By Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Our Year-End Appeal is not simply a fundraising letter; it is our opportunity to impart our vision to the hundreds of people (thousands?) on our mailing list. This is why it is so important that we paint a large vision in this letter.
So consider, what do you want to accomplish in 2015? What is the big picture for your organization? What initiatives are new? Which initiatives are due for a major upgrade?
If there is nothing new or there are no major changes, consider emphasizing several key areas that are most effective in changing and saving lives.
When we ask, let’s think big
The simple truth is that our response rate on our Year-End Appeal is not going to be 20% or something like that. We all know many of our letters go in the trash. That’s certainly okay, and not a reason to fail to send out a letter.
What this means however, is that we need to think big.
This is not our “diapers and wipes” letter. In fact, let’s stop for a moment here and make it clear: We never need to use our newsletter, e-blast or any other communication to ask for layette items. When we do this, we are proclaiming to the world that we are a small organization, doing small things. Major donors see these asks and quickly decide, “They have no need for the gifts I am considering.”
Therefore, our asks need to be significant, with one exception. Sometimes when we are asking for a first or second gift in a specialized appeal letter, we might ask for a small amount ($15-$30) to gauge interest in our work.
In this letter it is certainly fine to let people know we would be thankful for any gift, but overall let’s be looking to help fund initiatives that require larger gifts.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
Sometimes it is the small touches that make a big difference with our Year End Appeal. As we prepare to connect with our constituents at this crucial time, let’s consider these ideas:
1. Get rid of “Friends”We never want to start a letter with “Dear Pro-Life Friend” or simply, “Dear Friend.” Mail merge is simple; we need to make sure our recipients see a salutation addressed to them.
2. Consider a teaser on the outside of the envelope“200 more lives saved in 2015?” might catch the eye of a reader, and inside we can promote any of a number of initiatives: marketing, a fatherhood initiative, ultrasound. Give readers a reason to look inside, starting on the outside.
3. Stratify, stratify, stratifyWe can’t say it enough; we must be sending different letters to different people. While the main content of the letter will likely be the same, our ask should be different based on the person reading.
For instance, those who have never given might see a phrase such as, If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to give to First Choice, now would be a perfect time. The monthly supporter might read, Thank you for your continued support of First Choice. If you are considering a special gift to First Choice, now would be a perfect time. The difference is small, but someone giving each month wants to know you know that fact when they read your letter.
Stratifying our list, breaking down our mailing list based on support given, is vital in a letter like this. It can make the difference between an average return on our Appeal Letter, and a great return.
4. Something extra with your signatureIn appeal letters, the “P.S.” has gone the way of the Dodo. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t write a quick note at the bottom of our letter, just below our signature. Without writing the actual “PS,” we can jot down a short phrase such as “Thank you for reading” or, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
The better you know a recipient, the more personal the note can be. Anything at the bottom of the letter—in ink—tells the reader that you took a little extra time for them.
When they see your note, they may take a little extra time for you, too; the time to write a check.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
For many ministries, Year End also means the end of the budget year. If we are trying to catch up on the budget at this time, we need to be careful in our appeal.
Our friends do not want to hear—every year—that we are behind. If we stay on this road year after year, our readers are going to question our stewardship.
Instead, let’s look at some items—which are likely in our budget—that might make for good Year-End Appeals.
Catching up on the budget
Didn’t we just say to be careful about this? We did, so here is how to be careful. Take the ministry that needs $15,000 in new funds in order to finish the year in the black.
Instead of talking about how behind we are in the budget, why not say something like this: “$25,000 for First Choice at Year End will not only finish our 2014 on a strong note, these funds will also launch us into a successful 2015, when we plan to . . .”
See the difference? The budget shortfall may be $15,000, but our letter is looking beyond ‘14 and into ‘15, with a positive outlook
Thinking of hiring a person to run your Fatherhood initiative? Factor in not only salary, but all materials, the cost of heating and cooling office space, etc. Roll it into one number and ask—not for simply a new person, but for a fully staffed Fatherhood Initiative.
Advertising and marketing is expensive; and some of our constituents don’t understand our need to advertise, making this ask more difficult. Phrasing matters. How about, “In order to best connect with those who need us, we must have a powerful online presence, and we need to be wherever they go. To make this connection through television, radio, the web and social media, we plan to invest $22,500 in 2015. The result, we believe, will be as many as 175 saved lives.”
Brick and mortar
No doubt, renovations and any building projects are effective asks. If we connect our renovations to reaching clients more effectively and saving more lives (and changing lives!), our odds of success grow.
If we are considering a conversion in the next year, there is every reason to be asking now. There is no reason to wait—year end is a great time to start the process.
We all know Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. And yes, how can we forget Cyber Monday, when all of the online retailers rally for our attention?
The newest of them all is Giving Tuesday (represented online as #GivingTuesday), begun in 2012 and now catching on across America and in many nations around the world.
Launched by groups from Google to the United Nations, #GivingTuesday is a day to remember charitable giving—and we don’t need to miss out. Here are several ideas to place your ministry at the forefront:
Make sure your online site is ready
Update your giving site to remind readers of #GivingTuesday. The actual date is December 2; this should be prominent as this day approaches.
