Guidelines for Year End Appeals

December is already here, and it’s the last chance for your organization to host an annual fund drive or send a year-end donation request letter. If your non-profit organization is like many others, you receive half or more or your contributed income at the end of the year.  So, if you haven’t done so already….now is the time for your final Year-End Appeal. Prospects should include: staff, past and current donors, volunteers, and any other individuals who have expressed interest in your organization.

Here are a few quick rules for writing a Year-End Appeal donation request letter:

Woman reading letter smiling

  • Keep it simple.  Be explicit with explaining your cause, needs and requests up-front, and reiterate in your closing.  People often read ONLY the opening and closing paragraph in letters, and decide whether or not to give based on that reading alone.
  • Be Positive! Don’t request donations due to negative cash-flow at the end of the year.  Donors may see this predicament as your fault and think you are looking to them to help get you out of your mess.  Donors are motivated to change the world through positive contributions to help your organization accomplish your goals, not as a financial rescue mission.
  • Make it easy for donors! Include a link to your online donations website, so people can easily make financial contributions.  Also include a reply slip and self-addressed envelope for those who prefer to send in donations via mail.
  • Segment your letters. Send a slightly different letter to different groups.  For example, past donors should receive a different letter than prospects or volunteers, as you’ll want to thank them (again) for their previous donations.  It means a lot to remember they’ve contributed in the past.  This goes for volunteers as well, rather than a generic donation request, acknowledge how appreciative you are for their volunteer work.
  • Follow the basics for easy reading. Use short sentences, be sure to utilize white space by using bullet points and no long paragraphs.  Call out important information with bolded fonts or underling.  Include a P.S. – this line stands out from the rest of the letter, and will often be read.  It’s almost like an advertisement in your letter.
  • Make use of email and social networking. Even if you do a bulk mailer, there is no reason why a gentle email reminder cannot be sent as follow up, and why not post an announcement in your social networking channels.  Again, be sure to include a link to your organization’s website and online donation page.
  • Get tracking systems in place now. Implement an online fundraising software solution to help you track details of your fundraising campaign, manage on-going donor contributions and donor prospects and history.  This will only help you be more efficient in your future fundraising efforts and end-of-year appeals in 2011.