August 28, 2017 | Categories Featured, Fundraising Strategies

The 5 Essential Elements of a Successful Annual Appeal

5 Essential Elements to Success

In 2015, Americans donated more money to charities, $373 billion to be exact, more than ever before in history. More and more, people are realizing that traditional programs aren’t enough to solve all societal ills. Of course, the number of donations an organization receives depends largely on its annual appeal letter. If these appeal letters aren’t done right, fundraising becomes much more difficult.

Reach Out to Prior Donors

If possible, your organization should make an effort to distinguish between potential and prior donors. If someone has previously donated before, they don’t need to be sold like prospective donors do.

An appeal letter to a former donor still needs to remind the recipient what the organization’s purpose is, but more focus should be given to the following:

  • Saying “thank you” for the prior donation
  • Explaining how the prior donation helped your organization’s goals
  • Informing the donor why time is of the essence
  • Reiterating what their new donation will go towards

Finally, whether prior or prospective, you need to ask donors more than once to ensure you’re top of mind and that your message doesn’t get lost in the mix.

Produce a Creative, Attention-Grabbing Campaign

The best annual appeal letter in the world means nothing if it’s never opened. If you’re sending out physical appeal letters, you want to ensure people actually open them.

Handwritten envelopes are great, but if logistics doesn’t allow this, at least make sure labels are appropriately affixed so they look professional. Using a real stamp rather than a postage-approved envelope can also give a personal feel. Consider investing in colored envelopes, stylized address labels, and other details that will differentiate your letter from the rest of their mail. Every little bit helps!

For your online annual appeal, shine a spotlight on projects that are most meaningful to your donors in the subject line. Is your organization focused on a topic that’s trending in the news? Do you have a fundraising goal that would fuel a new initiative? Email is a crowded space, so make sure your email appeal is punchy, personal, and timely. Check out the 4 factors of impactful fundraising emails as a guide to framing your campaign.

Explain the Problem and How Your Organization Helps

Whether you’re raising money to send Girl Scouts to camp or for a local children’s hospital, potential donors need to know why their money is needed. While some organizations just state the problem or opportunity, you should go into detail. Never just assume someone understands the full scope of an issue.

Once a potential donor understands the scope of the issue you’re attempting to solve, they need to know exactly how you plan on solving it. Giving millions to a well-meaning charity means nothing if they don’t have a plan to accomplish their goal.

When doing this, pretend you’re telling a story. How did the organization come about? Why did someone feel it was necessary? Try to emphasize solutions and prior accomplishments rather than continuously focusing on the negative aspects of the problem.

Tell How a Donation Helps Accomplish a Goal

After explaining the reason for the annual appeal letter and how your organization plans to help, let potential donors know what your monetary goal is. Can a new health center be built once a certain amount of money is received? Will a school receive 100 computers if $10,000 is donated?

Donors need to know there’s a goal in mind. This is possible even if your organization has a more dynamic focus. In this situation, explain the outcome of their gifts through the goals your organization accomplishes.

Make Donating Easy

If sending out physical appeal letters, include a return envelope with paid postage for donations or pledge forms. If you’re soliciting donations via email, include a link to your online donation form. This is ideal since you can integrate online forms with your fundraising software platform. In any case, go the extra mile of listing what each dollar amount (“$100 will send two girls to camp”) will do for your organization.

Getting people to part with their hard-earned money isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but when it’s going towards a good purpose, it becomes much simpler. Most people want to give. You just have to remind them of that fact. Follow the tips in this post, and your annual appeal will do just that.

Written by Emily Patz
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