Set a Goal
If your center has not emphasized #Giving Tuesday in its first two years, a modest goal would be sufficient. In the goal, show exactly where funds would be directed and connect the goal to client outcomes. This is not the time to ask for a computer or materials: “On Giving Tuesday, help us raise $2500. Every dollar given online on Giving Tuesday goes directly toward our Operation Ultrasound Initiative, paying for 25 ultrasounds that will bond women and men with their children, saving lives and changing the lives of moms and dads.”
Remind, remind, remind
In the weeks leading up to #GivingTuesday, remind your constituency through E-Blasts, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Make sure it is announced wherever you can.
One Takeaway . . .
#GivingTuesday does not replace your Year End Appeal. There is room for both in your development plan.
The following is a commentary for the CEO or Director of Advancement to include in an E-Blast, Newsletter or other communication. Use as you wish—no credit is due to LifeTrends or Heartbeat International. This is for you to spark ideas, or use “as is.”
It is the time of year when charities and ministries all over send us letters, asking us for year-end gifts. And why not? This is the giving season and it only makes sense that non-profit organizations would see this as the perfect time for much-needed gifts.
And, no surprise; you will receive a letter from us as well.
But why? Are we simply wanting to be a part of the giving season? Is this just a time to pad our giving as we move toward 2015? Is this letter just another portion of a fundraising plan? No. Not at all.
While Year-End is a time when we normally ask friends to consider a gift, this is not a normal time in the life of this ministry.
In truth, this is a watershed moment for this ministry, which includes all of us: Prayer Partners, Volunteer Staff, Board Members, Compensated Staff, Financial Partners . . . All of us. This ministry has always been about all of us, working together to create a massive cultural shift in our area—toward life.
Let me share something with you: We are closer now than we have ever been to this cultural shift.
This year’s “Year End Letter” then, is not just another letter for any of us who consider ourselves a part of the First Choice Family. Not at all.
In this letter we will outline where we are going, show us just how close we are to making an incredible new impact on our community, and what it will take in order for this change to take place.
So when you open your mail a few days after Thanksgiving, amidst many other letters you will find one from me.
I trust you will open it. We have a lot to share, and a lot of dreams ready to come true. Give this letter a first look, and a second.
Big things are about to take place—and we are going to be a part of all of them . . . Together.
By Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Click here to download this CEO Commentary as a word document.
Thank you letters keep you connected to your partners
Each month, Advancement TLC brings you a sample “Thank you note” to send to your supporters. November’s letter is below:
Dear Barney & Thelma Lou,
When I think about where this ministry has been and where we are going, I can’t help but be excited.
I’ve shared our vision in newsletters, letters like this one and in churches and around the area. And as you probably know, I’m nothing but optimistic about the future.
But there is something else I’m excited about: The fact that this ministry never was, and never will be, about one person’s ideas or even the thoughts of some select group.
While our board of directors is entrusted with major decisions, the simple truth is that this ministry is about all of us. It is a shared ideal that we can impact our culture toward life and we can do so right here in (name of city or area).
And best of all, we all have the honor of playing a role. Your support—through this and so many other gifts—creates a powerful partnership that says “We are in this together.”
So, thank you—again. Together, we are changing our world here, one life at a time. Sincerely, CEO
Click here to download this thank you letter as a word document.
The Year-End Appeal Letter can be one of the most effective fundraising initiatives we have in our development plan.
A successful Year-End Appeal can bring us through a difficult year, launch the coming year on a positive note and perhaps most important, draw new supporters into the ministry.
And the Board of Directors can have a tremendous influence on the success of this endeavor. Here are some ways the board can assist:
Signatures matterEach board member should have a copy of the ministry’s mailing list. From there a board member can highlight names of those with whom he or she has a personal relationship. The board member’s name can be added to the CEO as a signatory on the letter, making the letter more personal. The more personal the letter, the higher the probability of a positive response.
Bring new names to the tableEach board member can bring a list of 10, 20 or more names of friends who need to be added to the mailing list. As in the suggestion above, the board member should be a signatory on letters to these friends. In addition, the letter can include a brief statement from the board member such as, “As a board member, I wanted friends like you to receive this special correspondence. Your gift would mean so much to those who come in our door, and to me personally. Thank you for reading!”
Let’s remember to . . . RespondBoard members are leaders and as such, special appeals—like that of the Year-End Letter—call for action by those who lead. By sending in a generous gift we provide encouragement to staff, and we have the joy of knowing that we are fully involved in our ministry just as we are asking others at this special time of year.
Takeaway Thought:In a ministry’s development plan, often it is the “little” items that get overlooked; yet those seemingly small things can make quite a difference over the long term. Board member participation in the Year-End Appeal is oft overlooked; participate in the three items above and your ministry will be well ahead of the curve.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC!
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
When we look at the ministry of development we are taught time and again that we are to see those who support us financially not simply as donors but as financial partners. This is true. We are in fact, to truly love those who choose to make our ministry or organization a financial priority in their lives.
