Leadership needed in making year-end appeals work

by | Nov 2, 2015 | Fundraising | 0 comments

I just spoke with a nonprofit executive director about her year end appeal. She didn’t have the results she wanted last year and she wasn’t sure why. Which reminded me of a post I read today by Mary Cahalane. Here are Mary’s three areas to look at when figuring out why appeals aren’t working.

Bothering or inspiring

First, she talks about the question about “bothering” donors with increased communication. If your nonprofit is only talking about itself, then yes, just about any communication is a bother. But if you’re talking to the donor, entering into her conversation, making her the hero, then increased communication is actually welcomed!

Make it ridiculously easy

Then Mary reminds you to keep it easy for donors to give. Talking with another executive director today, she said she’s found the less information she asks donors for, the more donations she gets. I like to say that it’s our job to make it “ridiculously easy” for donors to give.

  • If we’re mailing them a letter, then we know their address. Why would we make the donor write it down again? We can just print it on the reply device when we’re printing the letters.
  • The same goes for the web form. While it might be nice to have answers for every database field in our donor’s record, each additional field adds friction to the process. As Mary states, “Don’t ask for her life story…Keep [the process] emotional and simple.” The donor should be able to click a link in an email and be taken to the page where she can put in the credit card information.

Tools for evaluating your communications

Finally, she gives great bullet points to measure if your messaging is boring or inspiring. And she gives this great exhortation: Remember: your organization is simply a means to an end. This can hurt the ego of a nonprofit leader, but it’s solid fundraising advice. Connecting the donor with your mission is what will make your nonprofit’s year end appeals work.

Good fundraising takes strong leaders

Chances are your team is trying to make the fundraising appeal about your nonprofit. The hard truth is that your nonprofit is only a means to an end. A means to the donor’s end. Counter-intuitively, fundraising appeals work better as your nonprofit recedes into the background of the story.

It takes a strong leader to give her staff permission to write this way.That’s what I’m helping the first executive director do. That’s what you’ll want to do too.

You can read the entire blog post here:


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