The annual appeal letter is a nonprofit fundraising staple. While this tried and true tactic can bump nonprofits over their fundraising goal in the final hours, most nonprofits end up appealing to their stakeholders for support around the same time, which can mean heavy competition for a finite amount of funds. So how can you craft a better appeal – one that resonates with donors and inspires meaningful action? Start by following these five easy steps for nonprofit communications and annual appeal success.
Build Your Appeal and Specific Program Service
The more narrow your focus, the easier it is to define how one individual’s support can make a difference. While choosing the right program or service on which to focus can be a challenge, it inherently allows your appeal to tell a relatable and easy to digest story. Whether you choose the program that is the hallmark of your organization or the program stakeholders are often unaware of, focus on showcasing your organization’s impact.
While donations are often used to shore up deficits, people like to invest in winners. Quantify your organization’s most meaningful successes while letting donors know what their support will help you to achieve during the upcoming year. Further, acknowledge what the donor’s specific contribution played in helping you to achieve your successes during the prior year.
Build Your Letter Into a Larger Campaign
Annual appeal letters often land in donor mailboxes and inboxes during the holiday season, which mean they land in direct competition with initiatives such as #GivingTuesday and community-based drives for goods and services.
If your organization is engaging in more than one year-end fundraising activity, make sure your messaging, approach and asks are all well-aligned. You don’t want your donors to feed badgered, nor do you want them to feel like other recent acts of support have been overlooked. Everything should appear as though it is part of a cohesive nonprofit communications and fundraising program.
Perhaps the difference between $10-$25 donations and $10-$50 donations means sending two more students to a conference where they gain critical knowledge and build valuable life skills. While securing these larger donations – and helping more clients – are both admirable goals, you don’t want donors to feel intimidated by your ask.
Before setting and giving levels for your annual appeal campaign, conduct a gift analysis of the prior year’s (or ideally prior three years) campaigns to identify your average annual gift and at what giving level(s) the critical mass of your donor base falls. This data can help to formulate a relevant and reasonable ask that can be a win-win for donor and cause alike.
Think Outside the Box – And the No. 10 Envelope
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – annual appeal letters need not be confined to No. 10 envelopes – or to any template format. Whether your organization decides to experiment with “lumpy mail” or chooses to execute a robust, multi-media campaign, the goal is to engage donors and garner support in an authentic and meaningful way.
Annual appeal letters are a true hybrid of art and science. The best annual appeals are donor-centric, mission-driven and pull at donors’ heartstrings. They are unique in the cause, well-timed and drive action.
Whether your nonprofit is merely a startup or celebrating its centennial, these annual appeal letter best practices still apply.