Marc Pitman, the Fundraising Coach, recently wrote, “Aren’t you tired of receiving fundraising appeals with a message of “If you don’t give now, we won’t survive”?”
I have to agree. Even if your organization is having a tough time, this kind of message, especially sent in a mass direct mail appeal, is not a wise choice.
Marc elaborates further…
As you write your year end appeals, make sure your messaging is about who you serve. In uncertain economic times like ours, nonprofits are need more than ever because people are in need more than ever.
So instead of turning your appeal letter into a ransom note, focus on what actions you are taking. Show how your organization delivers a profit on its mission. This can be done through personal stories of those you serve, a before and after example or just a simple quotation from a volunteer.
Draw the reader in so that they may see how your mission matters to them. Segment your letters by new prospects and previous donors. If someone has never heard of your organization, or are aware of it but have not made a contribution, the burden of proof is on you to show that your organization is both worthy of a gift and that it should come from them. Don’t send previous donors the same introductory type message that goes to newbies. Let them know you appreciate their previous gifts. Show how their investment is paying off for those you serve, plus how a continued commitment will keep making a difference.
While the message in a fundraising letter is important, also consider what happens next. Do you wait silently for letters to appear in the mailbox? Perhaps this has been okay in the past but not anymore. After a few weeks follow up by phone, especially with previous donors. Schedule a meeting with those who have the capacity for a major gift. If you send your annual appeal in October or November, can you send a follow up letter or note? How about a holiday card or other means of contact?
The final tip that I’d give organizations that are struggling is that in terms of fundraising focus on activities that bring in the most results. The strategies that I outlined in the article It’s Fundraising Time Again apply not just to year end fundraising but a year long plan as well.
I know what it’s like to be with an organization that runs in the red month after month. However that situation eventually turned around, in part because we continued to deliver on mission and made some changes that were necessary. Even if you are feeling a bit desperate, don’t desperately plea for money. Take a deep breath, focus on what matters most, and plan out a strategy that will carry you through.