As November turns to December, we welcome several traditions. Holiday music. Party invitations. Family gatherings. It is also the busy season for our postal carriers – my mailbox bulges with end-of-year solicitations from nonprofits seeking a donation. It got me thinking — are we missing the point? Rather than seeing this solicitation as an end-of-year letter, should we reposition it as an invitation to do more? Do we need to upgrade our thinking from merely asking for a donation to inviting individuals to become investors in our work now and in the future? For the past week, I conducted a research project. I collected solicitations and asked friends and colleagues about these letters. I also asked people who gave $25 as well as $2,500 to see if there was any difference. To help you this season, here are some helpful hints from my informal research:
Focus on a consistent theme, visual impact and brevity – People are busy and they need help sorting through all the clutter. Find a clear theme (or, as we call it, a BIG idea) and be consistent throughout the piece. Minimize text, and make the text you do use stand out through color, bullets and fonts. Use infographics to tell your data story. Use high-quality, action-packed photos of clients. Personalize letters whenever possible.
Elevate stories through data – People love stories, but they also want to ensure that social sector organizations make a difference. Show your results. Share your goals for next year. Let individuals feel like they are a part of the story by sharing ways they can contribute other than through cash donations (e.g., mentor).
Show value through endorsements and ROI – People have shifted from giving a donation to wanting to make an investment in the social sector. When we make any investment, we want to know the organization’s track record and ROI. Establish your credibility by sharing where you have spoken and/or been published in the past year. Calculate your social return on investment and share those results. Consider quantifying donations – “for $100 a month, we can ensure that a child in your neighborhood has a weekly reading partner.”
Treat the end-of-year appeal as an invitation – People are not only considering where to donate their money this holiday, but they are also carefully considering where to spend their time next year. Give them an opportunity to donate to your cause as a holiday gift for a loved one or an employee. Offer them future opportunities for a tour or share the date of your upcoming annual luncheon. Think of this letter not as an ending, but as an opportunity to continue building your relationship with them in the new year.
We hope you are enjoying the start of this holiday season and welcome your helpful hints on end-of-year appeals.