‘Tis the Season—Take Advantage of a Year-End Appeal

For nonprofit organizations, the end of the year is when time is on your side. Since approximately 50% of donations come in December, the end of the year is an ideal opportunity to connect with your donor base.

The holidays are a perfect backdrop to remind everyone of your mission. Personal stories and anecdotes in and around your mission are compelling during the season of gift-giving. It is more likely that the reader will be generous if you grab their attention and engage them emotionally.

Disclose the situation you are in and share statistics. People appreciate the care in keeping track of progress. When something is impressive, it might make your programs’ impact on people even more vital. Whatever they are, pull the reader into your world. Remind your donor base how their money directly affects your mission. 

Know Your Target Audience

Before you dust off the boilerplate of previous donation letters, understand your target audience and how you want to reach them. Older individuals respond better to hard copy letters, while younger individuals respond better to digital platforms—an email appeal may be more successful than a letter in the mail to them. 

Consider using multiple platforms, including social media. And don’t forget to apply the design elements to them all, so your organization and campaign are easily recognizable.

The Personal Touch

What do you know about your donors? Whenever possible, use the information you have about your donors to your advantage. Even just knowing their name and location is effective. If your organization keeps a database, use any information you have captured to add a personal touch. 

Categorize your lists and hone your appeal letters accordingly. Local orchestras that rely on donations, for instance, may appeal differently to people who attend a series of concerts throughout the year than those who attend a summertime “Pops” concert and may not live in the area.

The categories don’t have to be that specific either. Distinguishing factors can be top donors, past donations, membership, or if they are a volunteer. 

Data is a currency, so spend it wisely to connect with your donors in an emotional way that underscores their gift. Personalization typically has a better response rate, so use it to your advantage.

What to Convey

Now that you know who you are addressing and why, what should you convey? Think objectively about what a difference your programming has made, and share those stories. It is inspirational to demonstrate how their donation is put to good use with a year in review outline and impact results.  

Another effective method of inspiration is Matching Challenge Gifts. Not only will you connect with your donor personally with the appeal, but with a Matching Challenge, you connect them to other donors creating a sense of community. 

Here are a Few Tips

  • Make the P.S. count! Often it’s the first item people read. 
  • After they read the P.S., they skim the request, so be sure to communicate clearly. Be direct about your ask.
  • Include a reply card and envelope so they can keep the original appeal letter. And a reply card is a good reminder to give in the future.
  • Include handwritten notes from the Executive Director, staff, or board members.
  • Include a link or QR code. Give people the option to donate in multiple ways.

Finally, do not forget the most important thing after receiving a gift – send a thank you note dated in the same calendar year as the donation.

Check out some annual appeal samples