This month then, let's ask a pertinent question that is bigger than capital campaigns, major donor development, or creating a perfect event.
In addition, let's consider a question larger than all of the words we use to describe development, such as "friend raising," and "building partnerships."
The question is a simple one for those of us in development: "What's love got to do with it?"
If we answer this question well, we will transform our fundraising initiatives. The reasons, just like the question above, are simple:
First, love is the key component to any strong relationship. Whether that relationship is a spouse, a good friend or a family member, love creates the foundation that takes a relationship through trials and struggles. And, love makes the good times even better.
Second, love shifts our focus away from "getting funds" and toward building an unshakeable foundation based on building these relationships. As we build relationships the funds will generally follow. And even if funds may not follow in some instances, we know our ministry is in the middle of God's will. Why?Those development plans built on relationships are focused on eternal, not temporal, treasures. If we are always looking to the eternal, we never have to doubt whether we are in God's will. With that confidence, we will be less concerned when funding doesn't seem to be as strong.
So what does love have to do with our development plan? Everything. This month, let's consider what love looks like as we build relationships with those who support us.
Those on our support team are actually our volunteers, our heartbeat . . . And our brothers and sisters. Let's love them as we would ourselves.
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Often, because our donors are on the other side of a check or a bank draft—and many times we do not actually see them, it is hard to gain perspective on these friends of the ministry.
Yes, we see them at banquets, other events, in the store or when we present our vision at a church. But if we were to sit down and add up all of our donors, how many do we get to talk to, face-to-face, in the course of a year? What's the number for us? Is it 10%? 20%? As much as 25%? I don't have a formula in mind here; but this brings out the fact that our mind set is important.
Because it is harder to connect with those who support us financially, we must have a mindset that keeps these very important people at the forefront of our thought processes.
Here are a few thoughts to consider:
Many of us give gifts to our volunteers each year. Perhaps we have a volunteer appreciation event. We recognize our volunteers at our fundraising dinners. We recognize them in a special way on anniversaries (5 years, 10 years, etc.). This is all important to building a family culture among those who take the time to serve in our ministries.
And yet, almost all of our financial partners are doing something quite similar in order to support us. Those who are giving $50 per month may be volunteering two hours or more of their time (before taxes!) in order to give that gift. Some are sacrificing entertainment dollars for us. Others may be setting aside a night out with the family—for our ministry.
These too, in every sense of the word, are volunteers.
Does this mean we publicly recognize these people as volunteers? Not exactly. But it does mean that there can be a place for us to thank our financial supporters with the same heart in which we thank our volunteers. We will tackle the "Gift Question" on the following page, but for now let's keep in mind that seeing our donors as volunteers begins to shift our perspective.
We see volunteers as investing their talents in our ministry. So do financial supporters—just in a different way. The engineer, the construction worker, the doctor, the secretary, the teacher, the sales representative—all of these who are giving their funds are using their talents . . . For the betterment of our ministry.
In addition, we see volunteers as taking time out of their day to commit to our mission. The same dynamic takes place with our financial supporters. But what about the retired? And those on fixed incomes? These too, are volunteers. Their hard work over many years has paid off, and they are sharing the fruits of their past labors with us.
Volunteers then, aren't just in our offices. They are all over our community, working for us.
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Raising funds is a challenge, certainly. Yet sometimes it is our perspective that creates its own challenges.
When funds are tight, it is easy for us to focus on what we don't have, and how to make our case known so we can get back to a financially-sound situation. It's natural for us, when things are tight, to be thinking of ways to try harder, to create new opportunities for gifts, etc.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to tight situations, whether it be persecution, church turmoil, or finances. He also asked for gifts; making him—in our vernacular—a development director for the work of the fledgling church. If we don't believe this, all we have to do is read II Corinthians 8 and 9, two chapters where Paul lays out a plan for specific giving.
We can learn from Paul, primarily through his perspective. Read with me Philippians 4:16-17: "for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account."
Read that again. What does Paul actually want? "The profit which increases to your account." If we want a reason to look to Paul as our expert in fundraising, this is it. Paul is not interested in his own comfort, and while he knows his mission is to advance the power of the Gospel message, he sees another priority: Giving opportunity to build the faith and the resulting growth in the spiritual account of those who give.
If we are involved in development, these two verses should sit on our desk and be a focal point of our thinking, every single day. For if our perspective is to see our financial partners' "accounts" grow (instead of first focusing on our financial accounts), everything changes.
We will be:• More attuned to our donors' spiritual needs• More interested in seeing their spiritual growth through giving• More willing to listen to their desires for our ministries• Less worried about our ministry's financial situation• Less likely to give in to gimmicks in order to raise funds
Paul had it right, didn't he? That's why Phil. 4:16-17 is not simply a couple of nice verses to chat about during a workshop. It is instead a state of mind that zeroes in on the real reason for giving. Giving will fund our ministries, yes. But God is not simply interested in getting people to give to us so that our organization can do more.
No, God wants to build the faith and the spiritual "accounts" of those who love him. We are being used by God to bring this to fruition. This was Paul's perspective. It can be ours, too.
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