Tips to taking control of your Year-End Appeal

Hopefully, you completed most of your donor mailing pieces last month. And your acquisition piece was finalized months ago right? Your internal lists were created, the mailing pieces were designed and the letters written weeks ago right? Don’t worry if you are behind there is still time to catch up and to do it thoughtfully.

The letters I’ve started receiving in the mail are the “general” kind that are written in the third person using generic terms to describe the organization’s work. The letters use phrases like “ your support will helps us to whatever for whoever that is in need of whatever.” You get the idea. That language is not very thoughtful, appealing or clear.

A good yearly appeal is a marketing piece, support piece, and a personal letter. It has to be more than a list of what you want from the donor and what you will give the donor. It has to explain why your organization is the best suited to do the work it does. It should be based off your vision of the world if the work of your organization is nolonger needed. That is the “why” a donor will support you. “Why” should be a thread that runs through all of your materials. Does your material live up to this standard? (If you have not seen Simon Sinek's TedTalk on "Why"- I highly recommend it - watch it here.)

We have gone off on a bit of a tangent so let’s get back to the nitty-gritty of end of year appeals.

Your Annual Appeal, Year End Appeal, or Holiday Appeal - it does not matter what you call it should be almost finished. What is left are the portions of the mailing that are personalized beyond just a name and address. Especially since some of the letters will need to be printed on-site and hand-signed – right?

Personally, I believe that the stronger a person’s connection is to your organization the less material the person needs to receive. Think of it this way-

It may seem like this is a lot of work and it is. But if you have a good CRM with clean data it shouldn’t be that hard to create the list you need. Don’t forget if you use a major CRM/Database program you are probably paying for customer support – USE IT!

Where many people get bogged down is the personalization piece. I always set myself realistic goals of how much I can actually do. I know from experience that 500 is the maximum number of letters I can sign the Executive Director’s name to before my eyes bug out and my hand permanently cramps.

I also have to know how many I can reasonably ask the Executive Director to sign personally. This will obviously vary by person but most max out at about 50. Though, I did work for an Executive Director who insisted on signing 350 letters. That only happened once!

So what to do if you are not at this point in your appeal process? Well, don’t panic – ok, panic just a bit. First, I would rank my appeals based on how many donations and what the average donation was from each appeal category last year. I can tell you that it should have been renewals. And just dive in and start writing. You will get it done. Just remember to tell your donors “why” and to be thoughtful.

P.S. Don’t go it alone.  Find a good printing company to help with the letters. They can do much of the general personalization for you. Leaving you just the hand cramps.

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