It’s August – time to start thinking about year end appeals! It may seem early, but now is the perfect time to begin planning your campaign. Let’s do a quick refresher on what makes an end of the year appeal letter so, well, appealing.
By definition, an appeal is an urgent request, typically made to the public; an attempt to obtain financial support. Basically, it’s your organization asking your audience for money. And that can be hard. While there is no guarantee for getting donations, following some best practices can help you set yourself up for success.
Year-End Appeals for Nonprofits – Best Practices
While it may seem most important to focus on crafting a compelling story, what’s often overlooked is the fact that your piece needs to be opened first. No one can hear your ask if they simply toss your envelope in the trash. So, first and foremost, stand out. Choose an unusual shape, a bright color, a dimensional piece, etc. Whatever is going to “pop” when someone is looking through their mail.
Deliver on Design
Ok, so you’ve stood out in the mailbox and now your piece is opened by the recipient. This is where design needs to step up. You only have a second to catch someone’s attention long enough for them to decide to start reading your letter. Make that second count with eye-catching graphics, a cohesive color scheme, legible fonts and a clear hierarchy. Start with a compelling headline, perhaps a stat or two in an easy to digest format like an infographic. Include images that help to emotionally connect the reader to your cause. And don’t forget to personalize!
Sell the Story
Ok, you’ve succeeded in getting to this point. Your piece has been opened and the reader is sufficiently impressed with your design to keep on reading. Now is when your story comes alive. This is not the place for a general overview of your organization. We want specifics. Choose ONE success story and share it instead. Show how you helped one specific person. Give them a name, share their personal struggles and show how your organization, thanks to donors, helped to alleviate their problems. include a testimonial from that person, if applicable. And make sure to always tie it back to the donors, showing the reader how they can make an impact.
Yes, we need to remind you of this. You’d be surprised how many appeal letter drafts we’ve seen that don’t explicitly ask for money. They tell their story and….just cross their fingers that the reader knows what to do next. Well, that’s putting a lot of faith in the reader. Or they hide the ask in a small postscript at the end of the letter. Almost like a whisper. But the ask should be yelled from the rooftops! And not just once. Ask repeatedly, with specific dollar amounts.