“To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . .”
A time . . . . To go back-to-school. To watch Football.
A time . . . For warm Sweaters and crackling fires. For everything Pumpkin Spice.
A time . . . To put the finishing touches on your Christmas list.
And a time . . . to plan for a Merry year-end.
Is there a time to plan? Many organizations will send a letter after Thanksgiving. They do ‘Giving Tuesday’. They meet our goal. That’s the way they do it every year.
What if you looked at Year End 2022 through a different lens? What if rather than looking at Year End as that thing you do the same way every year, you shook things up a little? What if you injected some season’s magic into your Year End?
Magic to inspire donors and help you Raise More so you can Do More . . . .
Ok, so roll up your sleeves, grab a cup of coffee (pumpkin spice optional), put on your elf ears, and let’s get planning.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” This quote shows us that goals are often just wishful thinking without a well-thought-out plan.
We are not suggesting that you schedule long, laborious meetings that produce more stress than results. Instead, stop, take a deep breath and gather your team together. Let’s embrace the following . . . .
7 Simple Strategies to Create a Very Merry Year End
1. Get your Elves (ducks) in a Row
Start by answering some simple questions. First, “why” are we doing this Year End appeal? You’re raising money, but why? And why now? Once you know the why, ask, what difference will it make? Will it create a difference for those you serve (not your organization)? And will it create a change for those who support your cause? And finally, ask how we can engage and inspire more supporters to help us make a difference. Write down your answers and use these to guide your strategy.
2. Make sure donors and supporters know they are appreciated
Don’t assume your donors know that their generosity is appreciated. The average organization retains less than 50% of its donors each year. So, 50% of donors stop giving each year. The most common reasons are feelings of neglect by the organization. But for those who remain, how many of those feel appreciated and connected to the organization? Donors who feel valued and know their gifts matter stay engaged longer and give more. Before you even consider making an “ask”, connect with all donors and say, “we appreciate you”. A postcard with the words “you are appreciated” and a simple yet sincere message is a wonderful way to show appreciation. Consider a “Thanks for Giving” calling campaign before sending your appeal letter. Your board or leadership team can make a phone call with a message of appreciation and gratitude.
3. Theme and Messaging Matters
Time to refer back to your “why”. Why are you raising funds, and why now? What is the problem you are trying to solve, and how can the donor or supporter help solve that problem? What are the stories you can tell that engage donors and inspire giving? Is it supporting Suzie’s dream of becoming a ballet dancer or Jonah’s dream of conducting a symphony? Is Gregory learning the skills to secure stable employment and safe housing for his family? Is it the medical research that helps find a cure for Daniella’s illness? Is it the animals rescued following the devastating hurricane? Is it the tuition assistance that allowed McDonald’s four children to attend Catholic school?
The messaging must be about more than money. It must be compelling, speak to the reader and touch their heart. The messaging should focus on one or two individuals (characters) or families. We know from research that one person’s story more easily impacts readers than a whole group or community’s story. Identify the main characters by name. If you can’t use their real name, give them a name anyway. Share the conflict, challenge, or dilemma they faced. Talk about how they can resolve their conflict. Have a clear “call to action.” Close with a reminder of how helping Susie’s dream come true is possible with their support.
Use visuals like pictures, graphics, and videos to help bring the messaging to life. For those of us who are visual learners, pictures often speak louder than words. Using visuals assures that your message will resonate with more people.
4. Make your list and check it twice
Sending one year-end letter to your whole database is a common strategy many organizations utilize. While certainly time-saving and efficient, this strategy doesn’t always produce optimal results. But we know that one size doesn’t fit all, and not all donors are inspired by the same messaging. Consider segmenting your lists and messaging. This assures that you are speaking specifically to what inspires specific donors. Segmenting allows the grouping of individuals by shared attributes. You can segment by shared attributes like gift size, interest, frequency, and engagement levels. Individuals are more likely to inspire giving when we segment and customize messaging.
If the whole segmenting thing seems like too much, try creating one or two separate segments this year. You can create a new list of lapsed donors, grandparents of current students, donors who give more than 2x a year, or even gala attendees who aren’t yet annual fund donors. You may be surprised by the results you get from segmenting the list and customizing the messaging.
5. Share your message across the channels
Contrary to what you may have heard, Direct mail is not dead. Even though direct mail may seem like an ancient way of communicating, it still gets MORE responses than any other, including online and email. So, keep sending mail. Make sure your mailing stands out amidst the slew of other year-end fundraising mail.
But don’t stop there. Studies have shown that people need to be touched by a message at least seven times before it sinks in. So, make sure to utilize email, social media, texting, telephone, and your website throughout your year-end strategy to spread your messaging and need. But remember, not all touches are equal and meaningful messaging matters. Otherwise, it can come across as a spammy sales pitch.
Using a blend of channels throughout your year-end efforts increases the likelihood of reaching more current and potential supporters.
6. Give Thanks
GIVING THANKS is probably the most crucial strategy in your year-end plan. Give thanks not just to get the next gift. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. You should thank ALL donors regardless of whether they give us $5 or $5 million. Donors deserve to enjoy their giving. By showing gratitude, you help them feel good about their generosity. And remember, donors who feel genuinely appreciated are more likely to remain a part of your organization’s family for years to come.
So, before you send your “appeal,” send a message of thanks. (see strategy #2). After the gift, send a personalized thank you note within 24 – 48 hours. Oh, and remember: a receipt is not a thank you. It’s an IRS requirement. While you may feel free to include gratitude and appreciation in that receipt, make sure other more personal notes and telephone phone calls follow.
7. CELEBRATE results
This pretty much says it all. Regardless of the results, take the time to celebrate. You’ve done your best, put in countless hours, and even lost some sleep, so pat yourself on the back. Celebrate the successes and celebrate what you learned from the challenges and near misses.