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Try a cartoon figure like Humbert to capture your donors’ hearts! (courtesy of Agents of Good and Sofii)

Awright, the fall fundraising season is upon us!

You are probably working on your year end campaign right now.  

And you are probably working on some appeal letters already.  

At least I hope you are!

There is so much to know about nailing a terrific, profitable year end campaign.

Here are my top tips:

1. Say thanks first.

Get the ball rolling by making sure your donors are happy and connected to you.  Have they been well thanked?

Before you roll out any year-end campaign, get on the phone.   

Try a thank-a-thon. Get your board members, staffers or even clients involved. (They’ll come if you feed them supper!)

Tell your donors how much you appreciate them, and tell them HOW THEIR DONATIONS WERE USED. Remind them of their partnership in the cause and how important they are. 

Ask them why THEY are giving. :) Why do they believe in your organization? Start a conversation!

TIP: The first step in your year-end campaign should be a thankathon.

2. Prime your your donors before you ask.

Before you send your first ask, give your donors notice of what is to come. Make it all about the impact this campaign will make in the world.

Your donors would be thrilled to get a thank you call from you this fall!

Your donors would be thrilled to get a thank you call from you this fall!

Send them postcards or emails — or even call them — to let them know your year-end campaign is about to roll out.

Generate some excitement:

  • Tell stories about the people you’re helping.
  • Talk about the theme
  • Share the goal
  • And most importantly, what all this work will accomplish. 

Get the donor EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED and set the stage for a successful campaign.

Get them LOOKING FORWARD to your campaign because they are so excited about joining forces to help. 

TIP: Use early campaign communications to warm up, announce, update, create excitement – and don’t ask yet.

3. Send repeated appeals and communications.

Create a multi-channel campaign that has a series of communications to your donors.

Connect with your donors over and over.

Here’s what you do:

  • Theme: Create a theme with a specific visual look, a heartfelt message and a dollar goal.
  • Design: Use color or an image that gets attention- it needs to be unusual or different in order to get attention.
  • Several hits: Send lots of cheerful, different communications echoing the theme over and over all fall.
  • Different types of hits: Use different communications vehicles – email, mail, postcards, phone, social media – all repeating the same look, messaging and goal.

Only then can you actually get your donor’s attention and wake her from her usual sleepy doldrums.

You should really study the examples of themes, design and attention-getting strategies that guru Jen Love shared in her Donor-Centered Appeal Letter Workshop. 

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Here’s another use of Jen Love’s Humbert character in a fundraising appeal.

TIP: Echo your same message over and over to get your donor’s attention.

4. Include a specific ask.

A generic approach will kill the energy of your appeal.

When you write to your donors, tell them:

  • What, specifically you want to accomplish this coming year
  • How much money it will take to accomplish that
  • What you plan to do with their money.

Asking for specific amounts lets donors know you are organized, you know what you need, and why you need it.  

A generic unrestricted ask is LAZY fundraising.

Ditch the words about “general operating” and “critical infrastructure.”

Ditch the most boring words in fundraising, and all your favorite, wonky jargon. 

There are plenty of creative ways to ask for general support of your organization.

Master communicator Jen Love shared example after example of stunning unrestricted asks yesterday in her donor-centered appeal letter workshop. (you can still get it here.)

TIP: Use my MPI Fundraising Formula: Specific amount of Money, for a specific Project, for a specific Impact.

5. Organize a timetable with special followups at year-end.

Time in NOT your friend when it comes to your year-end campaign.

There are only so many days between now and Dec. 31. (and the very special fundraising opportunities for the last 3 days of the year!)

Figure out NOW your entire stream of communications.  The warm up activities. The appeal drop dates. Your followup letter drop dates. 

  • What role will social media play?
  • How will you amplify your message via email and your website?
  • What role will your board members play?
  • Is your back office ready?

SET your dates and work backwards to give everyone — writers, designers, vendors, mailers, etc., — the time they need to do their best work.


Lay down smart plans now.

If you do, you’ll have an organized fall season, maximum productivity, happy, connected donors, and BEST OF ALL  – a steady robust stream of funding coming in thru your website and your mailbox.

Do you have any special tips for year-end appeals? Let me know in the comments below.