add a tear-off-along-the-bottom section via a dotted line to your appeal letter and insert a return envelope in your mailing. You do not need to put a stamp on these envelopes.
- Ask more than once and in different ways. Send the letter, send an email and post information on your website. Set up a way for donations to be made on your website. Talk to your web manager and look into systems like PayPal. Be sure to protect donor information.
- Take donations through the holidays and into the New Year. Someone needs to answer the phones and sort the mail during this time.
- Say thank you. Be speedy-quick in sending formal thank-you letters. Everyone gets one. And it is way okay to say thank you more than once.
- Report on the progress and result of your campaign. Most organizations forget to do this, but donors appreciate knowing how you did. Send another thank-you letter with this information, send a group email and post a message on your website. If you didn’t reach your goal, say thank you anyway and remind donors of how their gifts will be put to good use.
There are lots of tips and advice on the web. Here are a few I looked at to help create this posting:
Charity Navigator report on year-end giving trends (November 2011):
National Trust for Historic Preservation offers 10 Tips for Year-end Fundraising by Donna Ann Harris
Chronicle of Philanthropy article by Jennifer C. Berkshire on Creating Winning Year-End Appeals
The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.